10 TIPS TO KICKSTART YOUR DYNAMICS 365
- DYNAMICS AX 2012 EDITION -
10 TIPS TO KICKSTART YOUR DYNAMICS 365
- DYNAMICS AX 2012 EDITION -
THIS EBOOK IS INTERACTIVE...
When it was first introduced in September 2011, Dynamics AX 2012 (AX 2012) was clearly a step towards the future. It built on the solid foundation established by Dynamics AX 2009 and introduced increased functionality along with a new code base and a more user-friendly interface.
While AX 2012 has continued to serve many companies admirably, its days as
a supported system are numbered. With the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365, now is the time for organizations running AX 2012 to seriously consider making the switch. These ten tips (based on over 20 years of Dynamics experience and migrating many of our own clients and ourselves!) should help prepare your organization for a positive migration experience.
READY TO TRANSFORM?
10 TIPS TO TRANSFORM
Keep this timeline in mind as you plan your upgrade! There is already high demand as AX09 users migrate to Dynamics 365. Additionally, AX09 users and AX 2012 R2 users who purchase extended support will also be looking to upgrade starting around 2020.
KNOW YOUR DATES
AX 2012 Released
- ONE -
AX 2012 R3 Regular Support Ends
AX 2012 R3 Extended
All good things must come to an end, and for Dynamics products, that's usually about ten years after they are first introduced. Regular support for Dynamics AX 2012 R3 will end on October 12, 2021. If you choose to purchase Extended Support from Microsoft, then you will have until January 10, 2023 to plan your next course of action. Note that these dates decrease by about two years if you are running AX 2012 R2! If you are running R2, then your dates are October 9, 2018 for mainstream support and October 12, 2021 for extended support.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN MAINSTREAM SUPPORT?
Your milage may vary on this one. Even if you purchase extended support from Microsoft, you need to check with all of your ISV partners to see if they will also continue to support their products, and if so, for how long.
There's no way to simply push a button and upgrade from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365, so you should plan to leave a fair amount of time for planning and executing your upgrade.
Extended support from Microsoft is available for an additional fee. It includes:
Mainstream support from Microsoft includes:
Essentially, the end of mainstream support means that Microsoft will no longer be enhancing a particular product version.
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
- TWO -
The nice thing about upgrading from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 is you don't have to start from scratch because Microsoft has released data and code migration tools to help with upgrades. For your ISV solutions, check with the developer first to see if they will be releasing any migration tools.
It is worth noting that the tools provided by Microsoft, and quite possibly your ISV partner, are just starting points and most likely won't do everything you need. Factor in that extra time as you plan your upgrade and make sure you know exactly what will and will not be covered.
Currently, it is possible for AX 2012 users to migrate code as well as data. However, Microsoft is moving away from the overlay model to code extensions (see Tip 5 – Customizations for more information on this) and will eventually lock down Dynamics 365’s base code. Once this happens, you will not be able to upgrade Dynamics 365 until all of the overlaid code is removed.
Long story short – use the tools that are provided to move your code, but start preparing to move essential customizations to extensions as soon as possible.
- THREE -
At its launch, Dynamics 365 was fairly similar to AX 2012, with a few notable exceptions. However, the further we get from that initial release, the more and more different Dynamics 365 becomes. AX 2012 users will need to think critically about their customizations and decide where new features, like workspaces, could take the place of previous customizations. This is especially true since, in the cloud world, the fewer extensions the better.
This also means you may be able to eliminate a few ISV solutions as well. For those ISV partners you do decide to keep, make sure you understand how they plan to operate in this new environment. Their solution needs to be available as a code extension. It also needs to be able to keep up with a demanding pace of change. Dynamics 365 receives functional updates every three months – what is their update schedule and how do they plan to adjust?
WHAT IF I NEED HELP LETTING GO OF MY CUSTOMIZATIONS?
WHAT ARE SOME NEW MODULES I CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IN DYNAMICS 365?
Listen to Elsa. Also, consult with an experienced implementation partner about your concerns and they should be able to guide you on what is now standard in the solution and what still needs industry specific customization.
Initially, Dynamics AX 2012 R3 and Dynamics 365 were fairly similar. However, with its regular updates, Dynamics 365 is quickly outpacing what is available in AX 2012. This is good news for you, because it means that much more functionality! It also means that the version of Dynamics 365 you start implementation with will not be the same as the version you go live with, and it's not the same one you'll be supporting six months later.
MIND THE GAP
Dynamics 365 updates regularly, but a few of the immediate functional differences you'll see are:
- FOUR -
One of the first things many users who are familiar with AX 2012 comment on is how much more visual Dynamics 365 is. Part of that is thanks to a total UI overhaul, but the majority of Dynamics 365's visual appeal can be attributed to the built-in Microsoft Power BI.
You can utilize workspaces with embedded Power BI dashboards for an instant read on key KPIs. Thanks to this robust feature set, you may need to seriously consider if you will still need any third-party BI tools.
Data packages are available from Microsoft, your partner, as well as ISV providers to help you surface all the information Dynamics 365 has to offer. Take advantage of them before you start from scratch.
WHAT IS POWER BI PRO? WHY WOULD I NEED IT?
HOW NICE ARE THE POWER BI DASHBOARDS? CAN I GET A SNEAK PEEK?
While Dynamics 365 comes with both Power BI licenses and built in Power BI dashboards, you still may want to consider purchasing a few Power BI Pro licenses (and at $10/user/month - the licenses are a steal) to get the most out of your data. A Pro license will allow you to access data outside of Dynamics 365 and to use all your data in a mobile setting.
It's fair to say the built in Power BI dashboards in Dynamics 365 are a game changer. They make critical KPIs easy to understand at a glance, as well as making it easier than ever to drill down into your data.
- FIVE -
While AX 2012 users should expect to see an increase in functionality just from the upgrade to Dynamics 365, there is still a chance you will need some industry specific customizations.
The way in which customizations are handled is one of the areas that Dynamics 365 most differs from AX 2012. Dynamics 365 uses extensions rather than overlays to customize 'objects' within the solution. You can think of them acting more as a plugin, rather than something that replaces and sits on top of your base code. Because extensions are your only option for customizing Dynamics 365, you should plan to leave plenty of time to assess what functionality truly needs some kind of customization, and to then create those extensions.
This also means that any ISV solution you still plan to use must also operate as an extension. Make sure to ask your partner if their solutions are ready and how they plan to keep them up-to-date.
WHY DID MICROSOFT STOP USING OVERLAYS?
WHERE CAN I FIND DYNAMICS 365 ISV EXTENSIONS?
WHAT HAPPENS TO EXTENSIONS WHEN THERE IS A PLATFORM OR APPLICATION UPDATE?
Dynamics 365 ISV extensions are available on Microsoft AppSource. In order to be listed in AppSource, these extensions must be ready for Dynamics 365. That being said, you should still ask the developer about their update schedule and how quickly they are able to update the extension in the event that it is impacted by a scheduled Microsoft update.
One of the advantages of Dynamics 365 existing in the cloud is that users can take advantage of smaller, iterative updates to ensure that they are always on the latest and greatest. However, Dynamics 365 is still a horizontal solution out of the box. Microsoft relies on partners who live and breathe particular verticals to tweak the solution to fit their clients.
There would be no way for these frequent updates to roll out smoothly under the old “overlay” method, since they sat on the base code and, in some cases, fundamentally changed it. By requiring all customizations to exist in an extensible format, Microsoft can continue to improve Dynamics 365 indefinitely with minimal disruption to users.
If a core object changes during a platform or application update, you will be able to run an analysis to see not only how many of the core objects have been changed, but how many of your extensions will be affected by this change. Then you can decide if it is safe to install the update, or if you need to wait so your extension can catch up.
- SIX -
Plan for a good chunk of time to rewire your integrations, as the framework has changed significantly. AX 2012 relies on the Application Integration Framework (AIF), however Dynamics 365 just uses data entities - which you may already be somewhat familiar with as they first appeared in AX 2012, when they were called DMFs. Long story short though, every integration will have to be rewritten. The good news is that, thanks to better functionality, you may have less to integrate.
For those ISV solutions that you do keep, you’re going to need to check whether they sit within Dynamics 365 or if they integrate in. If they sit within Dynamics 365 as an extension, then it is a matter of following up to see how the ISV plans to keep up with Microsoft’s pace. If the solution integrates in, you may find that the ISV has built its own tool.
DO WE NEED TO USE BIZTALK FOR OUR INTEGRATIONS?
CAN WE INTEGRATE DYNAMICS 365 TO ON PREMISE SOLUTIONS?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AIF AND DATA ENTITIES?
If you're not familiar, Microsoft BizTalk Server (BizTalk) is an IOMS that enables organizations to automate business processes, using adapters. These adapters are tailored to communicate with different commonly used enterprise software systems. The nice thing about BizTalk is that it provides relatively easy enterprise application integration, business process automation, business-to-business communication, message broker, and business activity monitoring. It can also connect on service solutions and cloud solutions.
All that being said, BizTalk is NOT required for your integrations. If you are already using it, then it can be helpful, but it certainly isn't something you would be required to purchase specifically for this project.
It is entirely possible that you may still have on premise solutions even after migrating to Dynamics 365. If you need to integrate to these solutions, as long as you have an internet connection, there should be no problem.
AIF was a document service, similar to EDI. Data entities are a more standard OData Protocol. This method exposes data and actions, and allows Dynamics 365 to handle batch loads of data.
While it is possible to migrate
your code from AX 2012 to
Dynamics 365, it is important to note
that there are some exceptions. Also,
some of it can be done through
automated processes, but some of it
must be done manually.
AUTOMATED MIGRATION: Renamed and deprecated APIs, metadata, apply form patterns, deprecated controls, etc. can all be moved automatically.
Unparseable files, package/model split extensions, events, form patterns, delegates, etc. must be moved manually.
UNABLE TO MIGRATE:
Enterprise portals, custom client controls, document services/AIF, cues, etc. cannot be migrated.
GET YOUR CODE "TO GO"
- SEVEN -
When upgrading from AX2012 to Dynamics 365, you will be able to migrate both code and data. Current code migration tools allow you to move overlaid code to Dynamics 365 "as is" and from there they can be turned into extensions.
When it comes to migrating data, this is a true migration, not a database upgrade. You will have to export your data, transform it to match the new
data entities in Dynamics 365, and then import your data into Dynamics 365. However, it's important to understand that you'll be using the same data entities for migration as you did for your integrations, so leverage that framework.
As you plan your migration, you will need to consider what to do with your historical data. The migration tools allow you to migrate your master data, open transactions, and your balances, but not closed transactions.
While the migration is certainly worth it in terms of the increased functionality, this part of your transformation is fairly labor intensive – you should plan to start as early as possible and migrate incrementally.
- EIGHT -
If you were part of the team that originally implemented AX 2012, you probably used a "waterfall" methodology. While that made sense for on premise deployments, Dynamics 365 is cloud-based, demanding agility and a faster approach to development.
In getting our own clients live on Dynamics 365, we've identified a few keys to success:
WHY IS IT BETTER TO SHOW USERS DYNAMICS 365 WITHOUT CUSTOMIZATIONS FIRST?
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO GET USERS USED TO THE SOLUTION WITHOUT HOLDING UP IMPLEMENTATION?
Sprints are key. Embrace an iterative approach for analysis and design.
Get end users used to the standard version of Dynamics 365 early.
Prioritize migration/integration over customization.
Use improved, cloud based tools to track tasks, goals, and progress.
Create a design sandbox with real data and sample integrations for your users to explore. This gives them the opportunity to test out the new system while maintaining a reasonable implementation timeline. Based on our own experience, we would recommend initially prioritizing this over customization for better long-term results.
While there is a good chance you will need some industry customizations, you should already see improvements in functionality by upgrading from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365. With that in mind, why pay for customizations you don’t need? For users used to working with AX 2012, there will be a period of acclimation and a bit of a learning curve. It may take them some time to fully explore the base functionality. If they don’t have a chance to acclimate, there could be a perception of missing functionality, leading to calls for a customization you don’t really need.
- NINE -
The clock is ticking down to November 2019...
Microsoft is offering a variety of incentives to encourage AX 2012 customers to migrate to Dynamics 365. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to advantage of these for as long as possible.
The other nice thing about these offers is that you don’t have to commit to moving your entire system all at once to take advantage of them. You can transition the 20 minimum users to begin with, and then transition additional licenses as you go. This is an especially helpful strategy if you have multiple locations you want to take live at different times.
It’s important to note that these deals don’t last forever. On November 1, 2019 the additional incentives end.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THESE INCENTIVES.
WHAT IF WE HAVEN'T KEPT UP WITH OUR MAINTENANCE?
Unfortunately these incentives are only available for current customers in good standing. You'll have to get back on track before you are able to take advantage of any of these offers.
Traditionally, current Dynamics users could expect to receive a 15% license discount when they moved to a new version for their on premise licenses. With Dynamics 365, current Dynamics AX and CRM customers can get a 40% license discount until November 1, 2019. After November 1, the license discount will return to the standard 15%.
PICKING THE RIGHT PARTNER
- TEN -
First things first, you should carefully evaluate your relationship with your current partner (if you have one). How quick are they to respond to you? Do they seem to have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at Microsoft? Are you really happy with them, or are they just what’s comfortable? Do you feel like they are going to make it for the long haul, or do they seem to be barely hanging on? If you were ever going to be brutally honest about the relationship with your partner, this is the time.
If after performing this evaluation you’re still happy with your partner, great! You should still arrange to have a discussion with them to talk about your transition plan. However, if you’re having second thoughts or you didn’t have a great implementation experience the first time around, this is a good time to explore other options.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONVERSATION STARTERS FOR TALKING TO MY PARTNER/A PARTNER I AM CONSIDERING BEFORE MIGRATING?
Whether you plan on staying with your current partner, or you’re thinking of making a change, these are some conversations we’d recommend having before you start your migration:
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to tackle your migration to Dynamics 365. It may feel daunting now, but it will be well worth it once you're able to take full advantage of everything the solution has to offer.
Just like AX 2012 was a game changer for its time, Dynamics 365 has the same potential – except this time there's no looming dread of what the next, better, thing will be. Or hoping that you'll retire before you ever have to go through an ERP implementation again. Instead, you get to look forward to years of feeling totally supported, no matter how the business may shift or grow. You can look forward to taking advantage of transformative business practices, enabled by the intelligent cloud. And you can look forward to knowing you'll never be on a "legacy system" ever again.
10 TIPS TO TRANSFORM