Have you ever moved? I’m not talking about leaving your parents’ house for the first time, but a real move! A family of 4 move! It’s one of those events in life that can go really well… or really bad. Depending on how you prepared for this big move, it could go either way! Hopefully, I’m addressing this blog to a very organized person. Someone who thinks before they act, and someone who plans ahead before going through a big change. When Microsoft announced the launch and transitionor migration to the Dynamics 365 platform in late 2016, they had customers feeling like they were planning a move! There was  excitement, but there was also anxiety. Don’t worry. Since I’ve already completed a few upgrades with reasonable ease for my clients, I was able to lay out a pattern to guide you through this upgrade.

I’ve come to realize that the best way to make the transition from Microsoft Dynamics 2016 to Dynamics 365 was to plan ahead and be organized. Essentially the preparation and organization has to happen at two different levels: the end user and the system administrator working in pair with the Microsoft partner.

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Preparing the End User for the Migration

Preparing the end users for the migration would be the equivalent of announcing to your family, and mostly your kids, that you’re moving. You have to think about how you’ll convey your message to them and make sure you’ll add enough positive points and excitement that they get on board with the big move right away.

Many Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 clients might have just completed their transition from Dynamics CRM 2015 to Dynamics 2016. Being faced with another major upgrade is bound to create concerns. Typical concerns include “Does the upgrade require the already existing major customizations to be recoded or reconfigured” and “Is the upgrade really required and will it take a major effort to adopt this new platform?” The good news is that most of the update process is handled by Microsoft and is likely to be uneventful.

How You Can Help Your End Users

It is a recommended best practice to notify users that the system will be unavailable during the scheduled update. Help and training videos and walkthroughs can be distributed to familiarize users with the new experience. It is recommended that you train your users as part of the upgrade process, especially with areas of the user interface that may have changed. This is also a good opportunity to provide general refresher training and update training on best practices for using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Think of it as taking a few nights to spend time with your kids looking on the internet for new attractions and activities that will be located near your new house!

Introducing Your Partner

This migration is a big step, but having help from a Microsoft partner will make the whole process a lot easier. A Microsoft partner’s role is vital in ensuring that the transition is a pre-planned activity rather than a reactive intervention. Simply put, some predefined activities need to be done, although major issues are not likely to arise during this transition. However, hiring a partner to work with the internal teams is highly recommended by Microsoft. It’s a definite benefit, because Dynamics 365 is a major opportunity.

Change Approaches Model of Kottler and Schlesinger
Change Approaches Model of Kottler and Schlesinger


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Putting Your System Administrator and Microsoft Partner on the Same Team

Having those two working together is the equivalent of you preparing your move. You have to organize transportation, find a new job and a new school for the kids. It’s coordinating everything behind the scenes that is really important (for the end users).

Step 1: Scheduling a migration timeline and tracking the upgrade events. It’s critical that you track all communications from Microsoft and act on them. The Microsoft partner can help in developing and rolling out the plan. Tracking success and failure notifications as Microsoft tests the CRM account and applications will ensure that you stay on course.

Step 2: Many clients who are on Office 365 with the old Dynamics CRM licenses will have to transfer Dynamics 365 licenses to their users at some point. Manually removing and assigning the new Dynamics 365 licenses for a limited group of users is fairly easy. If there are a lot of users, a Microsoft Dynamics partner can help develop and deploy scripts that will remove and reallocate the Dynamics 365 licenses for each user.

D365 Administration center caption

Step 3: The December 2016 Update for Dynamics 365 (online and on-premises) contains updates that you must configure manually. These include the Portal, Field Services, and Project Service products. The customer has to install the solution from the Office 365 portal andmust be opted in to receive the product updates.

Step 4: A Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner can identify any potential issues that, if not addressed, could cause the upgrade to fail. These include unsupported customizations or incompatible third-party solutions. Have the Microsoft Dynamics partner confirm that Microsoft Dynamics CRM 365 is compatible with your current software. An early sandbox test is needed to identify issues beforehand. Creating the correct non-production CRM sandbox instance is the key to enable testing and corrections. Early detection will ensure that corrections can be made and that the application works without glitches in the new Dynamics 365 environment. Also, some cases that need corrections will require testing the integration calls made by external applications on Dynamics 2016. Correcting them and upgrading the plugging and SDK versions used by the customizations should fix most of the bugs that may arise in the Dynamics 365 sandbox environment. The partner will create and configure the test environment to replicate your production environment. Integration with other systems, can also be replicated with test versions of those systems. The sandbox test environment can be used to perform technical and user testing prior to upgrading the production environment to Dynamics 365. Alternatively, the Exchange Server can be disabled and notifications can be tracked in the email entity.

Also note that as a good practice, you should consider removing all the email addresses for leads, customers, and users in the test environment. It should be done in such a way that any functionality being tested, such as workflow processes that may send email communications, do not send any communications generated by the testing to your leads, customers, and users. A decision needs to be made about phone numbers, as well, if you’re using any processes that send SMS messages.


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The Big Dynamics 365 Opportunity

Most of my clients have turned the upgrade to Dynamics 365 into an opportunity to create additional value and functionalities. Identifying these opportunities can instantly deliver great benefits that would have otherwise taken major time and effort. Many new features that the Dynamics 365 platform offers can increase effectiveness almost immediately. You can also audit and remove functionalities that are no longer used and explore whether a process improvement can be done at the same time.

To conclude, Dynamics 365 is a brand-new approach for delivering business solutions, powered by a common data model across applications. Mobility enablement through power apps, and a host of business intelligence utilities have also been integrated. If you plan and prepare your migration with a Microsoft Dynamics partner, your company will be able to leverage all the new features of Dynamics 365 and be more productive. I can promise you, that big move will be the best one you’ve ever made!

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To help bridge this gap, and specifically to help SMB-focused CRM partners maintain momentum, Microsoft are making several offers available at a reduced price for a limited time.

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Written by Jade Bérubé Morin Content Marketing Specialist @ SherWeb

Jade is a Content Marketing specialist with an unbridled passion for her work. She graduated from l’Université de Sherbrooke in Communications and has worked as a Communications Advisor for marketing agencies and private companies for the last 5 years. When she’s not pouring over the latest marketing trends, Jade can be found honing her grand jeté in ballet class. She has studied ballet for more than 20 years.