Upgrading to Dynamics 365 for Operations from Dynamics AX

Part 1 of 4 things you really need to know

My name is Lance Garrett, and I’d like to welcome you to Part 1 of my 4 part series on upgrading to Dynamics 365 for Operations. In the next 3 blogs I cover ‘Re-implementation vs. Upgrade’, ‘Internal Resource Requirements’ and ‘Why even bother?’

 But let’s start at the beginning and talk about your Options. 

Part 1: What are my options, and why are they important?

The days of long product life cycles, where nothing materially changes for 2-3 years, are gone. And as we move into a cloud-based world, Dynamics 365 is a game-changer for Microsoft technology partners and our customers alike. Each passing week brings more information on its roadmap and the options we can choose from.

But time and time again we tend to collate and relay this information on without thinking about who needs it the most. There are many amazing blogs and whitepapers out there, but even I (after a decade of living and breathing Dynamics AX), struggle to decipher them. So how can we expect our customers to work out what’s happening, and more importantly, what path they should take?

This blog will steer you around the information overload. I’ll present the facts in a way that’s easy to understand, gets you excited, reduces confusion, and at the same time gives you the knowledge you need to start your Dynamics 365 journey.

Upgrade to Dynamics 365 now - the end of days are upon us!

Ok, it’s not as bad as that.

But for people on Dynamics AX 2009 or 2012 RTM and R2, mainstream support ends in April 2018. That’s less than a year away.

So if you haven’t already started down the path towards Dynamics 365, now’s the time to start thinking about it. Extended support for both AX 2009 and 2012 are still available until 2021. See Microsoft’s explanation for more information on the differences between mainstream and extended support.

Most of you (and in particular those with ERPs that have been live for a number of years) get support from technology partners. So, the ending of mainstream support from Microsoft may have no real impact. But as time progresses, I confidently predict it will become harder and harder to get quick and skilled support to ageing, outdated versions.

So, what now, and where did you put my Dynamics AX?

Put simply; Dynamics AX is now the ‘Operations’ portion of the Dynamics 365 solution.

Dynamics 365 brings together a range of core Microsoft business products into a single offering. It has significantly improved integration and interoperability. But the technology changes and the underlying platform are even more important - the entire solution, including Operations, is now available as a true Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.

What does this mean?

Well, for a start, you can throw out your ageing servers and let Microsoft manage everything. You can pay as you go. You can get continual updates. And, as long as you have a decent internet connection, you can access the system from anywhere.

This has major implications for everything from licensing, to development, to implementation and much more. But never fear, for those that can’t adopt the SaaS model, Microsoft also offers an on-premise option.

You also have two editions to choose from:

Dynamics 365 Business Edition:

Business Edition is a cut-down version of Dynamics NAV with Dynamics CRM’s Sales, Marketing and Customer services modules. It’s aimed at smaller businesses and is the less expensive of the two options. It is currently only available in the US and Canada.

Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition:

Enterprise Edition is the whole kit and caboodle, made up of Dynamics AX and the complete set of CRM modules, including Project and Field services. For customers already operating Dynamics AX 2012 or older, this is the logical choice.

Dynamics 365:

Upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Operations

Cloud vs On-premise – surely one’s better than the other, right?

There’s no easy answer to this question, as every business has its own set of unique operating conditions.

But it’s a big decision, not to be made lightly. Work with your technology partner to determine which path to take. I’ve listed some of the pros and cons to help you get a feel for which option would better suit your business. There are also some business-critical factors that can be non-negotiable – so those could, in essence, make the decision for you.

Options

  • Pros
  • Cons

Cloud

  • No local server hardware is required to run Dynamics 365
  • Scalability – can easily increase or decrease user count, size and performance as required
  • Completely managed environments – from disaster recovery to continual updates
  • Moves capital expenditure to operating expenditure
  • Predictable and known monthly costs
  • Business data is held out of your company’s secure network
  • You have less control of the infrastructure
  • Relies heavily on network and bandwidth. If the internet goes down, then so too does your access to Dynamics 365

On-premise

  • Makes use of existing infrastructure investments 
  • More control – of both the servers themselves and your data
  • Not reliant on the internet and bandwidth for core functions
  • Easier to integrate with certain 3rd party systems, particularly real-time manufacturing and operational systems
  • Requires expensive infrastructure
  • Hard to scale up and down as required
  • Requires expertise to setup and maintain
  • Loses certain advanced offerings

The upgrade options – more choices!

When planning an upgrade, you need to choose between two very distinct options:

  • Technical Upgrade – utilises technical tools to convert your data and customisations to the latest version.
  • Re-implementation – starts with a fresh installation and only migrates the data and code you need/want.

These options are different from each other, and both have advantages and disadvantages. Neither option is a clear winner for most customers. It comes down to what’s right for you. Both options are expensive, so it’s important you take the time to work through the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Most important of all , leverage your AX partner’s knowledge to ensure you make the right decision for your business and situation. This is discussed in more depth in part 2, as it’s a big topic.

If you have questions about your options, you can contact me by email, call on 021 765 904, or reach out to me on LinkedIn

About Lance Garrett:

Lance has been a Microsoft Dynamics AX consultant for over a decade and has been involved in some of the most significant implementations in New Zealand. He recently joined Fusion5 as the Solution Architect for our new Dynamics AX / Dynamics 365 for Operations practice.

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