Upgrading to Dynamics 365 for Operations from Dynamics AX - Part 4

Part 4 of 4 things you really need to know

Part 4: That's all well and good, but why bother?

This series has given you a high-level overview of the benefits of Dynamics 365, and practical advice on Upgrading your existing environment or re-implementing onto a clean one. But an upgrade or reimplementation is costly, time consuming and disruptive for any business. Obviously you want to be absolutely certain that the effort involved in completing the project is justified and that the benefits significantly outweigh the costs. Obviously. Yes?

However, I’ve seen upgrade projects where the reasoning was not clearly defined. Or even if it had been, it wasn’t front of mind and referred to regularly during the process. I’ve also seen completed projects where no one thought to measure back against the original objectives. Even when those outcomes are as simple as getting back to a supported version, or make use of wireless warehousing functionality to reduce inventory errors by 25% and increase picking speed by 30%.  

If your reasons for upgrading are sound and there’s a sensible and achievable ROI, then it’s worth your time, cost and effort. In this post, I’ll outline some of the common reasons behind an upgrade to get you thinking clearly about your own.

Upgrading to get better technical or functional support

1. Technical - The annual Microsoft software maintenance payment lets you log support calls with Microsoft and gives you access to hotfixes as they’re released. Hotfixes that enable AX to work on newer versions of server software or resolve security flaws can be crucial. We’ve all seen the disruptive power of modern cybersecurity attacks, most notably the recent WannaCry hack. Although this exploited a Windows rather than AX flaw, it highlights the importance of being up to date. I’m aware of at least one Dynamics AX customer whose servers suffered during the WannaCry attack. Microsoft only supports a particular version for so long. Then it expects customers to move to a newer version. On Dynamics 365, these platform updates can be easily applied by Microsoft. Check the chart below for details.

Products Released

Mainstream Support End Date

Extended Support End Date

Service Pack Support End Date

Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

1/08/2008

Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 Service Pack 1

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

10/13/2009

Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 Service Pack 2

10/11/2011

10/11/2016

 

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

1/11/2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 Service Pack 1

4/10/2018

10/12/2021

 

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

10/09/2018

10/12/2021

 

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

10/09/2018

10/12/2021

 

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3

10/12/2021

1/10/2023

 

 

2. Functional - As each new system version is released, it’s only natural that a consultant’s knowledge of previous ones begins to fade. They’re living and breathing the latest version. The changes between V4, 2009, 2012 and D365 are vast. Not only from the user experience perspective, but in terms of technology and functionality as well. This may not be a strong enough justification to upgrade in itself, but it certainly forms part of the reasoning. Using old versions is a constraint on your business operations, making it much harder to get fast, quality support and effective project work done on your existing system.

Upgrading for technological advantage

Moving to the cloud is probably the biggest technological reason for upgrading to Dynamics 365. This one change opens up a host of opportunities:

  • There are no servers to purchase and manage - Microsoft provisions and manages everything you need to run Dynamics 365 optimally. This takes a huge amount of stress off your business. You can leverage from the incredible economies of scales within Microsoft datacentres around the world, and there’s no need for second guessing when it comes to your infrastructure configuration.
  • Simple integration - Now that Dynamics 365 is in Azure it can leverage off the entire Microsoft stack. Integration may not require the writing of even a single line of code. By utilising the common data model alongside apps such as Flow, Logic Apps, Power Apps, connecting data from various software has never been simpler.
  • Scalability - If your business has natural or predicable peaks and troughs, Azure lets you scale up and down as required with the click of a button. You can view your user numbers and Azure environment accordingly, only paying for increased sizing when you need it.
  • Anytime/anywhere - There are no barriers to accessing Dynamics 365 in the cloud, unlike your internal network. As long as users have an internet connection, a web browser and the right privileges, they can log into AX from any device, anywhere in the world.
  • Evolutionary not revolutionary - The days of major releases every 3-4 years, requiring your entire ERP to go through a major overhaul, are long gone. Predictable 6-monthly application releases mean Dynamics 365 continually evolves, getting better and better, without the need for huge upgrade projects. You do need to factor in the overhead of testing and applying the new release. But it can still be scheduled for whenever you’re ready within a set time period. And because the system is now enhanced via extensions, rather than using over layering, updates can be applied without the fear of breaking the core system. New functionality is an opt-in approach.

Upgrading to drive or enable change

As mentioned in previous posts in this series, a re-implementation is great opportunity to re-engineer your process and your data to give you a clean slate to work with. You can also correct a configuration or master data setup that came about because of a bad decision or a fundamental change in your business since implementation. Remember, an upgrade does not allow this, because data is upgraded just as it is. However, an upgrade still gives you an opportunity to utilise new functionality all the time you’re in project mode.

Upgrading for better functionality

Microsoft’s investment in Dynamics is massive, and it shows in the amount of new functionality each new version brings. Obviously not all of it will be immediately relevant to your business, but having more visibility, more automation and more control can add real value. Here are my top 5 Dynamics 365 for Operations functions:

1. Mobile Workspaces - Dynamics 365 can be viewed directly on a mobile device via a browser, but the challenge with small devices is the amount of screen real estate available. So mobile workspaces use formats that are easy to view on a small screen, and provide simple triggers for particular actions. And you can create your own customised mobile workspaces over and above the out of the box ones. You simply create a new workspace title, click on the parts of the system in the browser you want to add, or click on an action. The system works out what needs to be done and creates the corresponding mobile workspace content. A very powerful tool.

2. Task recorder (on steroids) - Previous versions let users hit the record button and then carry out a process. The system then exported the screens, menu paths and steps into a Word document. But in Dynamics 365 for Operations, task recordings can be played back as a live demonstration, or even better, as a live assistance/training tool. New users can be guided step-by-step with business specific instructions. The system stops users going off track, and pushes them back to the prescribed steps.

3. Power BI - Reporting is the end result of all the processes and inputs going into any ERP, bringing meaning to every interaction with the system. You can’t recognise the true value of everyone’s hard work without reporting. Power BI is Microsoft’s premier reporting platform and can take data from a variety of data sources - from Dynamics 365 itself, all the way down to Excel sheets. You can view data on your network or in the cloud, and see reports via your web browser or mobile app. Reports and tiles can even be embedded directly into Dynamics 365 or SharePoint with a few clicks of the mouse, no techie knowledge required. Microsoft has a bunch of very useful out-of-the-box content packages for Dynamics 365 to get you started, from warehouse performance, to cost management, to production performance.

3. Prospect to Cash integration - The common data model makes integration between Dynamics 365 for Operations and other solutions much simpler than with previous versions. And in addition, Microsoft have just released out-of-the-box integration in the July release, covering these key touchpoints:

  • Maintaining accounts in Dynamics 365 for Sales and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Operations as customers.
  • Maintaining contacts in Dynamics 365 for Sales and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Operations.
  • Maintaining products in Dynamics 365 for Operations and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Sales.
  • Creating quotes in Dynamics 365 for Sales and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Operations.
  • Generating sales orders in Dynamics 365 for Sales for existing products and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Operations.
  • Generating invoices in Dynamics 365 for Operations and syncing them to Dynamics 365 for Sales.

4. Company copy - If you have more than one company inside Dynamics, especially if you’ve created at least one new one, you know this is no easy feat. But given the system knows which tables are defined as configuration vs transactional, why can’t we have a copy company button? Well, you’re in luck! Microsoft are finally releasing a mechanism to template a company’s entire setup with an option to copy and create a whole new company. It’s targeted to be released in the upcoming July update - As new companies are needed, users will be able to save time and potential errors by copying an existing legal entity’s setup to the new company. This will allow the onboarding of a new location to be quick and consistent with the company’s golden template design.”

 

Honestly, I could go on about the new functionality already released in Dynamics 365, or on the roadmap, for hours. But rather than simply reading about it, why not come and experience it for yourself? Fusion5 can give you a tailored demonstration to help you see the value Dynamics 365 can add to your business. We can also take you through our tailored ‘Upgrade Assessment’ process to start you on your journey by helping you choose the correct upgrade approach.

 

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