Lessons Learned: Upgrading from Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

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Dynamics AX clients embarking on the upgrade journey to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations find themselves beyond the early adopter stage and can now focus on a stable and well-supported platform from Microsoft. The knowledge base of lessons learned and tips extends across deployment models that include both end-user-led and partner-led upgrades. Regardless of approach, patterns have emerged that serve as a beneficial backdrop for any organization considering an upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.  

1. Plan as if it’s a full enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation.

Fortunately, there seems to be limited perceptions among the AX community that migration to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is simply an upgrade. From a planning perspective, it’s essential to approach the project with the same success factors required for a new ERP project:

  • Management commitment, support and buy-in are crucial
  • Customize only as a last resort
  • Incorporate sound change management practices throughout the project
  • Adhere to scope and timeline
  • Select the right partner 

Defining core and subcore team members, roles and project milestones in a fashion similar to an initial ERP project will help facilitate these success factors.

As with any ERP implementation, it’s the perfect time to step back and assess how the business could be transformed through the project and how strategic interests are promoted by the systems being implemented.

2. If you “go it alone,” have a safety net.

BKD has seen multiple cases of companies successfully migrating from Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations using internal resources. This is a perfectly acceptable approach when managed properly, and it can help users view the upgraded system as “theirs.” Your partner should be willing to adopt an advisor role in these cases and be available to your team as a resource. Periodic interactions with your VAR can serve to validate your decisions and progress, and liaise with Microsoft where appropriate.  

3. Assess new features and workloads.

Microsoft’s investment in several core areas of functionality in recent years has resulted in workload areas, such as Warehouse Management, that are worth considering when determining the road map for “best of breed” applications. New Microsoft tools such as Flow, PowerApps, IoT, Machine Learning and Field Service could offer opportunities to streamline integrations or unlock new potential approaches to clients’ requirements. Consider taking time in upgrade planning to determine the fit and ready state of these with your Microsoft partner.

4. Think about more than the data, and remember to look at the code.

Microsoft’s shift in code modification for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is well known, and the effect of coding by extension can be assessed in detail with a variety of tools available from Microsoft and your partner. When used properly, code assessment tools can give a clear picture of the technical scope of an upgrade that wasn’t available in prior versions.

5. Implement a phased approach.

Consider an agile approach to your implementation. Review your requirements, functions and changes in your business that will benefit the most, improvements to processes and wish-list items, and then break those into different phases. This can help you go live sooner and lets your users experience the new functionality, potentially reducing the scope for future phases. It also can help you introduce new ideas or streamline current and future state processes. 
  
6. Talk to others who have been through the process.

Fortunately, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations upgrade projects have a track record, and it isn’t difficult to find opportunities to discuss upgrade experiences through AXUG or with Microsoft. It may seem challenging to find some specific upgrade projects for functional areas, such as D365WMS or on-premises D365 upgrades, but they do exist. We’ll examine native Dynamics WMS implementation and on-premises Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations in subsequent versions of this newsletter.

For more information, reach out to your BKD trusted advisor or use the Contact Us form below.

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