Big changes are afoot in the Dynamics 365 world. Announced today by Mo Osborne, there are changes to the way Dynamics 365 will handle upgrades and bring it in line with other Microsoft products like Office 365. Mo Osborne is the Corporate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Business Applications Engineering….wow that’s a long job title.
What’s changing and why should I care?
Firstly, the upgrade cycle is moving away from user controlled scheduled updates, which allows users to choose when they upgrade and even if they upgrade. Instead we will see a forced cycle of upgrades twice a year, one in April and one in October. Continuous upgrades!
Dynamics 365 (CRM Online) has always had an X - 1 methodology when it came to upgrades of major versions; this meant you could be as much as 1 major version behind the current release, before Microsoft would force you to upgrade.
Microsoft wants all users on the same versions so they can control the experience and focus on bugs for just the current release. Hopefully this will mean the support team can focus on all bugs for a single version and get things resolved much quicker (I literally have a bugs which has been open for over 4 months now and that’s on V9!) so that’s a good thing!
It also means not having to remember if a certain feature is available in the organisation you are working on, but this might be more applicable for partners or consultants. Just today I was discussing the advantages of advanced finds in V9 only to have to say to the customer “and you can get that feature when you upgrade from 8.2”.
An important bit of this discussion is:
"For Dynamics 365 (online) Customer Engagement applications, we sent update communications in May, 2018 to all customers running v8.1 and have scheduled updates. Customers running v8.2 should plan to update to the latest version by January 31, 2019."
Uh-oh! That’s right, any D365 customer not currently on the V9 have to upgrade by January and if you don’t upgrade, Microsoft will do it for you. While they do caveat this upgrade in the main article to say they will no longer support V8.2 or below after Jan 19, the FAQ says they will schedule the upgrade if you don’t. I think we will see instances where people will argue to stay on 8.2 or below for a specific reason and Microsoft may let them do this albeit with no support; the majority of people will have to upgrade and with all these new benefits, i’m struggling to think why you wouldn’t want to.
Next up, backwards compatibility! Holy Cow! If this is true, this is going to take the sting out of upgrading. I’ve worked on numerous projects over the years where an upgrade has caused some sort of major upheaval. From custom plugins where certain scripting was depreciated (anyone remember the button to check you JS when upgrading to 2013?) to 3rd party tools for integrations which are key to the business and stop working altogether.
No longer will you need to worry about such things, everything will be backwards compatible so something that works on your current version will work on the next upgrade. This will remove most of the time, money and resources required for upgrading.
While I think Microsoft will do their best to ensure backwards compatibility, it will still be prudent to test any 3rd party tools before upgrading your live system. However, all 1st party tools will be compatible out of the gate, so you won’t need to worry about things like your Power Bi or Social engagement becoming unusable or disconnected.
Know about new features before they are here! Sounds a lot like a roadmap, but anyone who has visited the roadmap.dynamics.com recently will have seen that instead of a roadmap, it’s just a site with release notes. Well, it’s still going to be a site with release notes but the release notes will be there months ahead of the upgrade to help you to prepare. The October upgrade will have their releases notes published on July 23rd which is just a couple of weeks away. Excited times.
Not only will you know about them early, you’ll be able to test them early as well; starting from April 19, you will be able to schedule your sandboxes to upgrade to the latest version ahead of the general release. That’s the speil but i’m unsure as to how that differs from how it works now. I guess time will tell.
One great new feature I pulled out of the FAQ is: New features with major, disruptive changes to the user experience are turned off by default. This means administrators will be able to first test then enable these features for their organization.
New features turned off automatically. Historically you had to upgrade your organisation and then quickly go and turn off any features which were incompatible with either your system or business processes; these are now going to be turned off by default. That’s great news, it means if you are a systems administrator you can go on holiday while your organisation is being upgraded! Ok, I wouldn’t actually suggest that but you understand what I mean.
If you would like to read the announcement click this link and here is the FAQ.
To sum up the major points:
Continuous Upgrades every 6 months!
Everyone has to be on the same version and will be from Jan 19
New features to be tested before Live Upgrade
Major changes turned off by default on upgrade
Release notes months ahead of upgrade
I for one am welcoming these changes, lets get everyone on the latest version, have one set of bugs, one set of features, lets test them ahead of time after reading the release notes, turn on any new features after upgrades if we want to and 2 major upgrades a year.
Ciao for now!