8 Best Practices for a Painless Microsoft Dynamics CRM Upgrade

Ryan Plourde
| 11/21/2016
8 Best Practices 1

The name might be changing, but if you are using Microsoft Dynamics® CRM, your transition to Microsoft Dynamics 365 will be an upgrade. At Crowe, we’ve written the book on successful CRM upgrades and we’ve worked out 8 best practices to provide our customers with a quick and painless transition to the next CRM upgrade.

Step 1. Development

We want to have a thorough understanding of your present solution as well as the version that you wish to upgrade to. We’ll make a working copy of your current database and set it up in our development environment. We’ll initiate the upgrade process and then note any scripting or functionality that has been made obsolete in the previous version. We will rework any necessary scripts and then perform further rounds of quality assurance and testing.

Step 2. Our Staging

When we are satisfied with the first step, we will designate an additional server to act as a staging area. We will allow you access to our staging server so that you can walk through the upgrade and give us your feedback. You will be able to tell us if you notice any bugs or glitches and if the upgrade is operating as proposed. Are the form layouts to your liking? Are you comfortable with the new fields and user interface?

Step 3. Your Staging

After you have tested the upgrade in our staging area, we urge you to set up your own staging area, in your own environment. This way you will see just how the solution is going to work in real life.

Perhaps there are components of the upgrade that performed well in our staging area but don’t perform the same in yours. Sometimes integrations, for instance with your ERP solution, may introduce the need for adjustments. We would want to recreate that integration within your staging environment and make sure everything is working properly. We may test some of the information travelling back and forth between systems to make sure that the integration continues to work as expected. From your staging environment, we can now proceed with the upgrade.

Step 4. User Acceptance Testing

The next step in the upgrade process is user acceptance testing. Your upgrade has to work smoothly for the people who have to use it every day. In this step, we solicit more feedback from those who are most familiar not only with the software but with your business processes. At this point it is still possible for us to make changes.

Step 5. Repeat

We will continue to define and refine any changes that are necessary. We’ll employ them first in our staging environment and then, when everything is as it should be, in your staging environment.

Step 6. Go Live

When we are satisfied that we approve of the solution in your staging area, we’ll set a “Go Live” date with a corresponding blackout period. For example, we prefer to do upgrades over a weekend. If that’s what you choose, we would set the blackout period for after work on Friday. After that, no one would be able to enter any new information into the system although they would still be able to view what is already there.

Over the weekend we will perform the in-place upgrade within your existing production environment and deploy all the customizations and changes we’ve made. You will go live Monday morning.

Step 7. Training

We will have already scheduled an onsite training session with end users and the CRM administrator at your business. We will also work with your onsite IT so they will be familiar with what has been done and can provide support if needed. User training at the time of upgrade is crucial in order to ensure by-in from users, make sure that they are comfortable with the upgrade and get their feedback.

Step 8. Feedback & Completion

The update is not complete until you, the customer, are satisfied. Even after the update has taken place, we recognize that there will always be feedback from users and time is needed to be sure the upgrade is running smoothly. We welcome your feedback and take your concerns seriously. When everyone is pleased, the upgrade is complete.
Performing upgrades is a skill. Best practices and methods fine-tuned over the years reduce complexity, business impact and risk as well as time and money spent.