With the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations Spring 2017 release (expected in July 2017), Microsoft plans to deliver highly-anticipated new deployment options and upgrade tools that are essential for improving the quality of upgrades. Furthermore, Microsoft is planning to “hard seal” the standard code around Spring 2018, which means the usual overlayering won’t be allowed at design time and/or during implementation. Consequently, it is recommended that customers migrate all customizations into Extensions.

For AX 2012, there are tools that can partially help to move code to Extensions during an automatic code upgrade. But for AX 2009 and earlier versions, code should be migrated manually. Thus, full or partial re-implementation is needed in all Dynamics AX upgrade scenarios.

In this article, I will cover the most beneficial upgrade tactics to move your customers to the newest version of Dynamics 365 for Operations.

Scenario #1: Upgrade through AX 2012 R3 to Dynamics 365 for Operations (full upgrade)

If your customer’s solution is lightly customized, the data is consistent, and you want to avoid a total system reimplementation, then you can start with an upgrade from AX 2009 (or earlier versions) to AX 2012 R3 and then leverage Lifecycle Services (LCS) and Visual Studio tools to migrate code and data to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. This is a time-tested, proven upgrade path.

Both upgrade steps (from AX 2009 to AX 2012 and from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 for Operations) have three stages with different tasks:

Upgrading from AX 4.0 through AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 for Operations is also possible. But this path is recommended only if the historic data for your customer is absolutely essential.

Scenario #2: Straight to Dynamics 365 for Operations (reimplementation)

If your customer’s solution is heavily customized and the data is inconsistent, we recommend you consider a system reimplementation without doing the full data upgrade (starting from AX 2009).

In this scenario, the code migration approach should be applied to evaluate customization functionality and only do code migration for customizations that are not covered by the standard version of Dynamics 365 for Operations. The code migration itself is not technically possible, but for easier code transition it is possible to select objects from AX 2009 put them into a .xml file compatible with Dynamics 365 for Operations, and then move code into Extensions manually.

The data migration approach should be performed using Dynamics 365 for Operations data entities and a downgraded version of AX2012’s DXIF (Data import/export Framework). A data migration for a re-implementation scenario should include:

  • Configuration and setup Ledger, Customer Groups, Vendor Groups, etc.
  • Master Customer, Vendor, Project, Account, etc.
  • Balances – Ledger balances, Stock, Prices, etc.
  • Open documents, Pending invoices, etc – Sales order, Purchase order, AR invoices, etc.
  • System configuration – Number sequences, users, user groups, security, etc
  • Any entity –  Migrate anything which has an entity. While Microsoft does not recommend customers try to migrate all historic data, the tools will support the migration of payables, open transactions, and more.

The data migration tool should be installed in AX 2009. Before the migration to Dynamics 365 for Operations, the sandbox should already be prepared with the upgraded code. In DIXF parameters you will be able to specify the AX 2009 instance and the Dynamics 365 for Operations sandbox instance. The data is will be exported in "packages" that are then stored on the file system before migration mapping is done between AX 2009 source tables and Dynamics 365 for Operations entities. Mappings will be editable after initial generation. Also, plenty out-of-the box entities will be provided.

There are currently no tools for code upgrade and data migration from AX 4.0 and earlier versions. Therefore, only pure reimplementation is possible from AX 4.0 and earlier versions to Dynamics 365 for Operations.

Full upgrade vs. reimplementation

A deep analysis of your customer’s current Dynamics AX solution should be performed to determine which option is best for your customer. Choosing the most cost-effective and time-efficient option will usually depend on what data and customizations your customer has in the older AX version they desire to upgrade. Additionally, it depends on what needs to be transferred to the newer Dynamics AX/Dynamics 365 for Operations version.

Before planning your upgrade strategy, you and your customer should take into consideration a variety of factors. The following table examines the most common factors to discuss prior to the upgrade.

There are plenty of factors to consider when upgrading to Dynamics 365 for Operations: source system version, database quality, number of customizations, available new functionality, historic data need – the list goes on. There are still more factors to consider before moving to the next generation solution, Dynamics 365 for Operations.

Addressing these factors will help you and your customer decide which upgrade path to choose:

  1. Upgrade from AX 2009 without historic data
  2. Upgrade from AX 2009 through AX 2012 R3 with historic data
  3. A full re-implementation with Dynamics 365 for Operations
  4. Switch to Dynamics NAV if current AX solution is extinct, data preservation is not required and ERP business needs have changed.

After almost eight years of providing Dynamics AX partners with a spectrum of efficient upgrades, development and consulting for a full upgrade and re-implementation projects at 1ClickFactory, we‘ve concluded that for any version of Dynamics AX, the most beneficial upgrade tactic is efficiently moving your customers to the newest version of Dynamics 365 for Operations. We believe the upgrade/transition to Dynamics 365 for Operations enables your customers to work smarter, achieve better results, deliver remarkable customer experiences and fast-track business performance.

The task you are now left with is to take time to perform the deep analysis, consider factors that influence the upgrade (e.g. customizations and data), and then adapt to the most suitable path to achieve the most cost-effective and time efficient option for each of your customers.

Better Together: Selecting the Best Upgrade Path to the New Microsoft Dynamics

At 1ClickFactory, we provide Dynamics Partners with a number of assets and services to help you plan the best upgrade strategy for moving your customers to Dynamics 365 for Operations. Here is a quick list of services to help you prepare for the move to Dynamics 365 for Operations:

  • BestPath Assessment: to start planning your upgrade strategy, we recommend a BestPath Assessment to identify which upgrade tactic is the most beneficial for your customer’s unique Dynamics AX situation to move forward.
  • Upgrade Assessment:
    • Helps your customers understand the economic and technical benefits of an upgrade;
    • Shows the customization level of the solution and gives Application Object Customization Analysis and a precise list of changed objects that is highly valuable when discussing the upgrade methodology with a customer;
    • Helps create a detailed plan of the next steps a Partner must take in order to complete an upgrade;
    • Saves you time on analyzing technical upgrades and budgeting the upgrade costs for your customers.
  • What’s New in Dynamics 365 for Operations Workshops:
    • Register now to learn what’s new with LCS and Azure.
    • Register now to learn what’s new from a technical perspective with the new Dynamics AX.

These valuable tools aid you to identify the best upgrade path for your legacy Dynamics AX customers as the first step to help them cross the chasm into the digital transformation of the cloud-first era.