Business applications powered by the Microsoft Cloud

Hitachi Solutions
November 7, 2017  •  By Darren Littlechild

Q&A: Why upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the cloud?

Using Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the cloud has many benefits. Find out what these are, and whether you should consider upgrading.

Do I have to upgrade to Dynamics 365 in the cloud?

No, it’s not mandatory.

Microsoft will continue to support and issue fixes for older CRM and ERP applications for some years, but you won’t receive the bonus features that your competitors in the cloud are getting through their automatic updates. Support for Microsoft AX and Microsoft CRM will however eventually be phased out. At this point, finding an expert consultant will be less easy and issue resolution is likely to take longer.

We think that using Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the cloud gives all types of organisations more benefits and more opportunities to gain insights to create more personal customer experiences.

Being cloud-based, for example, means your employees will be able to access any app, share and edit documents with colleagues, and continue working wherever they have a mobile device and an internet connection. Applications and data are held centrally and securely in the cloud, so everyone works from the same version  and remotely-held data can be recalled from anyone’s device.

Choosing the cloud application suite is also less disruptive for your business. Updates are rolled out automatically, and you won’t need to budget for expensive system administration or for new software versions, because the software is priced as an ongoing subscription.

And, because updates are released on a rolling basis, you are always running the latest version of technology.

My colleague Michelle Maden, provides a detailed account of the benefits of Dynamics 365 in the cloud here.

What are the Dynamics 365 deployment options?

There are three deployment options available for Dynamics 365:

  • A full cloud-based solution
  • A hybrid cloud and Microsoft Edge option
  • A Local Business data option (on premise)

Microsoft is committed to a ‘cloud-first’ approach and we’re seeing a wave of mid-sized and large organisations adopting cloud business applications. They’re taking advantage of shorter implementation times, fewer customisations, repeatable industry or domain solutions and continuous updates.

This being said, Microsoft realises that some businesses are unwilling or unable to transition to the cloud right now. So, it recently released the Hybrid and On-Premise versions of Dynamics 365. Microsoft offers these deployment options in such a way that it enables you to efficiently transition from them to a full cloud version, when it’s suitable for your business.

Will I lose my current application customisation?

You will not lose your customisations but it is likely that Microsoft has released functions and features that you could adopt to deliver your business outcomes. Microsoft has invested heavily in Dynamics 365 and the application brings a wealth of functionality and business processes out-of-the-box. However, with the goal to keep new development to a minimum, Microsoft has released new code upgrade tools alongside Dynamics 365.

These tools make it much faster to complete an entire code analysis, and to quickly understand the technical upgrade effort required before you commit. We can now do this for a large organisation in less than an hour, informing the full code resolution needed to upgrade.

We can also quickly and easily map a features list of what’s used in the business’ current solution, and what is due to be phased out. This gives us a starting diagnosis to work from, and to understand if current customisation can be kept before you commit.

If you do wish to keep your existing customisation then Hitachi will refactor these for Dynamics 365, ensuring that your solution is future proof for the continuous updates Microsoft now delivers with Dynamics 365.

What happens to my historical data?

Microsoft has gone some way to address the challenges of migrating data and has developed a new data upgrade analyser tool.  The upgrade analyser provides recommendations for data cleansing and actions to reduce database size. This is particularly important as reducing the database size can reduce your subscription costs in Dynamics 365, as part of the cost is based on the amount of database storage required.

Once the recommended actions have occurred, Hitachi will deploy the cleansed data to the Dynamics 365 solution as part of the upgrade path.

Will my employees be able to use the new version?

Yes.

We find that users are very much wedded to the familiarity of Microsoft functionality, and Microsoft has built Dynamics 365 with this in mind.

The applications have been designed to carry over much of the same functions but, because they’ve been built as a seamless suite, you have the benefit of them working much better with one another.

Differences in the Dynamics 365 interface will depend on which previous Microsoft applications version you’ve been using.

I’ve heard that Dynamics 365 in the cloud is a totally different pricing model. How much will I pay?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is priced as a subscription.

This covers the platform updates that Microsoft releases every month, and the application updates you’ll receive every six months. Individual application updates are also rolled out through the cloud, so you’re saving that cost of maintaining and managing an entire suite.

You should factor how these cloud business applications reduce your total cost of ownership because:

  1. The updates are non-disruptive, so your operations can continue as normal, meaning you’re not losing a day’s work.
  2. The apps are designed for a mobile workforce, so your employees can use the entire suite from any device, platform or browser, making productivity better.
  3. IT maintenance costs are lower because Microsoft provides IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) through your licence subscription.

How do I upgrade?

Our team has managed hundreds of upgrades and we know that a disciplined, structured approach will create a better business result.

We’ve built a five-stage, continuous solution framework to support our clients through the upgrade. Coupling this with the new Microsoft cloud upgrade tools reduces your costs and improves return on investment (ROI).

Our upgrade path includes:

  • Discovery: assessing the scope of existing solutions to determine whether upgrading is right for the business.
  • Analysis: a deep dive into technical elements to determine the cost of upgrading.
  • Construction: building foundations to enable upgrade, following Hitachi Solutions and Microsoft best practices.
  • Transition: a seamless upgrade to Dynamics 365, using the depth of Hitachi Solutions’ expertise and Microsoft’s cloud tools.
  • Operations: providing ongoing support and maximising ROI.

Is the upgrade disruptive?

Business disruption using our cloud upgrade path is as low as any migration you’ll experience.

The Hitachi Solutions team is joined up from the analysis phase through to project implementation to support services. It includes support from our dedicated Transformation & Adoption practice, launched earlier this year. This team constantly tracks progress against your business goals and keeps any possible disruption to a minimum. This is so important if you’ve had poor experiences with your existing Microsoft AX or CRM solutions.

You’ll also have ongoing post-implementation solution support from our Lifetime Services team. These are permanent, experienced managed services consultants that review return on investment and alignment with your objectives on an ongoing basis.

Will we need to retrain our employees?

Yes and no. Even with the significant developments since AX 2009 and 2012, Microsoft has taken great care to provide a consistent user experience. This limits the amount of training to actually change processes and interfaces for your users, and the similarities within Dynamics make this a highly efficient process.

The Microsoft Task Guides, a unique approach to on-the-go instructions for difficult or rarely used processes, has been refined and improved greatly and allows business end users to be easily guided into the new processes.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 continuously provides the latest improvements. These might be both small or large releases, but are constructed to deliver clients powerful business benefits within their industry.

This element requires a new approach to training, ideally via a specialised ‘adoption team’ embedded within your organisation. More than previous super or key users, these individuals ensure systematic dissemination and implementation of improvements into your employees’ way of working on a continuous basis. It’s this latter part which will require retraining and development to ensure you reap the full benefits of Dynamics 365.

How long will my upgrade take?

We will not know until our experts look at your existing solution. Beware of some consultancies that may give you a cut and dried timescale.  This can lead to disappointments, so we prefer to take a bespoke approach for each business that we work with.

Our team has expertise in managing successful upgrades to the cloud. We’ve built a five-stage, structured upgrade path to support our clients. These form a continuous solution framework, based on common principles that Hitachi Solutions follows from the start of any client engagement or Microsoft 365 implementation, and throughout the lifecycle of the support services agreement.

Our upgrade path begins with a Discovery stage to assess the scope of existing solutions to determine if upgrading is right for the business. We begin with a detailed analysis of business priorities to mutually decide it’s the right route and the right time for your organisation. Whether it’s your first upgrade or your third, it’s vital to use a professional, considered method so that objectives and opportunities are captured.

Contact us about a Discovery Session – to discuss the best approach for your organisation.

Contact us

Want to know more about upgrading your business applications to Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the cloud? Contact us here.

Darren Littlechild
Author Spotlight

Darren Littlechild

Over 15 years’ experience working with Microsoft Dynamics performing a variety of implementation, sales and leadership roles at consultancy practices…

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