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If your organization is using Dynamics 365 Online or is considering moving to online, there are a few things you need to know and consider about the upgrade cycle. This blog pertains to Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service, and Project Service Automation.

Here's what we know:

  • The upgrade cadence will include two major updates per year. One in April and the other in October with minor updates throughout the year.
  • Organizations will be privy to early visibility via pre-release notes.
  • Organizations will also receive a vanilla instance “bits” sandbox two months prior so that testing can occur. The sandbox feature will begin with the April 2019 upgrade.
  • A sample timeline is as follows:
    • Pre-Release notes available in January and July
    • Bits Sandboxes available in February and August
    • Opt-In for Production Updates in March and September (subject to change per Microsoft)
    • Automatic Production Updates in April and October via Microsoft's SAFE Deployments methodology
      • 1st Week Microsoft Systems only
      • 2nd Week Countries with a small Microsoft footprint (I.e. China, India, etc.)
      • 3rd Week US based small organizations
      • 4th Week US based enterprise level organizations

Pros:

  • Customers can expect reduced update costs because there are fewer items being released two times per year as opposed to a large roll-out only once per year.
  • These continuous deployments will ensure backwards compatibility and aid in business continuity efforts, leaving no online customer behind. It is Microsoft's goal to have all online customers on the same version at all times. Thus it has indicated that customer reported issues will be addressed promptly to ensure everyone is able to move to the next version swiftly.
  • Customers will be given a 12-month advance notice on feature deprecations.
  • And when it comes to new features, administrators will have the ability to opt-in early or hold off until later. The feature will come in as part of the update but are defaulted to off/hidden until you decide you want to turn them on.
  • The Release Notes will be a living document that will contain all of the features - even incremental weekly releases for the duration of the 6-month period they cover. You can find them at: aka.ms/BusinessAppsReleaseNotes
  • Finally Microsoft believes that this model will provide better performance, reliability and support as their team can be focused on fewer versions at a time.

Cons:

  • Administrators will need to import the organization's solutions into the bits sandbox for testing. A great deal of concern around this practice was expressed to the Microsoft team at CRMUG Summit in October. They have agreed to take a look at this, as customers expressed they typically just schedule their DEV environment to upgrade so that all of their customizations and data are already present, and then work through testing to resolve any issues that arise. Hopefully we'll get word soon that customer can continue to operate this way rather than receiving a vanilla "bits" sandbox.
  • There will be changes to Microsoft's support policy, be sure that you are aware of what version(s) are/are not supported.
  • Unfortunately, this is the same cadence as Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and for Retail. So those customers using the entire D365 platform will be going through major releases across their entire business at the same time. Just imagine… testing across all platforms at the same time and training both your operational resources and your sales and marketing folks at the same time. There was a great deal of angst mentioned about this issue as well. However, Microsoft has no plans to change the cadence at this time.

Still On Premise? Here's what we know!

  • The on premise 9.0 is available for preview in October 2018.
  • The one version requirements for these customers is irrelevant, you can upgrade when you want to.
  • Microsoft has not yet determined the frequency in which new updates will be available.
    • Only exception is for Finance and Operations which are already on a twice per year update cycle.
  • Finally, there won't be any changes to your support lifecycle.

Want to get involved even earlier?

  • Apply for the Insider program to get an even earlier preview of coming features with the ability to provide feedback directly to Microsoft. (Experience.Dynamics.Com/Insider)

Have more questions?

  • You can access the Frequently Asked Questions forum at: aka.MS/Dynamics365ReleaseFAQs or feel free to reach out to us here, we're happy to help!