Dynamics 365 One Version FAQs
Oh One Version… Microsoft is moving rapidly to be ahead of the curve. While it is challenging to stay up to date and on top of things as a partner, customer, or ISV, please don’t underestimate what is happening with Dynamics 365 ERP.
The concept of Continuous Updates is unprecedented in the world of enterprise level ERP – it is a major event in line with discovery of gravity or electricity. Ok – maybe I have gone a bit too far here as it is not quite penicillin either. While similar concepts have existed on some level for smaller software products, there is currently no equivalent for large enterprise ERP solutions governing all business processes for $1 bln+ organizations. Obviously, the same options are available for smaller organizations running Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. For all those companies (involving Dynamics or other ERPs), the ability to avoid multi-million dollar upgrade projects in the future is unparalleled. Of course, it is not without challenges.
Ellipse Solutions is managing numerous customer implementations on Dynamics 365 and have been on the forefront of Continuous Updates within Dynamics AX community by conducting dozens of presentations, webinars, and town halls, and publishing blogs in the last 9 months. It is important to note significant changes in the process have been announced by Microsoft this week. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions from our customers, prospects and technology partners, including the latest information which became publicly available earlier in the week.
Before we dive in, it is worth noting that we are hosting a webinar to cover D365 Upgrade Planning & Post Go-Live Strategy (Including ALL NEW OneVersion Details!) on Thursday, June 6th 2019 from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How often does Microsoft provide Service Updates?
A: There is a major shift in the pace of the updates published this week. When Microsoft originally announced this policy, it was built out as a monthly update (with some options of pausing the process for any reason for up to two updates).
In a significant amendment announced on Monday, Microsoft will now produce 8 service updates per year and customers will be able to skip up to 3 consecutive updates at a time. This was clearly done in response to partner and customer concerns (including challenges our team has experienced). The bottom line is the customers can take up to 8 updates per year (January, February, April, May, July, August, October, November), however if needed can use the pause option and only apply at minimum 2 updates per year.
You can find the formal announcement here.
What is the most current version of the Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations product?
The latest version can always be found here. Currently, the latest version is 10.0.2 Platform Update 26. Please note, while the newest cadence does not include June update in the future, Microsoft plans to make available a June, 2019 release.
Why would customers rush to update and be the guinea pigs for the newly released version?
The main reason to apply updates as those become available is to benefit from new features Microsoft adds to the product. One of our customers (who would otherwise delay the update due to stringent internal audit schedule) was specifically awaiting 4 new functionality improvements last month, and was all too happy to get the latest version so the new features became available to their user community. Admittedly, two of those “features” were bug fixes (by my definition).
We have been in the channel for a long time, and have never seen Microsoft act so swiftly with regards to addressing gaps in the product (they jokingly call it “opportunities” – not “gaps”). It is somewhat empowering to see a ticket submitted to Microsoft getting addressed via a hotfix in the next month’s update. Historically, it was a much longer process. We don’t foresee that every request will be accommodated immediately, however there are definitely some visible improvements in this area of support.
How do we track Continuous Updates information online?
A lot of info is coming through. The most common hashtag for this topic on LinkedIn and Twitter is #OneVersion. We would also recommend interested parties join the Microsoft Yammer community to stay on top of things. In a self-serving comment, I would strongly suggest to follow Ellipse Solutions’ blog and live presentations/webinars (one of which is actually scheduled for tomorrow, June 6 at 11am ET.
How is it technologically possible to update so frequently?
The only way to run the upgrades monthly (and I purposely used the word “upgrade” here, while Microsoft very strategically calls it an “update”) is to automate the process. The code and data “upgrades” have been mastered in the last 3-4 years with the formal introduction of extensions. Any changes in user roles and subscriptions should be discussed and tested up front. It is very important that Microsoft made a commitment to provide early product previews to customers, partners, and ISVs so an environment can be spun up with the updated version to test new functionality ahead of the actual update.
The key to frequent updates is to automate the testing process. The tools involved in this automation will be discussed in the answers below. You can also sign up for the Release Validation Program here.
How can ISVs keep up?
This process puts significant pressure on all ISV products servicing D365FO and Retail communities. It is unreasonable to expect all vendors to update their solutions monthly (or by the newest cadence 8 times per year). When Microsoft pushed forward with this concept last Fall, they introduced the notion of backward compatibility, which in simplified terms means “the newest version of Microsoft code should work with the prior version of ISV code”. Conceptually, it is a huge undertaking by making the updates “touchless” (as Microsoft calls it) with no requirement of merging the code.
In our experience thus far this model has been successful, however, it is a small statistical data sample, and we expect some challenges specifically with integrated products and other areas where non-native code is involved.
Is the concept of Continuous Updates available for Dynamics 365 for Retail?
Yes – both Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 for Retail are operating under the Continuous Update cadence.
How can I pause the scheduled Dynamics 365 update?
Only user accounts with the Project Owner role in Microsoft Dynamics LCS are able to pause the update. The rules of what projects on which version can or can not be paused are best defined here.
How are the automated updates scheduled?
The users can see the update schedule well in advance within their Microsoft Dynamics LCS Update Settings area. The Project owners are able to see and, if needed, pause future updates based on the rules described above.
The updates are schedule during the weekend, and the customer gets a week for testing before the update is automatically performed for the Production environment. It is noteworthy that customers can select different time zones for the update schedule.
How do we test it all in ONE week?
Obviously, re-testing the entire application manually in a week is not a good monthly option. Yes – the customer can opt for getting an early preview of the updated product to buy some more time for testing, yet it is not conceptually or financially feasible to do this 2 to 8 times per year.
The primary tool Microsoft has proposed is the newly updated RSAT (Regression Suite Automation Tool). While it is tightly connected to BPMs and Task Recordings, building a library of test scripts is still a significant task. A major misconception currently floating in the channel that RSAT test suite can be built without a significant effort. It is automated and the initial set of tests can be produced very fast. However, there is a significant gap between the initial set of scripts and the final library of required tests.
First of all, it is hard to find the right balance of what specifically should be tested. If a test script is created for every single process a company is or potentially will utilize in the system, it will take many thousands of test scripts and simply not reasonable. The individual tests are initially based on Task Recordings – it is a good starting point to mimic functional tests after the recordings. However these two tools do not serve the same objectives. Task Recordings are produced mostly as user guides as the training materials while functional testing must focus process validations (some of which do not even involve user interface). Moreover, based on our newly found experience with building RSAT specifically for continuous updates, most Task Recordings must be modified to fit better with specific testing scenarios.
We would be delighted to provide specific examples of how “old style” BPMs and Task recordings no longer fulfill the requirements if used as the foundation for RSAT. More information about RSAT and how to apply it to D365FO can be found here.
RSAT does not fit integration and performance testing requirements… what gives?
There are other testing options available, which can be utilized with various level of success. Another misconception in the market is that these are user level tools. Quite the opposite – some of these testing tools represent a significant investment and truly require Developer level skills.
Here a few useful links:
The most potent testing option is the X++ library known as ATL (Acceptance Testing Library) – some info can be located here.
Not specifically related to the updates but this is a good, quick overview of monitoring performance:
What if any of the tests fail? What’s next?
We have encountered situations where during the allocated one week of testing in the Sandbox environment, some tests have failed and the resolution was 100% in Microsoft’s hands (totally a foreign concept for those of us who have been through Dynamics AX wars for many years). It is ultimately crucial to submit and escalate your request so Microsoft Engineering team can decide if the failed test is justifiable to postpone the update in Production. It will dramatically expedite your process of the issue resolution with Microsoft if the trace option is utilized and provided to Microsoft – for information check out this page.
Can RSAT be used for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations on premise installation?
Yes – Regression Suite Automation Tools works for on premise installations. However, that aren’t any BPMs in the on premise version, so the test cases must be created manually. There is no differences between Task Recordings in the cloud and on premise.
What are the lessons learned after 9 months of monthly updates and 3 months of “automated” updates?
This is the most commonly asked question we face when meeting Dynamics 365 users. Here are several “gotchas” based on experience with our customer base.
- We have inherited a few “troublesome” D365 situations originally started by other partners where BPMs and Task Recordings were not in place after the initial implementation. In simple terms “this is not cool” – these deployments are not prepared for the automated continuous updates, and require major effort to get them up to speed. This is not AX 2012 – BPMs and Task Recordings covering all major process flows must be mandatory components of all implementations.
- Based on some blogs and social media posts, there is a perception that preparing all automated testing tools is a matter of a few clicks. Wrong! Like any massive testing efforts it requires serious planning and considerable effort.
- There is confusion in the community that only customizations require testing. Not the case – with the software update (like with old “upgrades”) the entire application must be re-tested. Thus far, we have encountered some failed tests in about half of our “updates” past D365 version 8.0 (and the most surprising note – about half of those were failed tests in standard, non-customized areas of the product).
- Another misunderstanding: while testing the integrations after the update, if the structure of the incoming or outgoing data is the same, then the integration should work. There have been two noteworthy integration challenges in use by many D365 deployments since October where the data layout has not visibly changed yet the integration process failed after the update (both in the areas of banking automation). Just another reminder the complete testing is needed.
- Some in the community make it sound like these continuous updates are a hands-off exercise customers do not have to be engaged in with every update. While so many components of Continuous Updates are automated, it definitely requires someone’s attention, oversight, and overall management (both technical and functional). To assist our customers with this process Ellipse Solutions offers a Dynamics 365 Update Autopilot service.
Part 2 of this blog is up now!
D365FO One Version Cadence – More FAQs As The Community Wonders