Businesses depend on CRM software to deliver on the promise of customer-centricity and Microsoft Dynamics is one of the popular solutions for its ease of integration into the full Microsoft suite of products and for its feature-rich, out of the box options.
Early versions of Dynamics were exclusively on prem solutions, but today most Dynamics 365 implementations are in the cloud.
If you currently have Dynamics deployed on prem and are looking to migrate to Dynamics 365, there are some good reasons to consider a migration to the cloud. But there are also bumps along the way that it’s best to prepare for.
Let’s unpack all the opportunities and challenges of migrating to Dynamics 365.
Benefits of Moving to the Cloud with Dynamics 365
Like with anything, there are pros and cons to all hosting options. Hosting Dynamics on prem gives you greater control of the hosting environment, all data is stored on your own servers, your team (or IT partner) manages security, maintenance and software updates.
On the other hand, you may be facing aging hardware, performance issues, data and user capacity limits, and security concerns due to outdated software and lax protocols and procedures.
Migrating to Dynamics 365 and hosting your apps and data online, gives you all the benefits of the cloud:
- No hardware to buy or maintain
- Accessible from any device with an internet connection
- Better data security
- Highly scalable
- Microsoft’s 99% uptime guarantee and disaster recovery
- Easy integrations with other Microsoft tools such as Office 365 and SharePoint
- Access to the latest features like business intelligence and machine learning
- Always up to date
It’s also important to keep in mind that Microsoft will stop supporting Dynamics CRM 2016 in 2026, and some suspect that Dynamics 365 on prem version 9 may be the last on prem version. All the more reason to start thinking about a migration project.
Migrating to Dynamics 365: The Challenges
Unfortunately, the reality is that the migration path from older versions of Dynamics to Dynamics 365 isn’t as straight forward as clicking an “upgrade now” button – even though you’re moving from one version of Dynamics to another.
Here are a few common challenges:
Outdated Dynamics Versions
On prem implementations are often multiple versions behind the current Dynamics 365, creating a more challenging upgrade path. You will have to run script after script to get to the current version – and each of those scripts will require you to create a temporary database. It is suggested that you create an Azure SQL database and migrate your data there before you get started.
Custom Code & Plug Ins
When companies implemented the early, on prem versions of Dynamics, it was common to create custom code to enable features and functions they were seeking such as mapping specific processes or creating custom reports. While they were necessary in the past to get systems to work as desired, today’s cloud-based tools like Microsoft Power BI, Power Apps and Power Automate can often replace legacy code and improve the overall solution structure. They offer greater flexibility than the original workflows that were native to Dynamics.
Data & Database Customization
Organizations with an on prem SQL database have the ability to write code that directly affects not just the data but the database itself. Some companies have custom code that violates Microsoft terms and write directly to the database bypassing the CRM layer. This is not possible in the cloud. When migrating to the cloud each such violation needs to be addressed to ensure compliance. With the new tools available, these workarounds may prove unnecessary.
Outdated Legacy Hardware
While the software could be a number of versions behind, the underlying hardware is also likely out of date as well. The cost to update hardware needs to be factored in.
In some cases, the smartest approach might be to start from scratch and rebuild your entire Dynamics CRM in the cloud.
The Dynamics 365 Migration Opportunity
We recommend looking at your Dynamics 365 reimplementation as an opportunity to modernize your application.
Rather than just recreate your existing system in the new version, it’s worth the time and effort to conduct a needs analysis, revisit your requirements, review current usage models and map out feature enhancements. You might find the original vision for the system and how people are actually using it has changed over time, so it makes sense to set up the Dynamics 365 online version to reflect today’s requirements – and where you need the solution to go in the future.
Take the time to do a deeper dive into your data, fields, tables and structures. The modernization of your application offers the opportunity to improve the way you have structured your data.
Next, we recommend re-mapping your business processes. It will not only show you how people are using the solution today, but you might also find that the custom code and plugins that were necessary in the past, can be reimplemented using cloud workflows for most standard business needs. Using tools like Microsoft Solution Checker, we can identify problematic code and either clean it up or replace it with self-maintaining cloud flows in Power Automate.
Set the Stage for Dynamics 365 Migration Success
The effort of moving online is justified by the great opportunity to improve business processes, boost user satisfaction and take advantage of the latest tech.
While Dynamics 365 is feature-rich right out of the box, Power BI and Power Automate allow us to create a wide range of features and customizations to meet your needs – and you know they’ll be supported by Microsoft eliminating concerns about deprecation and conflicts in the future.
The key to success is having a good plan.
To prepare for a conversation with an IT partner about the migration path, you’ll want to have an understanding of your current environment including:
- How many custom workflows, tables and reports have you created?
- How unstructured is your data?
- How much custom code is there?
Our approach to any software implementation is to take a step back to understand what our customer is trying to accomplish, current goals and future requirements.
If you treat the process as migration from a legacy system rather than just an upgrade or a move to the cloud, you’ll have greater success – and you have the opportunity to build the solution you really need today and in the future.