Decided to upgrade your AX systems to Dynamics 365? Want to know just how long the upgrade will take? Find out how to get started on estimating timelines and anticipating potential complexities in the process.
Now that you have decided to upgrade from AX to Dynamics 365, the first question that pops up is: How long will this upgrade take?
The typical answer to the question about timelines for an AX to Dynamics 365 upgrade is “it depends.” While it is true that there are multiple aspects to the upgrade that can impact the timeframe of the upgrade process, there are general guidelines you can use to make an estimate. You can also start exploring some of the complexities involved that you should be aware of.
Understanding the steps involved in the upgrade process
The first phase of the implementation process is the Discovery phase. Here, you map the business processes and functionalities you are currently using and evaluate the areas you want to spend time on to improve by adding new functionality or features in Dynamics 365.
The next phase is the Scoping phase, and here is where you break down your functional processes and requirements into technical terms for the implementation team. An important component of this phase is to list the existing customizations in the AX system. You will need to make this list on both the functional level, identifying the specific processes that will be impacted, and make a list of the specific objects that have been customized, which will include Tables, Forms, and Reports.
The two steps mentioned above will give you a good indication of the amount of work involved and you will also be in a position to start estimating timelines.
The next step is to run the upgrade analyser tool, which you can access by opening a project in Lifecycle Services (LCS). The tool will help you identify ways to:
- Reduce subscription cost
- Optimize SQL configurations
- Identify data that needs to be cleaned
- Flag obsolete features
- Spot elements that contain errors
By exploring the upgrade analyser tool, you can plan the upgrade more efficiently and speed up the process. The three main processes in this step are:
- Data clean up: This step helps you reduce the size of the data by identifying what can be removed without losing the needed functionality.
- SQL configuration: This step will help you reduce the time required to go-live by checking if the SQL configuration is performing optimally and if there is optimization required to improve performance.
- Identify deprecated features: This is an important step to understand the functionality that you are currently using but has been deprecated in Dynamics 365. Doing this at an early stage will help you plan for customizations and other alternatives you can use to get the same functionality after you upgrade.
The upgrade process is broadly classified under two categories: Code upgrade and Data upgrade.
Briefly, the Code upgrade process involves taking the code from AX, converting it into the new format, identifying conflicts, and resolving the conflicts. The next step is to perform a fit gap analysis and develop new code/customization based on business need.
Data upgrade happens in the development environment at first, to help your team adjust the code and debug issues quickly. Rerun of adjusted code in the development environment can be done in minutes, compared to the Sandbox that may take several hours to complete the full cycle of debugging, code adjustment, code update, and rerun.
What happens to customizations?
For all the customizations you want to carry forward to Dynamics 365, you will need to convert them into extensions. This is the time where you evaluate whether you will be able to get the same results using the extensions environment that you did with the customizations in AX. If you are not able to get the desired outcome, you will have to consider re-designing the solution.
In terms of estimating timelines for customizations, it depends on how complex the system is and how you have used code in standard objects.
Coming up with initial time estimates
For a small-sized business, it takes about 8 to 12 weeks if it is an easy upgrade with minimum complications. An extensive upgrade with multiple moving parts and components can easily take anywhere between 2 to 3 months or longer. The duration of the implementation will depend on the size of the business, the number of users, and the number of modules and features you will need.
An upgrade project for an enterprise business will take longer. The core finance module can take anywhere between 6 to 8 months, and to implement more advanced modules, it can take 10 to 12 months. For a fully integrated, multi-office implementation with customizations and third-party connections, it can take 18 to 24 months.
This does not mean that you have to wait until the implementation is complete to use the system. The whole project will be planned in phases. The primary modules with the core functionality of the business will go-live first and then you will be able to add the secondary modules over time, including multicompany, multicurrency, advanced reporting, and more.
Some of the top Microsoft implementation partners, like sa.global, have the global reach to help you with multi-country and other complex projects. It will be easier to take system live globally if you have local teams in different countries for project management, stakeholder management, and effective collaboration to meet aggressive timelines.
Besides, sa.global has extensive experience in project resuce and turnaround, where clients have reached out to us after facing difficulties with complex implementations.
Download the Standard Migration Assesment document to start your journey to the cloud.
How implementation timelines can get longer than expected
There are several ways in which your initial timeline estimates will turn out to be wrong and the project will take longer than expected. Being aware of all the potential pitfalls and challenges will help you prepare a more accurate estimate and prepare all stakeholders before you take this journey together.
One example is with customizations. There are some customizations in Dynamics AX that were possible with overlaying, but the same can’t be done with extensions in Dynamics 365.
Microsoft has been adding new extension capabilities that will help you meet your business requirements without overlaying, but if you have customizations that were done with overlaying and you want the same functionality in Dynamics 365, you can log a request with your needs. While you should be able to get the work done, the process of raising a request and finding a solution will add to your implementation timelines.
If you have multiple extension points that you need Microsoft’s approval for, it will take some time to get those in place and then implement them.
Finally, don’t forget to add user training as a part of the estimated timeline. While the training requirements may not be as extensive as learning a new ERP platform, there will be some lead time involved to start using the new cloud solution efficiently.