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10 min read • Feb 22, 2023
The arrival of ERP solutions in
the cloud has also brought with it certain changes in methods of implementation. In this blog we will try to establish what the factors are that affect the implementation of an
ERP business solution, and how
these changes are felt by everyone who
deals with the implementation of
So, what was typical for business
applications before the cloud era?
Microsoft entered the business
solutions sector in 2002 with the acquisition of Navision and Axapta
solutions. Navision, now known as Dynamics 365 Business Central, was already
aimed primarily at small businesses at the time, while Axapta, known today as
Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, was aimed primarily at larger
companies. Despite the differences between the two solutions, there are quite a
few common features that are actually typical of most traditional business
Today, Microsoft offers Dynamics
365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain in the field of
business applications, along with many
other Dynamics 365 apps. Both solutions have
been designed with the idea of modern cloud solutions in mind, and aim to respond fully to all the challenges associated
with the implementation of traditional business solutions. The answers also
bring with them important impacts
on the method of implementation, i.e. on the implementer, as well as on the
client. So, what do these impacts
Let's start with infrastructure
– perhaps the most obviously impacted
With the arrival of cloud
solutions, we no longer need to think about the required hardware and software
that ensures smooth operations. We
don’t need to concern ourselves with system or application software updates. We do not
need to worry about scenarios which
involve ensuring high system availability, backups and the like… We can
get a lot of information based on telemetry, which tells us what state our
system is in.
Cloud infrastructure makes it easy to set up additional
environments for different purposes, e.g. development, testing, performance
testing, etc , which is a major advantage over local deployment (additional environments in the cloud
infrastructure are of course associated with additional costs).
Additional environments in the cloud infrastructure may or may not be associated with additional costs. For example, with Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft offers one production and three test environments in the basic subscription. If the company needs to use additional environments (additional production or four test environment) it will be associated with additional costs.
It is important to emphasise that Dynamics 365 ERP solutions can
also be installed on local infrastructure, which of course greatly increases
the complexity. In this case, the implementer must make a detailed plan of the
required hardware, system and application software. Maintenance and update
mechanisms need to be put in place.
One of the important findings of vendors of traditional ERP solutions was that it could be very difficult for customers to decide whether to upgrade to newer versions of their solution. Doubts and fears were mostly related to wariness about the possible high numbers of customisations required.
The more customised the solution,
the more effort is required to upgrade.
we often came across the fact that we were no longer talking about
upgrading, but also about
One of the main features of all cloud services is the constant
updating and addition of new capabilities - updates can occur practically every month. In order for users to be able
to adopt new versions of their solution relatively easily, it was necessary to
fundamentally change the way the customisations
were made. It may have previously been
possible for the standard base code provided by the vendor to be changed, but
this is no longer possible in the case of cloud solutions. Therefore, a
new model was introduced in which the implementer no longer has the option to
change the standard code, but they can
write their own code - a so-called
extension - in predetermined places in the program code (so-called extension
points). When the manufacturer replaces its standard code and does not make breaking changes (e.g. removes certain
data structures, software artifacts etc…), existing extensions work with the new
update as they did before the update (e.g. for ease of presentation - when
replacing a laptop, all USB devices work as before, a breaking change would of
course be a change in the standard). As a result, making customisations becomes more complex.
On the other hand, there is a
"Low-Code Development Platform" under the common name Power Platform,
which includes Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Pages, and Power Virtual Agent products; these services enable the
construction of fast solutions in the areas of "self-service business
intelligence", application development and automation.
The modern Dynamics 365 family of business applications are updated practically every month or more often. Major transformations are currently taking place - there is a
decomposition of large monolithic solutions, which manifests itself in the elimination of entire modules to be replaced by new cloud solutions (some
recent examples - Dynamics 365 Human Resources, Dynamics 365 Finance Insights,
Dynamics 365 AI etc…), and in such an environment it is impossible to imagine using
rigid implementation methodologies to implement a complex business solution. In
response to the rapidly changing environment, Microsoft has proposed a methodological approach called CRP (Conference
Room Pilot) as a blend of the waterfall
and agile approaches.
case, the implementation consists of the following steps:
The key advantages of such an approach are:
traditional solutions we were often
used to complete autonomy in code management and patch installation, but this is completely different in the
case of cloud solutions. In the case of Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations,
application lifecycle management is only possible using the LCS (Lifecycle
services) collaboration portal, which in the case of cloud solutions means that
applying updates to the production environment is performed by Microsoft as
part of their regular services.
Both the client and the implementer can only
access the system using the user interface. Whereas we used to be able
to easily access data, install patches, and perform quick ad-hoc actions,
this possibility is now completely
disabled. There is now a procedure
that precisely prescribes the steps to install a new package in production,
e.g. a prerequisite is testing in a sandbox environment.
In the case of Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft automatically offers the update for testing and production environments through the Dynamics 365 Business Central admin centre. The administrative interface can be accessed by both the client and the company that implements the business solution, and through the update settings they can schedule updates at a specific time (certain period, day, month). As it is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution, these updates cannot be skipped and must be installed. If the update is not manually triggered by the client or implementer within the specified time frame, Microsoft will automatically trigger the update on the latest scheduled update date (approximately 30 days after the release of the major version).
More than ever, testing backed by
automated tests has now become
particularly important, as we can’t afford to have system failures due to poor
Updates include the continuous
addition of features and functionality. For Dynamics 365 for Finance and Supply Chain, the client has 8 updates per year and must accept at least 2 per
year, which in practice can mean skipping 3 consecutive updates. In addition,
critical fixes are always available for the
previous release (i.e., if the current release is 10.0.6, then critical
fixes for release 10.0.5 are provided).
For Dynamics 365 Business Central, emergency fixes (Minor release) are published regularly and there are two main annual releases (Major release). Hotfixes or minor updates are released once a month and are accompanied by version v21.1 marks. For minor updates, Microsoft will automatically trigger the update on the last scheduled update date (approximately 20 days after the release of the minor update).The main issues are published twice a year, in April and October (with the labels wave 1 and wave 2).
In this way, clients are constantly on the
latest update, which includes all known critical fixes, new features and
This, of course, means that as
implementers, we need to be able to accept updates several times a year and make sure
that all the extensions work properly. Again – automated testing plays
In the case of a
"cloud" solution, of course, we must not forget that we are talking
about an all-inclusive service,
which means updating both the system and application software.
There is a difference between
cloud and on-premises deployment -
in the case of a local deployment, the client retains more flexibility (i.e. they have to take care of themselves), but
it is not possible without regular updates.
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