Many of our clients, as well as our internal teams, have been excited to start using some of the new features of Dynamics CRM 2016. One of the benefits of using CRM Online is that you can get access to these features immediately with very little effort, however there are still some important considerations prior to rolling out the update to your CRM environment. Note: This article pertains to CRM Online only at this time.
The primary concerns we encounter from customers are downtime and development delays.
Obviously downtime is going to be important for any organization, as they don't want their users or customers to lose access to CRM. For smaller organizations with limited geographical dispersion, this is not usually a major issue, considering Microsoft pushes the updates at night and in the early morning. If your CRM user-base is spread across many time zones however, such as many international organizations, this downtime can have more major impacts. Unfortunately there are no major ways to speed the deployment of 2016, however there may be some workarounds.
The latter concern, relating to development delays, is primarily encountered by organizations with active engineering occurring in CRM, who have multiple Development and Test instances. When a Development or Test instance is upgraded to 2016, they lose the ability to push solutions from 2016 back down to their Production instance, which is still on CRM 2015.
In order to alleviate these concerns, there are some options and workarounds which might help. Outlined below are a few upgrade paths that can streamline the testing and upgrade process to reduce impact to your user base, and allow for simultaneous testing of 2016 while not losing the ability to engineer and push solutions from your Development instance to your Test or Production instances.
Upgrade Path 1
Simultaneously validate 2016 for Production without affecting engineering and development
1. Acquire a new Sandbox instance under your existing CRM subscription
2. Configure the Sandbox instance with the desired URL and settings
3. Copy your Production instance to the new Sandbox instance
4. Upgrade the Sandbox instance to 2016
5. Test and Validate the new 2016 instance to identify any issues you'll encounter when upgrading your Production instance
6. Once validated, upgrade Production to 2016
Using this process, you'll gain the ability to continue engineering efforts between your Development and Production instances, while still validating the upgrade to your Production environment. Once the upgrade has been validated, you can upgrade Production, which will still allow you to push solutions from 2015 up to 2016. The Test and/or Development environments can then also be upgraded, or a better option may be to simply make a new copy of Production down to the Test and Development instances, ensuring engineering is being done in a duplicate environment.
Upgrade Path 2
Reduce downtime of upgrade with temporary read-only CRM schedule
1. Add a Sandbox instance to your subscription (if you do not already have one that can be overwritten)
2. Schedule a Read-Only duration in CRM, where you users will not be entering data, but they can still view data
a. You can modify security roles to enforce this temporary read-only duration
3. Copy Production to Sandbox, using a Full Copy
4. Upgrade the Sandbox to 2016
5. Promote Sandbox to Production
6. Demote Production to Sandbox
7. Modify URLs to match accordingly
This process obviously has more steps, and does include a duration when users can only read data, and not modify, however it would allow the switch from 2015 to 2016 happen almost instantly. There is a slight delay in reassigning the URLs to swap them between the two instances, but this will be a shorter time than the downtime to upgrade to 2016. If your organization is open to a read-only schedule during the upgrade, this may be a viable option, allowing continuous access to CRM while performing the upgrade.
There are many other paths to upgrade to 2016, which could include any number of other instances or processes, so if you've found a path that works for you, please let us know in the comments.