On July 6th 2018, Microsoft announced a set of changes to the way they deliver Dynamics 365 updates. The changes will lower upgrade costs and provide all users with access to the latest capabilities, performance improvements and a better support experience. All in all, this is good news to businesses that use Dynamics 365.

Predictable updates with continuous deployment

Microsoft will now deliver two major releases per year – April and October – both of which will offer new capabilities and functionality. Each update will be backward compatible, meaning your apps and customisations will continue to work post-update. New features which have major, disruptive changes to the UX will be turn off by default. Administrators will be able to first test these new features before enabling them for their business.

On top of the two major updates, Microsoft will also continue to perform regular performance and reliability improvement updates throughout the year.

Early visibility of upcoming changes

To assist users in getting prepared and ready for new updates, Microsoft will publish release notes, starting with their April 2018 update. Release notes provide a summary of all the new features and improvements that users can expect from the update, including estimated timelines on when they should be available.

Microsoft plan to publish their release notes months in advance of each major upgrade to give companies suitable time to plan for the new features. The release notes for the October 2018 update are scheduled to be published on July 23.

Test new capabilities in advance

One of the most exciting parts of Microsoft’s announcement is that users can now test the latest capabilities in advance. Users can now get access to Dynamics 356 updates before they are deployed in your business. Partners, like Incremental, can take advantage of this and innovate early to be better prepared to assist our customers.

As of the April 2019 update, users can validate major updates in a sandbox (non-production) environment as soon as a new release is available, in advance of the actual release date. This is great news for administrators, as previously you had to schedule your update in advance and if you weren’t quick, this could have been several months away if you didn’t do so before other customers grabbed the early slots. Only after this timeframe would you be able to assess the new features and plan for your company’s production upgrade. This change will help you reduce the elapsed time to upgrade therefore allowing you to realise productivity gains much quicker.

Microsoft and Incremental will work closely with users while testing the update, so that if any issues are found, these can be resolved in a timely manner.

All users on latest version

As all businesses will be updated on the continuous delivery schedule, you will need to update to the latest version if you are currently running an old version of Dynamics 365.

For Dynamics 365 (online) customer engagement applications, Microsoft sent update communications in May to all those running v8.1 and have scheduled updates. If you are using v8.2, you should plan to update to the latest version by January 31, 2019.

For Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations (online), all customers running v7.0, v7.1, v7.2, and v8.0 should update to the latest version by March 31, 2019. The only exception to being on the latest version is for customers with unfulfilled extension requests by Microsoft. For these customers, support for v7.3 will be available until April 30, 2020.

Microsoft will continue to support older versions of Dynamics 365 however after the above dates, older versions will go out of support and Microsoft will only support the latest generally available version. We highly recommend being proactive with regards to updates and upgrading before your version goes out of support. Automatically being upgraded can cause major issues to your business.

Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 for Talent currently deliver updates and releases through a continuous update cycle. For users of those services there is no change.

 

This is a welcome announcement from Microsoft regarding their update process as it will allow administrators to better plan for new upgrades and it allows users to get access to new features faster. The new process will also allow the Dynamics community to better share ideas and collaborate as everyone should be on the same version.