The old Microsoft Dynamics GP upgrades that we used to know have evolved into more seamless, less disruptive version updates.
When Microsoft introduced the Web Client in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013, GP transitioned from each release being a major upgrade to more of an update from one version to another. The key difference between the two approaches, is that an update of Dynamics GP should not be as disruptive to the business, e.g. systems offline for multiple days, in order to take advantage of the new features and capabilities.
Since these updates are easier to apply, companies that utilize Dynamics GP are able to keep their solution on the most current version, rather than stay one or more versions behind.
While Microsoft is describing these releases as an update, the installation of a new version of Dynamics GP should not be approached as you would when you install an update to your iPhone, laptop or another device – clicking “update all” and then sitting back and watch the icons spin as they update without a thought about how to recover if something fails.
While updating (or upgrading) to the latest GP release is now more streamlined, GP is still a critical business system and updates should be approached methodically.
This blog provides details on what to expect before, during, and after your GP upgrade and how to prepare for a successful update to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Before you update
Before applying an update, consider the impact on any regulatory or compliance requirements your company has when a key business system is changed, current customizations and integrations to other business solutions, and how to prepare your team for the new functionality.
- Regulatory Compliance – Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requires that the update process first be completed in a test environment (development and then test for those that are strictly following the regulation). There may be other regulatory requirements such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) validation for companies that are producing drug products or substances, or manufacturing medical devices which also require the update to be first done in a test environment prior to updating your production system.
- Customizations and Integrations – Another reason why you may need, or want, to do the update in a test environment first, is because your solution has been customized or there are integrations to other business solutions. If the customizations and/or integrations have been created using Microsoft’s toolsets, e.g. eConnect, they may update without any issue – but do you really want to risk your phone and email inbox blowing up with user complaints and support tickets when they don’t work in production? It’s peace of mind for you to take the extra step and do a test update rather than risk the stress of something not working.
- New functionality – Consider sending out an email to the GP users in your company with the “What’s New” guide or links to other information that describes the features of the release. There’s a tremendous amount of content on Microsoft CustomerSource and You Tube that discusses and demonstrates these new features. Having your user community aware of what the update does for them, helps get them on board with the update and sets their expectations of what’s to come.
During your update
Now you’re ready to move forward with an update. Here are some tips to ensure your Dynamics GP update runs smoothly.
- Ensure your test environment is current. So you’ve determined whether a test update is desired or required, so now what? If you are doing a test update, make sure your test environment is an identical copy of production prior to applying the update. I’ve seen this many times where the test environment is months if not years out of date and when the update is applied in production there are major differences in the results. If you are going to do a test update, do it right, copy the production environment over to test. With today’s server virtualization technology, ensuring the two are identical is very easy.
- Run reports to ensure integrity of your system. While it’s an update, it’s still a financial system. Run some reports out to a file before the update is applied. The reports I recommend are the General Ledger, Receivables and Payables Trial Balance reports, and Inventory Valuation or Stock Status Report and the Fixed Asset valuation. Running these reports to files does not consume “trees” but does provide you a way to confirm that your accounting balances have not changed during the update process.
- Make a backup! You need a point of recovery, so make database backups of DYNAMICS and all company databases. You should also backup the folder where the Dynamics GP application files are installed. This is the insurance policy that if the update fails, you can restore the database and application files and quickly get yourself back up and running on the previous version while you figure out what went wrong.
- Follow the steps that Microsoft or your partner provides for the update. Updates are being released several times a year. It’s only natural to get comfortable with the process and do the update based on your memory of the previous update. I always tell my clients that if we are doing the update for them, they will see our consultant with the update checklist in front of them. They don’t have the checklist because they do not know what they are doing and need a “cheat sheet,” our consultants have it in front of them so they don’t miss a step. You should do the same.
After your update
Once the update is complete, you’ll want to confirm that it is running correctly and everyone is up to date.
- Re-run the reports you ran prior to the update, and confirm that all your information is the same. You may want to keep the pre and post update reports as support for auditors or backup that proves the update didn’t affect your system in a negative way.
- If your reports agree, test the system. Create a few master records and run a few transactions for each of the GP series that you use. If you are dealing with compliance issues, you may need to have formal test scripts with approval sign offs that confirm the tests were successful.
- Update all access to GP. If you still have users that access Dynamics GP through the traditional client interface, update those workstations, terminal servers or other systems they use to access Dynamics GP.
- Monitor performance of the new version. Once the update is finished, notify the GP users that they can access the updated solution and proactively ask the users during the first few hours if they are having any issues or notice any irregularities.
Bring on the GP update
Microsoft Dynamics GP has moved away from the old upgrade approach and now considers new version releases as lighter updates. Although they should be a more seamless transition for your business, they should still be approached methodically. After all, it is your financial system.
Following these simple steps each time gets everyone that is involved in the process into a regular update rhythm, which minimizes the impact on your users and allows your company to realize the value of new features.
Not sure if you should upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016, or wait for R2? Check out our blog to determine the best option for your organization.
FMT Consultants has over 20 years of experience implementing ERP systems and performing upgrades. We will ensure the integrity of your system and make the update transition as smoothly as possible for your business. Ready to update? Complete the form below to get in touch.