Dynamics AX customers probably feel a little more pressed than NAV users to make the move to Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations. With the name officially retired, Dynamics AX is no longer available to new customers and now sold as Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations (D365FO). Existing customers do still have the option to buy additional licenses, but they are subject to the Dynamics 365 licensing model.
Dynamics AX, or Axapta, is a powerful ERP solution used by sophisticated operations around the world. It has always been a primarily desktop-based application, with some web and mobile components, until the launch of Dynamics AX 7, where Microsoft introduced the new cloud-first model. And then the transition to Dynamics 365 started.
D365FO is a complete web and cloud-based business management solution. It is tightly integrated with other products in the Microsoft family, so you get much more than ERP functionality. Instead of separate applications and licenses, your users can access Dynamics CRM, Power BI, IoT, Cortana, Power Apps, and Flow all within the same platform.
|Get the full story here: The Who, What, and Why of Microsoft Dynamics 365|
While the majority of Dynamics AX functionality has been carried over, significant upgrades have been made to the D365FO user interface. This is great for companies that are transitioning from the latest version of AX, but many are not. Organizations upgrading from older versions, as far back as AX 2009, should expect some extensive training to limit business disruption during implementation.
To prepare for you for these areas of consideration, we are going to share what the migration plan to D365FO looks like, including deployment methods, licensing changes, customizations, and the upgrade path. We will also provide our own recommendations to ensure a smooth transition to the Azure cloud.
Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations On-Premise or Cloud Deployment
As a Dynamics AX on-premise customer, you are not required to upgrade to a cloud-based instance of D365FO. Why? Because Dynamics 365 can be deployed both locally and online. However, there is a catch. If you decide to stay on-premise, there are certain features and services that are not currently available. Those features include automatic updates, customer insights, Power BI integration, Office 365 and SharePoint integration, as well as Azure cognitive services.
When moving to D365FO from Dynamics AX, you have three deployment models to choose from: cloud, on-premise, or a hybrid of the two. No matter what option you select, you will always have the choice to migrate to an alternative when you are ready. For example, many customers have already invested in the infrastructure and hardware required to run Dynamics AX securely, so they may prefer to take the familiar on-premise deployment route. Once they reach a point where they feel they’ve gained enough value from that infrastructure, they could introduce cloud components using a hybrid model – with the end goal of migrating their systems to the cloud.
The cloud deployment of D365FO offers a clear advantage, from additional features and better integration to quick installation and cumulative updates. As a current AX user, you also have the benefit of switching to the cloud-based instance of D365FO by simply transitioning your current licenses to the new platform.
Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations Licensing
Depending on how you decide to deploy D365FO, you can choose from different pricing models for your existing Dynamics AX licenses. Cloud deployments use a monthly subscription model where you pay for the license per user. With an on-premise deployment, you can stay with the annual perpetual licensing model or move to monthly subscriptions – whatever you prefer.
Dynamics 365 is designed as a build-as-you-go solution, completely customizable to your business and industry requirements. The two most popular D365FO plans are the Unified Operations Plan and the Dynamics 365 Plan. From $231.03 per user/month, the Unified Operations Plan will give you full access to the Finance and Operations, Retail, and Talent applications. With the Dynamics 365 Plan, from $255.33 per user/month, you get Finance and Operations, Retail, Talent, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, and Project Service Automation. Get the full pricing details and licensing guide here.
Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations Customizations
With the introduction of Dynamics 365, Microsoft has started using extensions instead of over-layering for customization coding and system modifications. If you are moving from older versions of Dynamics AX, there is a high chance that your customizations won’t be able to get transferred to the new Dynamics 365 environment. There are migration tools available to keep your code compliant, but they only support upgrades from AX 2012 R3 and R2. Many ISVs have been hard at work to redesign their on-premise add-ons, but some companies will have to factor in re-development costs in case they don’t exist yet.
Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations Upgrade Path
Upgrading to D365FO from the latest version of Dynamics AX is a relatively easy process. Unfortunately, the majority of AX users aren’t on the latest version. Microsoft has provided an upgrade path to help customers running AX 2012 R3 and R2 move their data and code to D365FO. These tools help bring forward existing custom application code and database. If you are running an older version, you have a choice to upgrade to a newer version to use the tools or to reimplement.
For any significant software implementation or upgrade project, you need to consider the amount of data in your system, how many users and locations you have, any major report customizations or ISV solutions in place, and any complex workflows you will need to rebuild. A reimplementation might be worth the overhaul of processes and data structure to make improvements to your system in the long run. We recommend that you asses the work required with an experienced partner and choose the option that aligns with your business goals.
Recommended Path for Current Dynamics AX Customers
Migrating from Dynamics AX to D365FO can be relatively painless, as long as you properly plan and have the right support throughout the move. You need a partner who knows what they are doing and has the coding, migration and testing experience necessary to make sure your business rules and workflows translate to the new system.
An upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations from Dynamics AX 2012 would ideally involve two activities: the process that you upgrade application code and the process that you upgrade business data to the new data model.
- Code Upgrade Process
The Code Upgrade Tool in Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS) runs based on intelligent algorithms that do many things automatically. LCS accepts an AX 2012 model store file as an input, which essentially means that one can upgrade anything from Dynamics AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.
- Data Upgrade Process
Data upgrades are done through a special type of deployable package. Before starting the data upgrade procedure, OnActuate runs two pre-upgrade activities for better efficiency of the upgrade process: upgrade analyzer and pre-upgrade checklist.
The upgrade analyzer makes the upgrade experience smoother and more cost efficient by cleaning up existing data, optimizing SQL configurations, identifying deprecated features in Finance & Operations and suggesting alternative feature options.
A pre-upgrade checklist will help you enter data that will be required for the upgrade procedure. For example, in one pre-upgrade checklist task, you provide the Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) sign-in information for each current AX 2012 user so that each user will be able to sign in to Finance and Operations.
The following illustration shows the data update process. Just back up the AX 2012 database, upload it to Azure, restore it to the Finance and Operations environment, and then run the data upgrade.
Deployment times are different for everyone but we can provide a more accurate picture with some additional information on your setup. At OnActuate, we have extensive experience working with Dynamics AX customers and are very familiar with Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations. We can provide strategic planning and thorough testing to help you successfully migrate to Dynamics 365 and start taking advantage of the numerous benefits that Azure offers.
Start planning your migration to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations today. Schedule a quick phone call or meeting to discuss your requirements and we will get you on the best path!