Do you find the new Dynamics 365 update process,s that was announced last year, can be confusing at times?  They have made some people nervous, not knowing what to expect and what the impacts will be when the updates are rolled out.

This article aims to be a one stop shop for information on preparing for Dynamics 365 updates by consolidating all of the disparate information that is available.

The article covers the following topics:

  • Release Schedule
  • Release Notes
  • Preparation
  • Preview Updates
  • Testing
  • Solution Checker
  • How Releases Work
  • Getting Help

To avoid any confusion, this article focuses on Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement only. A lot of this information also applies to environments that include the Common Data Service.

Release Schedule

Microsoft will release major updates for Dynamics 365 twice a year, in April and October. The release schedule for Dynamics 365 updates will typically take the form of…

ActivityDate
Release Notes3 months before release
Preview available1 – 2 months before release
General availabilityApril or Oct release

For the April 2019 update, the high-level release schedule can be found here, with more details here.

key-dates-for-dynamics-365-april-2019-release

As well as the twice yearly major updates Microsoft also release regular service updates which apply hot fixes for known issues.

Release Notes

Major Releases

The release notes are the best way to find out what is coming up with the next major update and can be found here.

To find out when new major release notes are posted follow the Microsoft Dynamics 365 blog.

If you have seen the previous major release notes then you know they are long! The Dynamics 365 community do a great job at summarising the release notes in different formats. My favourites from the April 2019 release notes have been:

  • The team from CRM Audio do a great job in summarising the release notes into audio format with their podcast.
  • Jukka summarised the release notes nicely in a blog and a Twitter Moment.

App \ Component Updates

There are individual apps or components of Dynamics 365 have their own updates that need to be installed by an administrator. These apps or components are typically:

  • Field Service
  • Project Service Automation
  • Marketing
  • Universal Resource Scheduling
  • Voice of the Customer

Follow the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Team blog for the release notes and to know when these updates are available to install.

Service Releases

The release notes for the service updates can be found on the Microsoft Support website. These releases are not rolled out to everyone at the same time so monitor your Office 365 Message Center for notifications of when the services releases will be applied.

Prepare

A common questions is “how do we plan for the updates?”. The answer to this can be found in the Microsoft article called Opt in to April 2019 updates. Half way down this article is a nice flow diagram of the steps you should take to prepare.

 First part of the Microsoft prepare for April 2019 update flow chart

Previewing Updates

Opt In Preview

For the April 2019 update onwards we now have the ability to preview the update in advance. The Opt in to April 2019 updates article explains the opt in process well.

For now (7th Feb 2019) the opt in preview is limited to user experience updates only for the Customer Engagement Platform as described in this article, plus a couple of features for the Dynamics 365 for Marketing app. Dynamics 365 for Sales is meant to have its opt in features released soon.

To opt in to the Customer Engagement Platform user experience updates navigate to your environment in the Power Platform Admin Center. Under the Updates card you can opt in.

Dynamics 365 April 2019 update opt in

There are a couple of other Microsoft articles out there which have the wrong screen shot of the opt in page. The articles do include a disclaimer about the screenshot may not be the real thing. Don’t be fooled.

enable preview admin center wrong pictureThis is not the correct screenshot…

Dynamics Insider Program

Another way to get access to new features is to go to experience.dynamics.com and sign up for the Insider Program. Here you will find a whole bunch of first releases and previews.

Dynamics 365 Insider ExamplesSample of the Dynamics 365 Insider list

Testing

With regular updates being released every six months, organisations with large complex implementations may want to invest in an automated testing solution. I know customers who can have a FTE spend up to a month regression testing their Dynamics 365 system!

Microsoft have come to the party on this with a tool called EasyRepro, available on GitHub, which can be used for testing the Dynamics 365 UI. Time needs to be invested to set this up and it doesn’t cover all test scenarios but could go a long way to giving more confidence and reducing the risk and manual testing cost when the Dynamics 365 updates are released.

Solution Checker

The recently released (Dec 2018) Solution Checker is a tool that checks custom code in Dynamics 365 solutions. It is a great way to validate whether the custom code in your solution is expected to upgrade or not.

How do the releases work?

Want to know more about what is happening behind the scenes with the Dynamics 365 updates?

There are a couple of recordings from the 2018 Business Applications Summit which explain the update process in more detail and contain information that can’t be found in other Microsoft articles.

The first recording is Dynamics 365 and Update Cadence which gives a high-level overview of the Dynamics 365 updates.

The second recording, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Common Data Service updates and upgrades, goes into more detail and discusses what is technically happening behind the scenes with Microsoft’s SAFE release process etc.

Getting Help

If you run into issues in your Sandbox environment during the testing of the new features you can get help by reporting issues to Microsoft by opening a support ticket or through the Dynamics 365 forum.

Conclusion

I hope this article has been useful and it has achieved everything I have set out to do – be a one stop shop for information on preparing for Dynamics 365 updates. Let me know in the comments below if I have missed anything.

For people who are used to on-premise upgrades, the new Dynamics 365 updates are a completely new concept. However, this is not a new concept to cloud SaaS offerings and the new Dynamics 365 updates use the same processes that Microsoft uses for Azure and Office which are updated continuously without issue. The October 2018 update went smoothly and I am looking forward to more successful updates and new functionality being available from April 2019 onwards.