How to Run Updates in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

In this blog post we go through planning on configuring updates within Power Platform environments to keep Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications up to date. 

James Feuerborn

James Feuerborn

Introduction

While the Customer Engagement/CRM side of Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a less complex update process than the Finance & Operations module overall, taking a similar proactive approach to managing your updates will yield many of the same benefits. This article will explain at a high level what an update is, what the process entails, and what are some key points to keep in mind.

Taking a proactive approach to the update process can benefit your company greatly by

  • Getting the full business value of the ongoing Microsoft Dynamics CE 365 feature releases
  • Minimizing the risk of production downtime,
  • Increasing employee satisfaction by keeping them informed of upcoming changes, and
  • Maintaining compliance with the Microsoft approved update schedule

What are Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Updates?

Like most Microsoft updates, Customer Engagement Wave Releases include bug fixes, new features, and other changes. These Wave Releases occur twice a year, with one release window running from April to September, and the other running October to March. Once a Wave window opens, Microsoft will begin pushing out incremental updates as per their Release Schedule.

In order to start receiving these updates, each environment has to be “opted-in” for each specific Wave. For example, if you set your Sandbox environment to opt-in to the April 2023 release, you’ll have to opt in again for the October 2023 release.

As you can imagine, allowing changes to be made to your production environment without first having reviewed and tested them is inherently risky. There could be a change to the UI or the removal of a feature that your business currently uses, potentially disrupting business processes.

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How to Run Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Updates

Now let’s talk about process. Similar to managing other kinds of releases, Avantiico recommends staging the updates in a non-production environment to execute testing. However due to the nature of CE, fewer environments are required:

  • PROD: Your live D365 CE Production Environment
  • UAT/Sandbox: User Acceptance Testing Environment

In order to ensure that the risk of downtime is minimized, we recommend following the following process:

Select the Appropriate Time

As mentioned above, updates are deployed throughout the wave release. Here’s a visual from the Microsoft literature to illustrate what this looks like at a glance:

Therefore, we generally recommend that this process be started towards the end of a Wave Release window. This will allow you to conduct your testing after most, if not all, the features planned for the wave release have been implemented. If, by contrast, you test at the start of a window, not all of the planned features would be deployed until weeks or months later.

The exact timing of when to start the process depends largely on the amount of testing that makes sense for your organization, which strongly correlates to your environment’s complexity, meaning it’s unique to each company.

Prepare Power Platform Sandbox Environment & Turn On Updates

Prepare Sandbox Environment

To start the process, the first thing you’ll need is a testing environment that resembles Production as closely as possible. The easiest way to obtain that is to simply clone your Prod environment into a new (or overwrite existing) Sandbox environment. Utilizing this environment for testing will remove the risk of disrupting ongoing business activities.

Once your Sandbox environment is live, to obtain the updates you simply need to Opt-in to the specific Wave Release that you’re targeting in the Admin Center.

Test Updates in Sandbox Environment

Conduct testing in Sandbox

While this step sounds like a common refrain among Release Management experts, as we’ll see later, it’s particularly vital for CE updates. Thorough testing at this stage is critical to ensuring that no features or other changes are replicated through to production, potentially disrupting business operations.

Testing should not only include end-to-end rundowns of your key business processes, but you should also conduct this testing across different security roles, personas, and browsers. As many IT experts can attest, a common reason for “missing” a defect in testing is that the testers’ accounts often have elevated permissions that aren’t subject to issues user accounts experience

Turn On Updates in Production Environment

Once your (hopefully thorough) testing has been completed, you can proceed with the update to production. Similar to what was done for UAT, the process to execute is simply opt-in to the relevant Release Wave in the Admin Center.

As per best practices, this should be done after hours, ideally on a weekend, to minimize the chance of business disruption.

Key Points to Keep in Mind When Making Updates to Dynamics 365

While the process may seem pretty straightforward, here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Customizations aren’t modified, only prebuilt items
    • By this we mean that any custom tables, attributes, programs, etc. that your organization has constructed in CE shouldn’t be directly changed by the updates that are released
  • Testing Importance
    • As mentioned above, testing is critically important to ensure changes that could disrupt operations are not passed through to production
    • Testing with roles and personas across the organization is key to getting an accurate picture of how the update will actually behave in production
  • Can’t Roll Back
    • One of the main reasons testing is so strongly emphasized above is that once an update has been applied to an environment (UAT or Prod), it cannot be rolled back

Closing & Next Steps

While we hope the content above has been beneficial in aiding your understanding of the CE update process, there can be many complicating factors not addressed here.

Complimentary Support Consultation

If you'd like to discuss scheduling, the update process or other Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement related topics, click below to set up a free consultation today.

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