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.
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
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.
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:
In order to ensure that the risk of downtime is minimized, we recommend following the following process:
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.
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.
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
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.
While the process may seem pretty straightforward, here are some key points to keep in mind:
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.
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