Upgrading from Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365: The Complete Guide


While it may seem daunting, upgrading your ERP presents you with a meaningful opportunity to transform your business - updating your business process and tech in tandem, to create a more efficient & resilient supply chain.

Many companies are still skeptical when they consider transitioning from Dynamics AX or some other ERP over to Microsoft Dynamics 365. Unfortunately for Dynamics AX customers, time is running out.

From Microsoft: 

Mainstream support for Dynamics AX 2009 Service Pack 1 (SP1), Dynamics AX 2012, and Dynamics AX 2012 R2 ends on October 9, 2018. After that date, only security hotfixes will continue to be provided for these three versions through the extended support period that continues until October 12, 2021. For more information, see support.microsoft.com.

Mainstream support for Dynamics AX 2012 R3 continues through October 12, 2021. Microsoft will continue making security hotfixes, non-security hotfixes, and regulatory updates for Dynamics AX 2012 R3 throughout that mainstream support period. The source code for these non-binary, non-security hotfixes and regulatory updates will continue to be available for customers, and their partners, active on the Enhancement Plan or Software Assurance.

To help, we’ve put together a series of videos featuring our technical consulting manager, Josh Williams, guiding you through the major considerations you should be thinking about when migrating your ERP to Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Determine Your Migration Timeline


The ending of extended support for various versions of Microsoft Dynamics AX may impact your implementation timeline.


It’s important to take your Dynamics 365 implementation project seriously, considering it a new initiative. There’s no wizard or a magic bullet when it comes to upgrading to Microsoft D365. While there are tools and resources available to support the process, it’s a fundamentally new application with significant architectural differences.

In this video, we’ll explore  the difference between an update and an upgrade, provide recommendations on planning your project timeline, and outline the benefits of starting with an analytics project that focuses on building a smarter data infrastructure. 

Upgrading to D365: Timelines Video Link



Map Your Digital Transformation Journey

Digital transformation isn't just a typical update to the latest version of a software platform - it enables you to leverage powerful new tools to drive your organization's business strategy. How you make decisions about data, integrations, analytics, and applications will influence your day-to-day operations for years to come, and Microsoft has the tools to support this journey.

Learn how strategy, data, integrations, analytics, and applications each play a role in the digital transformation journey. In this video, you’ll learn how to empower your digital transformation journey with Microsoft’s applications such as D365, Microsoft analytics tools, the Power Platform, and ISV solutions available on Microsoft App Source.

Upgrading to D365: Digital Transformation Video Link


Continuous Updates

Continuous updates are Microsoft’s way of delivering constant ERP improvements. Each update consists of new features and all cumulative hotfixes since the last release.

With continuous updates, deployment is automated on a fixed schedule with eight yearly service updates, the largest of which occur in April and October. Microsoft will automatically apply these updates to your test environment seven days before they are applied to your production environment, unless your team intervenes.

Blue Horseshoe recommends taking at least four updates per year. This strategy allows you not to be too far from hotfixes and helps you better manage your update testing timeline.

ERPs tend to be very large and have specific configurations for business processes. Striking a balance between what needs to be tested and how often you can take these updates is critical. Microsoft does provide flexibility into which updates you can take, however, you can only go three months without taking an update, or you will forfeit support.

This video explains the continuous updates and automated deployment of new features and hotfixes to your test and production environments. You’ll learn about recommendations on how to schedule your updates to align with Microsoft’s eight service updates per year.

You’ll also learn about Blue Horseshoe’s four-step framework to help ensure you have a solid testing approach which includes documenting business processes, building a testing plan, automating as many tests as possible, and joining early release programs.

Upgrading to D365: Continuous Updates Recommendations Video Link



Ready To Digitally Transform Your ERP?




Data Conversion


Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a SaaS application with a different architecture than Dynamics AX. As a result, transferring your data from one platform to the other will require some effort.

Depending on which version of Dynamics AX you were using before, the Microsoft data upgrade tools available to you will differ. Tool-based conversions work well if you are on a more recent version of Dynamics, have a relatively small database, and a limited number of customizations.

However, if you have a large transaction volume and made customizations to their database schema may want to start their D365 upgrade with an analytics initiative to cleanse your data and move segments of that data to an Azure data lake instead of D365.

In this video, you’ll learn about the three different strategies to convert your data to D365 from the previous versions of Dynamics AX, including tools and applications that will help with the conversion. Get details about analytics-based data conversions and using Lifecycle Services for managing Dynamics projects.

Upgrading to D365: Data Conversion Recommendations Video link



Code Upgrade

There's a good chance that code customizations you had in Dynamics AX are now part of D365 base or may be easily managed through the Microsoft Power Platform or an ISV.

There are two strategies to upgrading your custom code; re-develop or re-design. Re-development involves tools to migrate existing code into Microsoft Dynamics 365. Redesigns include processing requirements and business processes into designs that solve requirements gaps. These are implemented through extension or other utilities.

Here at Blue Horseshoe, we typically recommend re-designing code, as that gives you a more robust solution that doesn’t carry forward old mistakes. Plus it supports continuous updates. The process reuses fewer development artifacts and allows you to take full advantage of new features.

If you do need to maintain custom code, this video outlines strategies, reviews tools that you can use, and provides practical recommendations for re-designing code,  including using Azure Dev Ops.

Upgrading to D365: Code Upgrade Recommendations Video Link


Development Implications

The biggest architectural change to D365 from Dynamics AX 2009 or 2012 is that the production instance is now a SaaS application.

While this means you’ll always have access to the latest version of the software, it also means you’ll no longer have direct access to the database, shifting development from an overlaying model to extension-based development experience.

As part of this transition, you'll need to learn how to work within the app framework and use APIs to connect the data, as well as how to leverage middleware. In this video, learn about the implications of this change, how it results in the new extension-based development experience, and the changes it brings to the testing story.

Upgrading to D365: Development Implications Video Link


Integration Implications


Since D365 is a SaaS application, you won’t have direct database access. You'll need to work within the apps framework and use APIs to connect to the data. You can use middleware for API management and orchestration. You’ll also want to consider taking advantage of cloud tools such as Azure Blob or Azure Service Bus.

With D365, you  may not require as many integrations. There are new tools and features as well as first-party integrations like D365 Field Services or D365 Customer Engagement. Look to minimize your team's efforts by leveraging Microsoft and partner integration templates.

In this video, you’ll learn how to work within the app framework and use APIs to connect to the data, as well as how to leverage middleware. We’ll address the integrations lifecycle including analysis, building and deployments, testing, and overall strategy considerations.

Upgrading to D365: Integration Implications video link


Continuous Updates Implications


Continuous updates are Microsoft's plan for delivering constant improvements to D365. Microsoft is responsible for hosting D365, service level agreements, and updating the application with new features and bug fixes. There are eight service updates annually, with major releases in April and October.

While there are numerous benefits to this model, including more frequent feature updates, increased system stability, highly predictable updates to support scheduling, and better service quality from Microsoft, continuous updates also present manageable testing challenges.

There's a limited time to test, additional testing overhead, planning around updates to be done, and skills that will have to be developed to use the testing tools as well as additional environments.

In this video, you’ll learn about testing changes in D365, scheduling recommendations, benefits and challenges of continuous updates, and ideas for testing approaches.

Upgrading to D365: Continuous Updates Implications Video Link



Final Thoughts

Hopefully, walking through these critical aspects of the upgrade process has helped to clarify your thinking on how & when to migrate to Dynamics 365. If you’d like to get started on your Dynamics 365 migration, or would like to chat with one of our experts, reach out today.


Ready To Digitally Transform Your ERP?



Josh is a Solution Architect with a passion for guiding businesses through their D365 integration and upgrade journeys. His expertise in supply chain, solution design, ERPs, and data/analytics solutions allow him to establish road maps to meet unique business needs.

Learn How Others Have Improved Their Supply Chain Operations With Blue Horseshoe

Microsoft Extended Support for Dynamics AX 2012 R3: What's Next?

Read More

Supply Chain in the Spotlight at SuiteWorld

Read More
Supply Chain Technology

D365 Wave Updates (Updated for 2021)

Read More