Believe it or not, system upgrades don't have to be a headache. Follow these hard-won lessons to take the pain out of your upgrades.
Originally published in H1 2018 GPUG Magazine
Unfortunately, upgrades are like paying your taxes: Uncomfortable and unavoidable. Here’s how to get through them without things getting ugly.
Talk With Your IT Team
It doesn’t matter who is initiating the upgrade. The most critical ingredient in a successful upgrade is clear communication. Over-communicate to the point of being annoying. Have regular meetings with IT and the accounting team (and Purchasing, Payroll, and whatever other modules you are using). Who is going to be responsible for what? Create a detailed project plan with stakeholders clearly identified and assigned to tasks. Then if things aren’t working properly after you go live, no one can say, “I thought YOU were testing the integration between X and Microsoft Dynamics GP.” Everyone becomes accountable for the success of the upgrade.
Plan It Out
During your meetings, get specific about timing. Obviously, the accounting team will NOT want to upgrade during month-end close, calendar year-end, fiscal year-end, budgeting season, or audits. Plus, you need to schedule time for testing when they’re all not busy doing the things mentioned above. That leaves you with about a three-day window in December to actually do the upgrade...unless everyone is on vacation. (I’m mostly joking here.) A good upgrade will take months to plan and execute, unless your server crashes and you’re forced to do a 2010-to-2015 upgrade in two days because the accounting team is in the middle of month-end and can’t work until you get it done (true story). So, relax and take your time. Your CFO will thank you.
Test Early, Test Often
Build a test server. Install the software as early as possible, and give key stakeholders access to the server so they can test their core functionality. Write test scripts for everything, even the things that should be no-brainers, like creating a work order and converting it to a PO and receiving against it. Keep your test script templates because with a few minor changes, you can reuse them for multiple upgrades. Once the upgrade is complete, you now have a permanent test environment to start testing the next version!
You can never have enough training, especially if you are upgrading from 2010 The new GUI (graphical User interface) looks a lot different, and some people don’t like change. Schedule training sessions at least a month in advance of your go-live date so people can get comfortable with the new look and feel. Write up how-to documents for all the cool new features they’ll be getting and how they apply to them. GL Copy Paste is included for free? I can attach documents to invoices? Nice!
Don’t Forget About Reports
For those of you still on Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010, you are going to have to upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 soon, which means converting all of your financials from Microsoft FRx to Management Reporter. Although, Microsoft will stop supporting 2013 on April 10, 2018, so why not jump all the way to 2015 or 2016? FYI: Support for 2015 ends on April 4, 2020, so start planning now!
Don’t worry; MR is easier to use and has better publishing capabilities through SharePoint, plus you can group your reports together and automatically schedule them to run. You can even run more than one report at a time! I had an accounting manager who would literally run an FRx report, drive home, run another report, make dinner, run another report, mow the lawn, EVERY month-end. Embrace the change and get your life back.
Don’t Try To Do Too Much
As much as you want to start using the Revenue and Expense Deferral Module or create a bunch of new SmartLists with SmartList Designer, do the upgrade first. Make sure everything is running smoothly before adding pieces to the puzzle. Activate and test the modules in your new test environment, and roll them out when you are sure they won’t fail.
Remember Who Uses the System
Design the system for the efficiency of your operations, not IT. For example, I recently upgraded from 2010 to 2015 and decided to move from a local install to a terminal server environment. We have a lot of custom code, so being able to make changes on only two servers instead of 60 workstations had huge benefits for ME, the Microsoft Dynamics GP admin. However, even though my team built a very robust term server farm (way more than what our vendor and the specs said), I started getting reports of slowdowns almost instantly. Speed tests confirmed a 25 percent increase when generating reports as well as a fun delay when scrolling through windows. I had to admit that my grand master plan was not working, and I created a hybrid system, installing the client locally for all my heavy Users while keeping everyone else on the term servers. Is it frustrating that, right after I got everything installed locally, we found an error with our custom code that forced me to install an update? Yes, but it’s worth it to me to have a happy accounting team who has finally taken down my mugshot in the breakroom. Take the win.
Don’t Forget the Small Stuff
As you plan things out, make a list of every other system that touches Microsoft Dynamics GP. Talk with your stakeholders and make sure you aren’t missing anything. Do you have any automated tasks or batch files that run export data to/from the system? For example, during my recent upgrade, I totally forgot that we have Crystal Reports in Sage Fixed Assets that pull info from Microsoft Dynamics GP monthly in order to calculate depreciation. That was an easy fix.
This one was not: Our finance team has a myriad of Excel workbooks that link to the Excel versions of our FRx financial statements. I spent weeks converting all of our reports from FRx to MR, tying them out to the penny, training the finance team on how to run them, and I knew our financials were going to run perfectly. Here’s a fun fact: MR puts an F, A, or T in front of the name of the reporting unit on the Excel tabs, which tells you at what level of detail the report
was run – financial summary, account level, or transaction detail. FRx does not. Thus, if you don’t change ANYTHING with your reports, and keep everything named the same, all your links will break. I assumed the finance team had tested these links. Yes, I have added this to my test scripts. Yes, that’s two days of my life I will never get back fixing the links. Small stuff matters.
In short, don’t expect perfection. Plan for the best but expect the worst. Be ready to change your plan if and when things go sideways. Swallow your pride, and build the best solution for your team, not you.