Going Cloud with your Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution

The focus in this whitepaper is to explain how AlfaPeople helps organizations migrate their existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premise solutions to the Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics 365 and what to expect as an organization in this process. We experience that many customers are unsure about how the process unfolds, what steps are necessary to perform a successful migration and what resources are needed for the migration, as well as after the go-live date. In this whitepaper we go through all the steps in the process and explain the process itself. We will also briefly explain our Application Maintenance Framework (AMF), which is a Support and Maintenance setup ensuring that the new cloud solution is supported and maintained to continuously match needs and requirements from the business as well as adapt to the continuous Release Cycle from Microsoft.

Benefits of the cloud

When we talk with customers about the Cloud we often get questions such as:

  • How long will it take to move to the Cloud?
  • What are the benefits?
  • Are we suited for the Cloud?
  • Can we migrate our solution at all?

Based on these questions, we made a 3-step process that takes care of all questions related to a migration.

But first; Let us briefly mention the benefits of lifting the on- premise solution to the Cloud.
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There are many benefits of moving an on-premise solution to a cloud-based SaaS solution. Among the functional benefits you will find:

  1. Additional Microsoft Dynamics Features released continuously.
  2. Better or easier integration with the Microsoft Suite (Office 365, Power BI, OneNote, Yammer and more).
  3. Faster and easier deployment of mobile apps and 3part solutions.
  4. The Cloud cuts the high cost of hardware, and maintenance of this.
  5. You get new functionality sooner than on- premise.
  6. 24/7 Microsoft Support.
  7. A broad range of new functionality if you migrate from an older version of CRM.

The cloud offering from Microsoft has extensive features compared to the on-premise versions. Earlier, we could see that Microsoft offered limited functionality online compared to on-premise versions. Now, we see this trend shifting, having features only available in the online version.

The cloud version has much better out-of-the box integration with other Microsoft solutions.

Amongst other benefits are:

  1. Predictability of cost – an operational expense instead of a capital expense.
  2. IT resources can focus on business development rather than server maintenance and upgrades.
  3. Scalable license model with SaaS. You can scale up and down on a monthly basis and you can easily change user licenses and amounts.
  4. Part of Dynamics 365. The solution can be expanded in a great variety and is a lot more flexible.
  5. Access to Microsoft AppSource giving access to a broad range of different business apps.

There are many other benefits, which may apply depending on the business requirements of the customer.

AlfaPeople Cloud Lift-Off Framework

When we help customers migrate to the cloud, we follow the guidelines in our Cloud Lift-Off Framework. This is an end-to-end framework that helps Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premise customers move to the Cloud with CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics 365. The Cloud Lift-Off Framework begins with the very first meeting with us and ends when you are online with the new solution. It also takes your support and maintenance function after the go-live date into consideration.

It is a proven approach that delivers transition services fast and more cost-effective. It can take as little as six weeks from the decision is made to the company can go live in the Cloud. It all depends on the solution and the requirements. Over the last years, multiple customers have already moved to the cloud using our framework.

The 3 phases of the Migration

The Cloud Lift-Off Framework consists of three phases with two steps in each phase:

1. Pre-migration phase
Focus: What you need to be aware of before you migrate to the Cloud.

2. Migration phase
Focus: What is important in the actual migration of solution and data.

3. Post Migration phase
Focus: What to do when a new reality of the Cloud is upon you regarding organization, solution and roadmap.

The Pre-Migration Phase

The pre-migration phase is all about information and advice on how to approach the migration to the Cloud. The phase consists of two steps:

  • An Initial Analysis
  • Migration “readiness”

It is very important for us that our customers join any project or task with as much insight as possible. It is vital that you and your organization understand the impact the migration will have. Therefore, we will spend a lot of time on this. It is about giving you information and you giving information to us, so we are able to understand your needs.

Initial Analysis – Access to the solution
The customer grants AlfaPeople remote access to the current solution. We use a couple of tools to evaluate the fit to migration. We look at database size, how the system is used, licenses, etc. We also need the source code if we identify any code that you have in the solution, so we will be able to estimate the cost of upgrading the code that is needed or see how we can replace the code with standard functionality.Typically, the code can be replaced with standard functionality.

The second part of the initial analysis is a meeting where we present the Cloud Lift-Off Program we will follow.

Cloud Lift Off presentation meeting
In the Cloud Lift Off presentation meeting we will have a closer look at licensing (user types and storage). We are often able to rethink licensing types, and Microsoft has also come up with new license types. We will discuss storage need, especially if the customer has a very large database on-premise, so that alternative solution such as use of SharePoint can be considered to reduce potential high cost of storage on CRM Online.
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Migration checklist

  • Analysis result – existing configurations and customizations (unsupported code identified)
  • Integrations that you might have. These can mostly be reused with little change.
  • Scope for data migration. In most cases we do a full migration, but in some cases, for instance if the CRM solution is very old, we may decide to only migrate activities a few years back. But basically, this is only a question of storage needs, as it is unproblematic to migrate the whole solution.
  • How to approach new processes and functionality in principle.
  • Changes needed and agreement of the timeline.

Timeline
The timeline is based on standard upgrade with limited customization. The example timeline does not take any resource constraints into consideration. The implementation phase is 3 weeks, as it is shown in the example. This can be reduced if we go for a one-to-one migration where we don’t introduce any new functionality. This plan is customized – some companies prefer a longer test period, and this is of course possible.

Customers should expect that a full migration takes between 6 and 8 weeks.

The Migration Phase

In this phase there are two steps:

  • Test Migration
  • Implementation

The Test Migration
In this step we basically make a test migration and migrate all your data to an online test version of CRM. You as a customer will test the migration, mainly to testify that all the agreed data is there. At this point there is no implementation – this happens in the next step.

In a bit more detail, the test migration works in the following way:
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  • Establishing future environment (test and production or more). This is the easy part. The online platform makes it easy to set up both production and non-production for test, and development is easy. As soon as the licenses are required it is down to a few clicks before we are up and running.
  • Test migration is done using a standard migration tool. We get all the data in the Cloud, including any custom fields and custom entities you might have.
  • Unsupported modification/customization (code, forms etc.) is logged and migration solution is described.
  • Checkpoint: Initial data migration is done and tested. The customer confirms that all the data is online.

Implementation
Based on the test results from the previous Test Migration, we will then start the implementation. We will always start this phase with a workshop where we look at the migrated solution and introduce all the new functionality of standard CRM Online. For example, if this is a sales solution, you may have used opportunities in the old version, which will look quite different in the new 2016 layout. We will introduce all the new functionality you are using or would like to use as part of the workshop. We will document all changes needed and ideas that you get during the workshop regarding certain standard functionality you would like to implement. We agree on what will get implemented when we move forward.
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All the changes we have decided to make, as part of the migration, is included. This also includes code replacement. Most custom code can be replaced by standard functionality.

What is important in the actual migration of solution and data is:

  • Perform migration to test fit to the Cloud
  • Testing the migrated solution
  • Perform implementation: Form adjustments – ISV solution upgrades – Code replacement/upgrade

Once everything is implemented and we have replaced code with standard functionality, you will do a final user acceptance test and confirm that everything is correct.

At this stage you have a new online version with all your data available. Yet, you still have your old version, which is ready to be closed down and replaced with the new cloud version.

Steps in the Implementation phase

  1. When the test results are available the implementation begins.
  2. AlfaPeople conducts a workshop to present the migrated solution and the new features.
  3. Change Requests are logged.
  4. Agreed changes are implemented.
  5. Final solution is tested by the customer (UAT) (all functionality, configuration and data validation). Checkpoint: The migrated solution is ready for move from test to production.

The Post Migration Phase

The phase has two steps:

  • Go-live
  • Maintenance and support

The go-live phase entails the final data migration. Then there is a hypercare period, which is typically a day or two, or, in some rare cases, weeks.

At this stage we make sure to transfer all knowledge on the new solution and setup to the support and maintenance setup agreed on. The support and maintenance can either be taken care of by your own organization, by an external partner or by AlfaPeople’s Support and Maintenance Framework.

Go-live in production
All the changes done in the test solution will be deployed to a Production Environment. We will do any optional training needed and agreed upon. Usually we train the persons involved in the upgrade and migration phases, so they can be responsible for training the end-users.

Sometimes a few final configurations are needed, which we will take care of at this point of time. We agree on a ‘cut-over’ from the previous solution to the new solution, meaning that we agree on a time when we make the old solution ‘read-only’ or even make it unavailable for end-users. Then we perform the final data migration. Depending on the size of the database this typically takes a few hours. With very large databases it can take a day, but in general it only takes a few hours before the solution can go live.
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The previous solution can now be shut down and the support and maintenance team take over. We also typically evaluate the organizational impact the solution has made. Whatever feedback we get will be handled in hypercare. This usually happens a day that we are on-site and we will take immediate action on any feedback from end-users.

Steps in the Go-live phase

  1. The solution is deployed in the Production Environment.
  2. Optional Training is conducted with users, and material is made available.
  3. Final configuration in production will be made.
  4. “Cut-over” from previous to new cloud solution, final data migration and go-live.
  5. Previous environment is shut down.
  6. Agreed go-live support is performed (hypercare).
  7. Organizational impact is evaluated.

Support and Maintenance
In this phase we leverage the continuous improvement of your solution with the support and maintenance team in place. This is an important aspect of a successful migration. When the end-users get a new version, they will experience change requests, problems and user-issues.

Therefore, it is important that you consider the resources and readiness in the support function in your own organization or that you engage with us. In some organizations the IT department is well suited to take care of support and maintenance, but in other organizations this is not the case. This needs to be addressed in order to ensure correct use of the new solution, as well as readiness for updates from Microsoft.
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We put a lot of effort on maximizing the value from future updates. One of the strong benefits of the Cloud platform is that Microsoft has frequent updates with new features. If you are using an old on-premise version, you are not necessarily used to the phase of updates from Microsoft. What we typically do for our customers is to create a road map for all the new features that will come from Microsoft and all the Change Requests coming from the end-users.

By doing an upgrade and a migration, we try to limit the number of changes that are part of the upgrade. We prefer to have changes coming in phases with Release Cycles. Microsoft has a Release Cycle twice a year and it is usually beneficial to have the same for change requests coming internally.

Two important questions after Go-live

  • What is your support and maintenance readiness?
  • How well is your IT suited to support CRM?

How do you maximize value from future updates?

  1. Map new needs in a road map.
  2. Prepare for frequent updates with new features.
  3. Map new features related to business needs.

AlfaPeople Support & Maintenance Framework – AMF

AlfaPeople has a comprehensive Support and Maintenance setup custom-made for organizations using the Microsoft Dynamics platform. It is called the AlfaPeople AMF (Application Maintenance Framework).

The Support and Maintenance Framework, AMF, provides answers to any customer query within hours and allows for reoccurring monitoring or administrative tasks to be outsourced. From an end-user or a customer’s perspective, the Support and Maintenance Framework AMF can handle everything from user-help, bugs, changes, additions or tasks that need to be taken care of, for example adding new users or running an import or export of certain data.

The AMF service can be integrated seamlessly in the customers’ existing IT architecture and enhance existing support and maintenance capabilities. The AMF service has an online ticket portal. It is also possible to send emails or have online meetings. The AMF team will handle the request as an incident that needs to be fixed, a problem or a change that will be added to the next Release Cycle. Other requests can either be a Service Request or Release Management.

Customer Quote

Inspari, a Danish Business Intelligence Consultancy, had a Dynamics 2011 solution. They moved and upgraded to the Cloud for 3 main reasons:

“We chose to migrate our existing Dynamics CRM solution to the Cloud and CRM Online to make it easier to roll out an ever expanding organization.

CRM Online is easier to maintain and service, and upgrading to new versions is handled by Microsoft. Furthermore, by moving to CRM online we got the latest version of the platform as well as a new user interface, which our users find much easier to work with.

Add to that mobile access and a number of new out-of-the-box features. It was an easy decision.”
VP of Operations, Kim Bryndum Inspari, Business & Applications