Should you keep up with Microsoft Dynamics CRM release cycle?

I read this article

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Rapid Release Cycle and Why You Should Try To Keep Up

written by CRM MVP Joel Lindstrom and he makes some excellent points. I would summarize as this

  • keeping up with the latest release means less work when another release comes out (e.g. not two or three upgrades at once)
  • The latest patches/rollups will often have performance enhancments and bugs fixed
  • Microsoft is developing tablet/phone apps rapidly, if you want to use these you need to have the latest version

I enjoy Microsoft is constantly changing/improving because it forces you to stay up to date with what’s happening in CRM and means you are constantly learning new functionality.

Sometimes I do question why Microsoft has made certain choices (CRM 2013 navigation, Autosave) but overall I feel they are improving the Microsoft Dynamics CRM and am happy to support their rapid release cycle

In CRM 2015 they seem to be adding quite a few enhancements raised on the connect site (field security on out of the box fields).  CRM 2015 is completing some of the partial enhancements (business rules)

 

I agree with Joel in some aspects it’s better to keep up with the latest release because the sooner you start using it the sooner it won’t be an issue.  I would add a few counterpoints to Joel’s excellent article.

 

CRM 2011 to CRM 2013 – Code

The jump from CRM 2011 to CRM 2013 is quite major, if you were on a low CRM 2011 patch (e.g. pre rollup 11 and the multi browser code) the customization update is going to be a major piece of work.

A lot of the CRM 2011 projects I worked on were highly customized and the most of the new functionality in CRM 2013 wouldn’t be used.  For this reason I can see little benefit in justifying the cost of upgrading the customization code and then disabling a lot of the new CRM 2013 functionality (quick forms, autosave, layout) just to be on the latest version.

 

CRM 2013 – Training

The CRM 2013 navigation completely changed and some people may suggest made it more difficult to navigate.  It would involve training all the users to use the new GUI and for highly customized CRM systems, I’m not sure the benefit would be worth it.  For some reason I often compare upgrading to CRM 2013 from CRM 2011 a bit like upgrading from windows 7 to Windows 8, is it really worth doing?  This is a consideration for one users but what if you have 10000 users, who will all need training?

CRM 2015

Are there features users would really want here?  A lot of the new functionality in CRM 2015 is the Add on’s Microsoft have acquired and now have working with CRM 2015.  The quesiton is how many customers want social listening, paracture, unified helpdesk and dynamics marketing?  Not only would they need to justify the cost of upgrading but also add the cost of the licences.

On the plus side I think the jump from CRM 2013 to CRM 2015 will be a small one and probably less than the previous upgrade paths e.g CRM 4 to CRM 2011 and CRM 2011 to CR 2013.

 

Supported software

Joel mentions by keeping up to date with the latest version you will get the best performance from IE browsers etc.  I have found a lot of companies don’t use newer browsers until they have throughly tested the new browsers don’t break their other applications.  This can see customers clinging on to version 6 of IE, relunctantly upgrading to IE 7 or 8.  Having to use the latest browser would be a major cost (in testing and rollout) to companies and this can be one of the major reason not to upgrade.

Cost

The new CRM versions may cause a customer to upgrade to higher SQL Server/Windows Server/ETC/ETC and once again this could add more cost to an upgrade (along with upgrade of customizations, migration, testing etc)

 

New Versions can be a bumpy ride

Accompanying the rapid release of CRM has been  a new release with a number of significant bugs.  It seemed Microsoft didn’t have time to test all the functionality of a new release but released it because they had a deadline to meet.  This meant there were some big bugs in the initial release, a lot of these bugs were fixed in the first few patches but this can be very frustrating for users and developers

 

Something slightly different – online rollups

I know Joel wasn’t talking about rollups but I have a few unanswered questions I have with rollups and was hoping perhaps one of readers will comment

 

Why our on premise and online different

Why two different upgrade paths for online and on premise
I don’t understand the logic behind this, is it extra work or is it having more benefits on the online version to persuade people to choose it.

The downside of this is it makes CRM developers/consultants work harder trying to remember/work out what version is on the online and on premise and what functionality you can use.

If there are any benefits I can’t really work out what they are.

 

Online rollups

I often use to wonder what online customers did when it came to creating enhancements, they had no where to test them (e.g. no DEV/TEST environments), unless they paid a CRM partner to develop the changes on an on premise development environment.   This issue has been resolved with sandboxes (but I have some concerns about data costs and paying for amount of data used by the GB, surely this can only keep going up and up)

This brings me to my online rollup issue.  If I understand things correctly (which I might not) but with CRM online the patches get applied automatically.   How do CRM online customers do regression tests of their customizations with new rollups.  If you can delay the rollup, I can’t imagine you have long to test it and if the rollup does break your customizations they are still going to be deployed.   Is this how it works?  How do online customer rapidly regression test?

 

Picture from here

8 thoughts on “Should you keep up with Microsoft Dynamics CRM release cycle?

  1. Scott Jackson October 7, 2014 / 2:28 pm

    Interesting write up Ben. We had a particularly painful experience with Rollups on CRM 2011 on-premise in the past year. After aligning our server and client versions on RU15, which had been out for over 4 weeks, we then eventually discovered that a bug had been introduced in tracking appointments in delegates diaries.

    It worked in RU11v2, but was broken in RU15. We had to rollback all 150 users back to RU11v2, and the bug has only just been fixed in RU18, although we are now very anxious about changing any patch level without extensive end to end testing. We have been looking at the CRM2013 release, however, when you look at the known issues list, I don’t want to be the one advocating an upgrade until we can be fully confident that the new version is fully stable, http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/readme.htm#_Microsoft_Dynamics_CRM_10

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    • Hosk October 7, 2014 / 2:41 pm

      upgrading is often viewed as an easy way to resolve bugs but is also a way of introducing some new completely different bugs, which you then have to wait for Microsoft to fix (which they never do quickly).

      It can put you in a difficult situation because invariably CRM partner has suggested applying the rollup to fix the bug.

      I recently worked on a project which went from CRM 2011 v12 to CRM 2011 v17 and random things were working differently. For instance, we didn’t need compatibility view and reports lost their sidebars.

      rolling forward and back releases is a stressful time, so it certainly pays to do a fair bit of regression testing before it gets applied to the customer production environment.

      Thanks for the comment

      Like

    • Hosk October 7, 2014 / 2:42 pm

      upgrading is often viewed as an easy way to resolve bugs but is also a way of introducing some new completely different bugs, which you then have to wait for Microsoft to fix (which they never do quickly).

      It can put you in a difficult situation because invariably CRM partner has suggested applying the rollup to fix the bug.

      I recently worked on a project which went from CRM 2011 v12 to CRM 2011 v17 and random things were working differently. For instance, we didn’t need compatibility view and reports lost their sidebars.

      rolling forward and back releases is a stressful time, so it certainly pays to do a fair bit of regression testing before it gets applied to the customer production environment.

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your experience

      Like

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