Professional Advantage’s Dynamics 365 Business Central Release Management service is built to manage and assist our clients with the constant development and improvement cycle that Microsoft are working on with Business Central, and several of their applications. Microsoft have changed the way they deliver updates to solutions such as Business Central. Rather than let an established product work through a software lifecycle with a substantial update every 2-3 years, the incremental improvements in business process, integrations, and other functionality that are made to the application are installed in two major update waves each year. These major updates are scheduled for April and October, although this can be delayed—up to a few weeks within reason—by both Professional Advantage (PA) and the client if required to fit in better with business practices.
To complement the two major update waves, Microsoft also releases minor updates throughout the year to resolve any issues or bugs found in the latest release. While there is a high expectation that Microsoft will ensure there are no errors in the minor updates, it is possible that this is not always the case. Therefore, at PA we also assist with the minor updates and resolve issues that come through from Microsoft if required. For example, updates in the Microsoft release may have unintended consequences in other parts of the systems. Version 20 began roll-out this week (11th April), and we witnessed version 19.5 being released last month to address issues Microsoft found since the major release of version 19.0 in October 2021.
How does Release Management help our clients?
For the two major updates each year, the Release Management team work actively to minimise any impact to a client Production site caused by the update. We first create a new Sandbox environment directly from the current client Production, which we then upgrade and test for any code or compatibility errors. If there are any errors or issues found, the Release Management team will test and resolve the error in the Sandbox environment to create a fix that can be installed into Production. For any of our clients using custom extensions, we update or rebuild any extensions that have shown any errors or issues and test their compatibility again. Once these issues have been resolved, we hand the Sandbox environment to the client’s IT team for their testing process and functionality checking. We are expanding our testing guides to provide clients with the ability to self-test their system. This is NOT UAT and should not take the client any more than 1-2 days of testing to complete. We will already have checked for any incompatibility or code compilation errors, so any functional testing of the business processes should go through without issue; this is simply the final test by the clients. To support this client testing, we have dedicated technical and applications consultants available each day to assist with any issues that may arise.
For the minor updates, our team is available to assist and support our clients with any issues or problems they might find during or after the upgrade. As opposed to the major release, this update will be left with the client IT team to manage and to report any issues back if they eventuate. The Microsoft policy with the smaller updates is that there will be patches and hot fixes for issues that Microsoft have found in their own major release. The smaller releases are expected as a complete and working package from Microsoft, therefore it is important for clients to test these smaller updates that will run automatically, unless rescheduled. In instances where the patches released are not as complete as expected, we will make sure we have Business Central resources available to work with if required.