6 Sure Steps to a Successful Implementation or Upgrade

In real-estate there’s a coined expression: ‘There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location.’ When implementing or upgrading a Microsoft Dynamics system I’d like to change that expression to: ‘There are three things that matter in implementations & upgrades: plan, plan, plan.’ To help complete this planning Microsoft provides partners with their ‘Sure Step Methodology’. The Sure Step Methodology is a complete delivery model with guidance, project management and project best practices. The Sure Step Methodology consists of six steps:

  1. Diagnostic
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Development
  5. Deployment
  6. Operation

Step 1 – Diagnostic

The primary purpose of the Diagnostic phase is to help the customer determine the right solution to meet their business needs. To do this, partners establish the purpose and objectives of the engagement. This includes creating an understanding of the customer’s current system, business environment and operating procedures. This information may be made available in a RFI (Request for Information), RFP (Request for Proposal) or through high level meetings with key stakeholders. When the business need is an implementation project, at KTL Solutions, a SOW (Statement of Work) is created for the Analysis phase of the implementation so we can better estimate the remaining project software costs, both Microsoft and third-party applications, customizations needed and consulting hours to complete the implementation. Upgrades SOW will include an estimate for the entire project.


Step 2 – Analysis

The Analysis phase represents the official start of the implementation. The phase is initiated with the project kickoff meetings designed to provide executive stakeholders, the internal project team, and the customer project team with an overview of the project vision, scope, objectives. Having an experienced implementation partner, like KTL Solutions, that can dedicate resources to the project planning and requirements gathering will lead to a successful implementation or upgrade. The Analysis phase is broken down into three types of projects:

  1. Standard or Agile Implementations.
  2. Enterprise Implementations.
  3. Upgrade Projects.

The key objectives and activities for the project in this phase include:

  1. Project Planning.
  2. Gathering Business Requirements.
  3. Gathering User Training Requirements.
  4. Gather Data Migration Requirements.
  5. Conduct Detailed Business Process Analysis.
  6. Conduct Fit Gap Analysis.
  7. Conduct Solution Overview with Stakeholders.

The deliverables for the Analysis phase will vary based on the project type, they can include:

  • Project Charter.
  • Project Plan.
  • Risk Register and Issues List.
  • Change Control Plan.
  • Communications Plan.
  • Training Plan.
  • Current and Future Business Process Maps/workflow.
  • Functional Requirements Document (FRD).
  • Fit Gap Analysis with customization and/or third-party software recommendation to fill Gaps.
  • Test Plan for Quality Control and User Acceptance Testing.
  • Infrastructure Scope Document.
  • Infrastructure Design Document.
  • Integration and Interface Requirements.
  • Data Migration Requirements.

Common Pit Falls in the Analysis Phase:

  1. Not choosing an experienced implementer.
  2. Executive level buy-in to project.
  3. Lack of good project management.
  4. Not planning the requirements gathering.
  5. Define the processes and making sure process wasn’t designed around the current software.
  6. Not talking with the end users during the requirements gathering.

Step 3 – Design

The goal of the Design phase is to define how the business requirements will be implemented. The phase includes configuration of the overall Microsoft Dynamics solution and the design of specific customizations needed to satisfy business requirements identified during the Analysis phase. The customizations can range from simple user interface or report modifications to moderate-to-complex functionality additions or modifications. Customizations may also include the integrations and interfaces and data migration elements required to support the requirements.

For Upgrade Projects, the goal of the Design phase is to define how the technical upgrade will be implemented. The phase includes planning the required sequential steps for executing the upgrade, proactive planning to address potential post-upgrade execution problems, and identifying custom code upgrade conflicts. It also includes reviewing the existing Integration and Interfaces to determine whether any existing integrations between Microsoft Dynamics and third-party solutions need to be upgraded to work with the newer version of the Microsoft Dynamics solution.

Common Pit Falls in the Design Phase:

  1. Not planning the implementation.
  2. Not completing core team training.
  3. Discounting the need for testing.
  4. Not validating migrated data to legacy system.
  5. Not running a test upgrade or implementation with User Acceptance Testing

Step 4 – Development

The goal of the Development phase is to build and test the system components defined and approved in the design specifications, including developing the customizations, integrations and interfaces, and data migration processes. The major deliverables include the complete system configuration, completion and freezing of code for customizations, integrations and interfaces, and data migration. Other key deliverables include finalization of the design specifications and the completion of Solution Testing. For an Enterprise project, this may also include Data Acceptance, Process and Integration Testing.

Upgrade Projects:

The goal of the Development phase is to execute the application upgrade process—including customizations, integrations and interfaces, and data. It also includes testing the system to ensure that the upgrade of the application and data to the new version of the Microsoft Dynamics solution has been completed successfully. Performance benchmark data is reviewed to confirm what resources are required to support the new benchmarks for the upgraded data.

Common Pit Falls in the Development Phase:

Step 5 – Deployment

The Deployment phase is where all the efforts of the project team come together for a successful transition. One of the key activity in this phase is the knowledge transfer by the consulting team to the customer. This is based on the knowledge transfer plan created during the Design phase, which outlines the method and timeline for knowledge transfer. As detailed in the plan, corresponding knowledge transfer meeting sessions with the customer are conducted to cover any items that are pending or need further clarification. The Deployment Activity flow looks like this:

  1. Build Production Environment
  2. Execute User Acceptance Testing
  3. Conduct user training
  4. Final data migration to production
  5. Go Live
  6. Go Live support

Common Pit Falls in the Deployment Phase:

  1. Lack of training
  2. Discounting User Acceptance Testing

Step 6 – Operation

The Operation phase involves the final activities required to close out the project and transition the solution and knowledge to the customer.

The Program Management team prepares the final invoices, lessons learned, the project closure report, and prepares for the formal Project Closure meeting. The team also prepares a folder with all the project deliverable documents with their acceptance forms. These documents are reviewed with the customer to obtain final approval and acceptance.

The functional and technical team resources required to provide post–go-live support resolve any issues that arise out of deployment to the user base. At this point, the support teams are also involved to resolve issues so that the transition of the solution to the customer and support (per the appropriate support contract) takes place smoothly.

Any remaining knowledge transfer items that were not covered during the previous phases are completed in this phase. Upon completion of the post–go-live support activities, the team completes all necessary logistical activities and obtains final sign-off on the project.

For Enterprise Projects, organizational change management activities continue to drive communications to the leadership and stakeholders regarding the successful go-live and upcoming activities. These communications from leadership to stakeholders enforce support from leadership, which in turn ensures successful user adoption. The Operation phase also includes the execution of end-user training where the trainers—previously trained by the project team—now impart the same training to the end users.

Next Steps

Using the Sure Step approach during your implementation or upgrade process helps you analyze your business issues, business processes and design a functional system architecture around your current and future business needs. A Microsoft CRM and/or ERP system, implemented by KTL Solutions, can return great rewards when they are approached carefully to avoid the pitfalls outlined above.




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