Questions and Answers About Upgrading Microsoft Dynamics GP
Stop and think for a moment about all the things in life that get an upgrade. Just about everything except grandma’s good china. So, this is something we are all very familiar with. Upgrading a software application is a very common occurrence, as well. How many different versions of the Windows operating system have you been through? No matter what is being upgraded, we want to avoid the pitfalls and make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.
There are many questions that come up whenever a software application upgrade has been made available or published by the manufacturer or author:
- Is my company a good candidate for this upgrade? Do we need it or even want it?
- What is the cost of a software upgrade?
- Will there be additional user training?
- Is our existing hardware capable of running the new version?
- If we don’t upgrade, can we still get support when we need it?
- How long will the whole process take?
- How do we start and track the upgrade process?
These are only a handful of questions that may come up when considering implementing the latest version to an existing Microsoft Dynamics GP installation.
If you are considering an upgrade you will undoubtedly have many questions of your own. As you continue reading, write down your questions and we’ll walk through each one of them when you contact us. Now, let’s start digging into these questions.
Should we upgrade or not?
The answer to this question is subjective and can only be answered internally by reviewing the application’s “Product Release Notes” and discussing each item with your implementation specialist. The implementation specialist can provide a good amount of detail about each new feature and the potential benefits. If they exist, the implementation specialist can also point out the negative aspects of any given feature.
Most of the items listed in a product release document outline bug fixes. These are the little things in the application that were not exactly right and have now been fixed in that specific release.
The new features that are included in an upgrade typically come from requests or suggestions from people like you. Features of competing software applications and the everyday users of Microsoft Dynamics GP are what drive the upgraded and additional features in any given release. So, if you have a suggestion for a feature, please do not hesitate to let your Microsoft representative or G&C Technical Services know. There may be a lot of other users that could benefit from your idea.
While reviewing the product release document with your implementation specialist, write down the pro’s and con’s of upgrading to the version being discussed. After the review has completed, the answer of whether or not an upgrade is in your future may be quite obvious.
Can I get an estimated cost?
Let’s begin answering this question with a couple of questions.
What version are you currently running and is that installation up to date?
- Is your current installation of Microsoft Dynamics GP up to date?
- Are you running the most current version?
- Have all of the patches and updates been installed?
If the answer is “yes” to all three of these questions the cost to upgrade will be significantly lower. If the answer is “no”, you may take a bit of a hit here. Each release of Dynamics GP that is in between your current version and the version you are upgrading to, needs to installed individually because you cannot leap frog release versions.
For example, you are currently running version 2013 and want to go to version 2016. Version 2014 would need be installed before version 2015 could be installed and, subsequently, 2015 would need to be installed before 2016.
How Many Dynamics GP Modules Are in Service and How Many Features are Used?
Each module is like an application on its own integrating with the core General Ledger. Each module has many features to help organize and report on your business operations. Depending on how invested your business is in Dynamics GP can have an impact on cost and the amount of time the upgrade will take.
Custom Reports, Custom Integrations, Custom Interfaces, and Third Party Add-on (ISV) Modules
How highly customized is your Dynamics GP installation? A high level of customization can add a significant amount of time to an upgrade.
- Custom reports – Cosmetic or formatting changes should be very simple to verify compatibility. Custom reports that have complex SQL statements with multiple table joins and custom views, functions, and stored procedures can be a very different story. If a report run from the old version does not tie to the new version, your implementation specialist will need to call in the original developer to help troubleshoot the issue. G&C Technical Services has their own in-house developers that are experienced in implementations and upgrades.
- Custom integrations – Integrating external applications with Dynamics GP is an amazing way to gain accuracy and productivity over manually inputting transactions. Typically, Microsoft has no idea which external applications are integrating with Dynamics GP. This means that any new release that modifies some table or other SQL asset that your custom integration depends could break the import/export process. Any integration simply needs to be tested and modified according to the new release modifications.
- Custom interfaces – A custom interface means that you are collecting different types or amounts of data than the original application was designed for. This is typically where the fewest number of issues come from, besides custom reports. However, depending on the extent of the customizations there can be a significant amount of work to ensure the custom interfaces are adjusted to work with the latest upgrade.
- Third party add-on (ISV) modules – These are the best way in add additional functionality to your Dynamics GP installation. The developer that created the add-on is responsible for verifying that their product is compatible with every new release of Dynamics GP. A typical upgrade to an add-on module is performed by simply installing the latest version. There is always a slight chance the developer no longer actively supports the module. In which case contacting the developer and requesting an update from them. If they have left the game, we can attempt to purchase the source code from the developer to keep the add-on alive.
Number of Companies and Database Size
Think of the software upgrade in terms of restoring a classic car. The body & interior of the car are comparable to the core software application. For the same model year this will be the same for many different classic cars. When you open the hood and look in the engine compartment, here is where there are many options and variables. The same is true with every installation of Dynamics GP. One business may have 2 or 3 companies setup and another company may have hundreds.
The most basic part of the upgrade is the core software application. If there are relatively few customizations, the bulk of the time and effort is spent upgrading each company in the database.
The number of transactions, both current year and historically, can play a role in the amount of time it takes to upgrade. The database upgrade process is fairly straightforward but can take a considerable amount of time if your database is very large. Logically, the more transactions, the larger the size of the database, the more time it is going to take to perform the upgrade on the database.
If you are fortunate enough to be upgrading the server hardware at the same time, this will make the database upgrade faster than running it on the old hardware. However, the additional time it takes to transfer a copy of the database from the old server to the new server may make any additional time savings a wash.
Staffing Issues During the Upgrade Process
Depending on how lean your staff is, the upgrade process may be a challenge without an additional body or two to help out during this time to keep up with daily operations. Before the upgraded software application is put into production, there needs to be significant testing comparing both versions along the way. This means that the two version will be running parallel for at least one full accounting period. Whether the transactions are posted in each system or journal entries are made in the new system is an individual business choice. Irregardless, this is additional work for each accounting staff member. All regular reporting and audit procedures will need to be performed in both versions, as well.
Let’s review the various factors that will contribute to the cost of performing a software upgrade.
- Additional interval upgrades need to be performed
- Number of modules installed
- Custom reports
- Custom integrations
- Custom interfaces
- Third party add-on (ISV) modules
- Number of companies
- Size of the database
- Additional staffing required
Microsoft offers an annual maintenance plan where the cost of the latest software is included in the maintenance fee. If you do not subscribe to a maintenance plan, the cost of the software will be additional.
The costs estimated here are assuming that your company does not have a Dynamics GP implementation specialist on staff and you will be considering working with G&C Technical Services as your qualified Dynamics GP Partner.
A very basic configuration upgrade for a business with one or two companies may start at $2,000 – $2,500. A complex and custom configuration upgrade for a business with many companies may run into the 10’s of thousands of dollars, or more. As you have read, there are a lot of various factors that play a part in upgrading. In our experience, the average upgrade cost for the SMB that we have worked with ranges from $4,000 to $5,000.
Microsoft releases an upgraded version of Dynamics GP about every six months. WHAT? Don’t worry. The cost factors listed above will only apply to major version releases which only happen about every two years. These major release upgrades, should you choose to implement them, should be budgeted for and be incorporated into the business plan, if they are not already. The minor releases every six months, should be planned for, as well. Working closely with your qualified Dynamics GP Partner will make this entire process a fairly simple event.
Will more training be needed?
To use any software package to its fullest, the better trained your users are the more accurately and competently they’ll use the software. So, the overall answer to the question “Will more training be needed?”, we answer “Yes”. There are many options as to how your users will get that training.
Microsoft provides many great ways to learn how to use their software. They have both face-to-face classroom settings, video tutorials, step-by-step how to guides. Here are just a few that Microsoft offers:
- Microsoft Dynamics GP Learning home page
- Microsoft Dynamics GP Online documentation
- Classroom Training
- Microsoft Virtual Academy
There are many private businesses that specialize in Dynamics GP training. So, you may be able to find a training company close to your business location(s).
For those that like to do it yourself or if you want to train your users with online resources there are many YouTube videos or blog postings (use this for topic specific searches) that are freely available with quality levels from excellent to not-so-great.
Do We Need New Hardware?
Microsoft provides very detailed lists of what hardware and software is required to install and run each version of Dynamics GP. This is one of the G&C Technical Services areas of expertise with full time staff that configure, install, and support all levels of computer hardware and software at the SMB and Enterprise level. If you have questionable hardware or want a thorough and honest evaluation, we’d be happy to provide you with answers and optional solutions.
Here is a partial list of Microsoft’s requirements for a few Dynamics GP versions:
- System Requirements for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015
- System Requirements for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013
- System Requirements for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010
If we don’t upgrade, can we still get support when we need it?
Microsoft has a definite End Date for providing supporting each of their software applications, and there are a lot of them. For example, Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 R2 will no longer be supported by Microsoft after October 13, 2015. This does not mean that the rope will be cut and you’ll be left adrift. It means that patches, hot fixes, service packs, and upgrades will be no longer be created or released for this version. Microsoft schedule for terminating support for a version of software is generally 24 months after its last release.
The good news is that G&C Technical Services will continue to offer support for any version of Microsoft Dynamics GP as long as you continue to need support.
Is the down-side of not upgrading to a new version? No, practically speaking. With proper maintenance the current version you have installed will continue to function properly for quite a long time. There are a few caveats to this statement, however:
- Eventually, your hardware will become obsolete and replacement parts will no longer be available
- Without proper maintenance the software can become bloated causing performance to suffer
- You may experience “software envy” as colleagues go on and on about the new features
How Long Will This Take?
If you read through the “cost” section above, you’ll understand the various moving parts that are involved in the Dynamics GP upgrade. Depending on the number of additional interval upgrades need to be performed, number of modules installed, custom reports, custom integrations. custom interfaces, third party add-on (ISV) modules, number of companies, size of the database, and the ability to add additional staffing will all play a factor in the length of time to complete the upgrade.
For smaller businesses with one company and a basic installation the upgrade can be completed in less than a week, not including parallel data entry. For larger businesses with highly customized and/or complex installations the upgrade can take several months of planning and evaluating all of the customizations.
To get a more accurate picture of how long it might take to complete an upgrade for your business, we’d be happy to discuss your situation and provide you with a little more accurate ball park figure.
How to Begin and Track Progress During the Upgrade Process?
Communication is the key to success during this or any software upgrade; and it all begins with a phone call to G&C Technical Services at 949-419-1700. During this phone call we will ask a series of questions to understand:
- The scope of this upgrade (modules, companies, years of history, etc.)
- Your time frame for completing the project
- Who the project team members are
- Who the contact person will be
For the first face-to-face meeting or conference call (yes, this entire process can be done remotely), all of the staff members that will be involved in any part of the decision making process should be in attendance.
Attendance at this meeting provides two things:
- All involved personnel will understand the entire scope of this project and the importance of cooperation and expediency to ensure its successful completion.
- Avoids delays in planning and executing the project timeline.
During this meeting we will be discussing:
- Your current Dynamics GP installation
- The upgrade path that will be required
- Any hardware upgrades that may be needed
- Assessment of any customizations, integrations, interfaces, and add-ons
- Daily or weekly communication schedule, depending on project completion timeline
- Project tracking software. Typically a shared spreadsheet (Google Sheets, or similar) as “project management” software tends to be overkill on smaller projects
- Who the contact person for you business will be and how they might communicate with the rest of the project team members
- What you can expect from our implementation specialist and other team members
- Lots and lots of Q&A
We will then assess the current Dynamics GP installation in detail and create a detailed list of customizations that need to be reviewed. We will also create the time line to set incremental goals which will ultimately bring us to successful completion of upgrading Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Call us soon to discuss the upgrade process for your organization.