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Top tips for a successful CRM upgrade

A CRM upgrade should be treated like any other project. That means it requires scoping, implementation, testing, training, and deployment. Here are our top tips for planning your successful CRM upgrade.

Upgrade Readiness Workshops for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Is a CRM Upgrade right for you now?

Why are you considering a CRM upgrade?

Upgrades shouldn’t be performed simply because the software has been superseded by a newer version. What matters is that the upgraded software should deliver more functionality and improve work productivity for your business.

New beneficial CRM functionality

Improved reporting, better security, or simpler user interface. Consider the software package highlights and the benefit versus the cost to implement.

If you are considering an upgrade to CRM 2015, you may want to check out our Guide to New Features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015.

CRM Online and external hosting

If you are a CRM Online user or your CRM is hosted externally, you may not be able to control when an upgrade will take place. However, you should be aware of the changes in each update or upgrade to ensure you don’t unexpectedly lose functionality and your users are ready for it.

Loss of support

Are you sure your current software is still supported by the manufacturer or by an external technical support provider? Software versions each have their own lifecycle. It’s risky to get caught out with old software when technical support becomes unavailable.

Current software is not meeting company needs

Changes to your business may create need for a CRM upgrade. Have you acquired another business or undergone a merger? Have you changed your product mix from services to goods? Or from bricks-and-mortar to online retail and drop-shipping? Your software may not be servicing your company in the way it used to.

Whatever changes you have experienced in your company, it is worth assessing how well your CRM fits your needs right now. If large parts of your business processes are not handled by CRM because you can’t make them fit, it’s time to look at upgrading.

What kind of CRM upgrade are you planning?

It is important to understand what type of upgrade is being called for, to effectively plan working schedules and keep the key user groups in operation. In Dynamics CRM, there are two types of upgrade; a functionality or extension upgrade, and a technical or version upgrade. Let’s examine these in turn. We’ll address why you will encounter them; then look at how you can plan for them.

Functionality upgrade

End-users will often find an update to their software which changes some element of the software interface. This is separate to a major systems upgrade. A functionality upgrade does not change the version of software being used, but involves rolling out some new functionality. For example, sales users have been using a sales order system, which you want to roll out to the marketing department. Or the rollout may be to the same users, but now new work structures have been added. Perhaps an existing sales call process can be bolstered by the ability to generate quotes.

Depending on the amount of functionality changes, an upgrade could take anywhere from a day’s work to a number of weeks in testing.

Technical or version upgrade

This type of upgrade involves a change to the software version, where users may notice changes to their user interface. (These can be dramatic changes such as upgrading from Dynamics CRM 2011 to 2015 / CRM 2016.)

This type of upgrade can be done in two ways; what Microsoft refers to as “in-place”, or a migration upgrade. A migration is the choice we prefer as you get to keep your existing database intact, and you can control how the data is moved across. When upgrading in-place, your data will be overwritten and you cannot roll back. So, choose wisely!

Planning your CRM upgrade

As we said already, a CRM upgrade is a project. So it should be planned as a project.


Upgrading is more than clicking ‘Next’ on a installation wizard. Think about the cost involved to upgrade. If there are fundamental changes to business functions, you will need to involve internal and external people, which cost time and money.

Just how much will it cost? It depends on the upgrade. But you can’t budget without first coming up with your scoping plan to cover implementation, testing, and user training.

Scope – be realistic!

Inviting teams into the scoping process is a great way to obtain input on what work functions will benefit from an upgrade, but it can also raise deep-seated issues in other areas. While it is nice to dream about work processes that could be improved for a small number of users, make sure you focus on the areas that can’t afford to be ignored. Otherwise your implementation date will blow out entirely.


Be realistic in your timelines. Factor in teething issues and the time involved for training.

Choose the right time for your CRM upgrade by discussing with stakeholders. For example, don’t implement at the same time as major budgeting or end of month deadlines. Your departmental managers will support your timeline more readily if it fits in with their teams’ workload.

Unsupported functionality

Upgrade Readiness Workshops for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Be aware of any customised functionality in your current system as this may be lost when you upgrade. One standard field in CRM is lead rating; ‘hot, warm, and cold’. If you have changed this to a traffic light system of red, yellow and green, you will either have to do without this customisation or have the upgraded version modified.

This example is a trivial loss of functionality, but what if a CRM upgrade renders your customised reports useless?

Gathering the right people

Human resources- partner company, individual consultant, or internal support?

What manpower do you have at your disposal to head up the upgrade? Do your staff have the resources they need? Do they require training? Or is external help required? It may appear cost-effective to have your own staff manage an upgrade project, but there are costs if the project lasts for an extended period of time or requires a steep learning curve.

What if your staff become sick or take leave? Do they have a backup that can take over? The team’s regular work could be impacted and projects may need to go on hold.

Ensure that you have resources with varying skill-sets such as in manipulating data, and writing specific coding.

Using a consultant or partner company is a great way that you can engage specialised people, which minimises impact on your staff, and provides you with expert support.

An independent consultant can be a good option for an upgrade that falls within their field, but find out what experience they have in other systems as well. Sometimes a knowledge of other systems will give greater insight into why this particular product is or isn’t right for you.

Looking for a partner company to assist with your CRM upgrade

It goes without saying that you should shop around for the company that is the right fit. The things that will set your chosen partner company apart from others are:

  • Does the partner company have experience with the software being used by your company?
  • Has the partner got experience in other CRM products? This may provide you with better market perspective. Such a partner will know the challenges and benefits experienced in implementing a wide range of solutions. However, if you’re already committed to one platform, you may be losing in-depth expertise. It’s a trade-off.
  • Does the partner company have experience in your industry, such as Healthcare, Government, or Not-For-Profit?

Spring cleaning- clear out the junk, and start fresh

Use the planning stage of your upgrade to review your reports (and any data) that are no longer being used. As companies grow and change, so too do your reporting requirements.

Clean up your data before the upgrade. Find and remove duplicate records, consolidate data from multiple sources, and validate your information. 

Any triggers or stored procedures in your current system may prevent an upgrade going ahead. Be prepared to re-write reports to work in the updated CRM – or to scrap them if it’s not worth the effort.

Hardware and support infrastructure

Servers, other technical equipment and related software may need to be upgraded as well as your CRM. Lifecycles for common Microsoft CRM support products are given here.

Re-thinking your CRM software

If you’re upgrading your CRM, you must be sure the software you are updating is still relevant and aligned to your business goals. Many CRM providers have come and gone. It is entirely possible to have a CRM that is no longer supported, or where the company which originally sold it no longer exists. If you’re considering a major CRM upgrade, it may be a good time to revisit your CRM software selection.


During your CRM upgrade, you may discover issues that need to be resolved in future phases. Commonly termed “teething issues” or “bugs”, these become apparent as processes are applied to the new system and tests identify results that were unexpected. Keep a track of these as they appear. Set a schedule to have them fixed.


Both business users and technical groups need to be on board with your CRM upgrade. Benefits should be clear for business users. This prevent them feeling that the upgrade is being imposed on them.

End users will need some advance notice of the upgrade taking place, but should only become involved in using the new system just before the live implementation.


Training gives your staff the confidence to perform their job efficiently. It is an important stage in any major software upgrade. You can choose to give your staff refresher training for smaller upgrades, or classroom workshop training for major systems changes.

How will I know it’s the right time to upgrade?

There are a multitude of factors that dictate when you should upgrade. These include business growth and process changes, staff changes, human and technical resources, and company budget.

You can prepare yourself for an upgrade by running an Upgrade Readiness Workshop with the stakeholders of your business.

If you would like an informal chat about whether it is the right time to upgrade your Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please contact us.

Why Opsis - and Gill Walker?

Gill Walker - Dynamics 365 trainer and expert consultant

Over the years, I’ve helped hundreds of people become proficient in Microsoft Dynamics 365 (and CRM), with training or mentoring.

For other people, I've been the troubleshooter, the problem solver - Dr Fixit - who quickly gets to the nub of the problem and provides a solution.

I’m the expert at your fingertips, decreasing stress, solving problems, curing headaches, helping you build business and increase productivity with Microsoft Dynamics 365!

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Opsis is an expert Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting company. Our focus is your Microsoft Dynamics 365 success - not licence sales or billable hours. As Principal Consultant, Gill oversees all business operations and strategic planning and execution, yet she still believes in offering personal attention to each and every client, so as to understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.  We are based in Sydney, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia.  We offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 strategy, Microsoft Dynamics 365 scoping, Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 technical support, Microsoft Dynamics 365 advice and guidance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 training and mentoring.