Upgrading Dynamics GP is not a project for the inexperienced or unprepared. I’m often asked by customers if they can upgrade Dynamics GP themselves; while I don’t discourage self-reliance, I usually suggest having it done by an experienced GP consultant. There are exceptional cases in which a customer may have IT staff with experience installing and upgrading GP, and in those cases, a brief planning call with a consultant to discuss risks, common issues and other topics often will suffice. However, most customers will benefit from the services of a GP consultant. Here are the top reasons:
- Planning: An experienced consultant will identify risks and implement techniques to mitigate them while planning the upgrade. A Dynamics GP upgrade should be treated as a project with a scope and schedule, not just a support request or task. The vast majority of failed upgrades are the result of poor or insufficient planning. A good upgrade plan should include not just an assessment of the technical environment, but an evaluation of the current state of the Dynamics GP installation, a discussion of new features that might be needed and the involvement and commitment of customer resources that will be needed for the upgrade. There are many other factors involved, but this is an example of the types of details to be considered in an upgrade plan.
- Technical Knowledge: Upgrading Dynamics GP is different from patching or upgrading software such as Office, Internet Explorer and other common productivity applications. There really is no way to fake your way through a GP upgrade; without knowledge of the components involved, things quickly can go awry. A Dynamics GP consultant will have the skills and knowledge to manage all of the technical details of an upgrade, including SQL Server, server and desktop versions of Windows, GP client configuration and other infrastructure areas affecting Dynamics GP. Each organization needs to decide whether maintaining Dynamics GP will be an internal responsibility, but it’s often difficult to provide IT staff the skills and experience they need to take responsibility for a complex and critical ERP system like Dynamics GP.
- Minimal Business Impact: This is the result of the first two items in this list and the one most noticed by those who rely on Dynamics GP and information it provides. In most environments, an ERP system like Dynamics GP is mission-critical, and the tolerance for downtime—even if scheduled—is quite low. Unexpected downtime results in lost productivity and dollars. With sufficient planning and technical expertise, the maintenance window for a GP upgrade can be clearly defined and will include a backout plan in case something unexpected causes the upgrade to fail (yes, even with careful planning, these things still happen). A professional consultant will be able to communicate and mitigate the business impact of an upgrade, resulting in higher productivity for users.
There are other ways customers can benefit from using a consultant for an upgrade rather than trying to do it themselves, but most case studies of Dynamics GP upgrades—both successful and unsuccessful—will show the value of engaging the professional services of a Dynamics GP consultant.