Dynamics 365 Cutover: Planning and Go-Live

Previously, we have covered pretty much everything you need to know to prepare for cutovers as well as some of the data migration best practices. As we approach the preparation phase for a cutover, we need to kind of switch gears and start to think about a more detailed cutover plan. 

Planning

The planning should be separated into two pieces whereas the first one is high-level cutover planning and the second one is go-live cutover plan, which are very different pieces. Let’s start with the first one.

High-Level Cutover Planning 

High-level cutover planning is part of the project plan and describes the key milestones including efforts, resources, and dependencies with other project milestones, like training for example. You are expected to meet interim milestones within the project in order to deliver the right quality of data, entities satisfying different stages within the project. In other words, by high-level cutover plan, we mean the environment plan, steps to make the production environment ready, its stages, etc.

For simple cutovers, you may be able to get away from any issues or complexities. However, when it comes down to business you will find that you need more than you might anticipate at the beginning of the project. Hence, make sure that each time you exercise the cutover, it reflects what you could actually do when you go to the production – proper preparation prevents poor performance, they say.

Here are also a couple of notes to keep in mind to ensure seamless and error-free cutovers:

  1. Integrate cutover planning into project macro plan and sprint plans, biting peace by peace, ensuring quality;
  2. Don’t include just data migration activities – better include them all which are related to Go-Live cutovers;
  3. Plan for multiple mock cutovers, including successful ones prior to Go-Live. Set the right discipline right from the beginning;
  4. Enforce explicit entry and exit criteria for each cutover;
  5. Key tasks which flow from data migration and are not covered directly by the team must be properly defined, set, and planned.

Addressing some bad practices, it should be mentioned the following:

  1. DON’T underestimate the complexity. Cutover covers the move of an entire system, any mistakes can lead to further resource losses;
  2. DON’T Keep the data migration planning and project milestone needs entirely separate;
  3. DON’T Assume that the project will keep the data migration team informed on design changes – actively participate;
  4. DON’T Allow the cutover planning to be pushed out to the prepare phase;
  5. DON’T Forget to include the need to define the requirements for environments for data migration tasks in planning.

Go-Live Cutover Plan

Essentially, the Go-Live cutover plan is a very detailed set of tasks that you need to define in order to transition from the old system to the target system, which is related to the Go-Live weekend or whatever your shutdown period is. The tasks should be specified to prepare the business for cutover, the actual cutover tasks to transition to production, and the post-Go-Live tasks.

It should begin as early as possible and certainly during the implementation setting the right discipline for the team to ensure each of the cutover rehearsals is being conducted to mimic the final Go-Live cutover with sufficient time, uncovering issues and addressing them iteratively.

Also, as for the mock cutover, the one should be conducted in the production environment for the first Go-Live, 2-4 weeks before the Go-Live.

Finally, switching to the main objective of the detailed cutover, we’d like to mention that it shall provide a highly reliable method for an organization to transition to production use since there is little room for eros and retries during the limited window of the final cutover. 

It shall secure flawless work through a plan to ensure that all tasks for a successful transition are identified, practiced, refined, and completed.

Go-Live

Moving from planning to execution, we would also like to mention that it is all about coordination – you need your team to be aligned in order to perform error-free cutover, especially during remote style created by global pandemics. Keep your team up to date and engage definition clear communication channels for remote working. Define who, what and how comms are done. Set clear rules of engagement with other team members.

Still, humans are those who do cutovers and sometimes they can mess things up – and technical issues and challenges are fine, as long as your team is resilient and can deal with them quickly. Oftentimes the strong hand of the cutover leader helps to keep the team coordinated and run these processes flawlessly.

Data quality is paramount and requires specific processes to achieve good quality. Always consider the additional risks to manage and remember – you are never too prepared!