Dynamics 365 – The Migration Tax

If you have been around the Dynamics CRM 365 space for any length of time, you will have encountered the need for a migration. Hopefully, it is migrating to Dynamics 365 and not away from it. There are many potential reasons for a migration, and some are more worthy than others.

Saving Money

One of the big motivators for a migration, from any platform to any another, is often the cost of the source platform. While heavily promoted (Microsoft has reams of cost comparison information); I believe this is possibly the worst single reason to migrate. Customers will often do some quick napkin math, and conclude that they will save a lot of money on licensing, maintenance and/or subscriptions by switching platforms. That may well be true, and even realizable, if migrating was a push-button operation. As of today at least, it definitely is not. There will be a significant cost to migrate, both in partner help, user re-training, and the potential for lost revenue resulting from delays in both.

Taming Wild Animals

Simple migrations, are frequently exactly that; but more often, migrations are like wild beasts. I like to describe the migration process to a customer as a “short walk though fire”. I am well aware that there are many partners who will downplay the coming pain, but they are just setting themselves up. As a former Salesforce consultant, we are often called on for Salesforce to Dynamics 365 migration projects. Does this mean that our past experience will eliminate the fire? No, it only means that the walk though it, may be a little shorter. For a current Salesforce customer, who has not been on the platform that long, is only using basic entities, and has not customized it, or added any third-party apps… yes, that is pretty straightforward. But those customers are the rare exception, not the general rule.

Sharing the Love Risk

Migrations are risk minefields. Risks for the customer, and risks for the partner. Why do migrations pose such high level of risks? Many reasons, starting with the customer. Often we will hear from a Salesforce customer about a move. They may have been on Salesforce for years, and the administration may have changed hands multiple times. The person calling is usually not aware of what may have transpired since this platform was first launched. Here is how that conversation can go badly:

Customer: “Hi, I would like to migrate our Salesforce to Dynamics 365, can you help with that?”

Partner: “Sure, we are experts, let me ask you a few questions, have you been using Salesforce long?”

Customer: “Yes, quite a while, but I am new here, so I am not sure how long”

Partner: “Okay, have you done a lot of customization to Salesforce?”

Customer: “Not really, it seems pretty much out-of-the-box”

Partner: “I see, are you using any third-party add-ons?”

Customer: “I think we have something that connects to our phones, not sure if it is third-party or not”

Partner: “When is your Salesforce renewal?”

Customer: “We have like 30 days, so plenty of time. Listen, I know it would just be a guess, but can you give me an idea of what this might cost?”

Partner: Only an idiot would answer this question.

The correct answer is something like: “It will cost about $5,000″…”For the whole migration?”… “No, to do the assessment to determine the estimated cost of your whole migration”.

Why Migration Customers Hate Partners

Unlike development projects, or new deployments, where the customer is investing in “new” capabilities; a migration is more like a tax. A cost to switch from one platform to another. Sure a migration project may include the activation of new capabilities, but more often than not, that comes after the “lift and shift” operation. The first step is most often, moving what you are currently doing, from here to there. All costs associated with that, in the customer’s eye are like a tax paid. Don’t expect any pats on the back for a job well-done when you collect that check. But, it is not for this that the customer can grow to hate the partner, it is for the unpredictable nature of the process. The reasons for the potential disillusionment are always shared by both sides. Like many partners, we used to attempt to do our best to identify all of the potential issues and present a total project estimate (most customers view an estimate as a fixed-cost proposal). This usually resulted in our losing our shirt on migrations. Think about that, your customer desires to move, the entire potential upside benefit accrues to the customer.. why are we assuming all of the risk? Well, we don’t anymore.

So, Why Migrate at all?

Okay, so I realize that I have sounded pretty negative about migrations so far in this post, and a lot of that has to do with the motivation of moving just to save money. Odds are you will spend way more in consulting and retraining than you think. In the end it could be years before you are right-side up on the money you thought you would save. That is not to say there are not good reasons to migrate, just that subscription savings will not generate a ROI for quite some time. The best reason to migrate, is that the target platform provides capabilities, that would be of high value to you, that the source platform does not provide, or provide as well. That “value” should be high enough to more than offset the cost of migration. If there are subscription cost savings to boot… that’s a bonus. Some things to look at, that can potentially provide this level of value to your organization, with Dynamics 365 in particular, are:

  1. Very tight integration with Office 365
  2. A broader set of capabilities, now extending through to, and including, ERP
  3. Superior intelligence capabilities (A.I.)
  4. A higher level of security and compliance

There are many other areas of differentiation, each of which will carry a different value, or no value, depending on customer circumstances. My suggestion to partners:

  • Don’t focus on platform cost savings
  • Don’t suggest that migrations are simple or painless
  • Do focus 100% of your discussion on capability differences



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