If you have Microsoft Great Plains as main accounting and ERP system you need to know some technical details on Great Plains version upgrade and what is going on behind the scenes, which options do you have in case of Dexterity, VBA, SQL customizations, ctree/Pervasive migration to MS SQL/MSDE. As of right now it is reasonable to upgrade to Microsoft Great Plains 8.0
Is upgrade required? Not actually, but you have to consider these factors
? Technical Support discontinuation - the old version may not be supported - currently if you are on version 6.0 - support is already discontinued. You can not have Microsoft Business Solutions help you, but obviously you have MBS partners who can still help you. If you are on Ctree or Pervasive SQL, then your support expires December, 31 2004.
? Tax Updates/Magnetic media expiration - if you have US Payroll module and depend on it with W2 and other forms - you must stay with the version, which is supported and has tax updates. If you are on Ctree or Pervasive SQL - then you will not have tax updates for these platforms at the end of 2004 and your W2s maybe inaccurate. If you have a lot of employees - you may have issues with government.
? Following the Technology and Microsoft rules - Microsoft wants you to be on the newest platform and provides you the best support when you follow this rule
? If you do have heavy customization - we recommend you to skip one version, for example if you are on version 7.5 - do not upgrade to 8.0 and wait for the next version
What is upgrade in the language of technology? Upgrade has server and client sides.
? Server side - upgrade converts tables from old format to the new one. In general words - Microsoft Business Solutions developers may change table structure, append additional fields to add new functionality, things like that. Upgrade copies the table with changes to temporary table, then drops original table, recreates it with new structure and copies all the data from temp table to the newly created one.
? Workstation side - workstation is written in Great Plains Dexterity and has Dynamics.exe - engine and DYNAMICS.DIC - dictionary. These two plus all the additional files will be replaced with the new ones. Other dictionaries, such us REPORTS.DIC and FORMS.DIC should be also upgraded and upgrade will try to deal with them automatically. In some cases modified reports (in REPORTS.DIC) could not be upgraded and need to be recreated in the new version.
What is customization upgrade? You should consider different types of customizations: Dexterity, VBA/Modifier, SQL, ReportWriter, Crystal Reports
? Dexterity Customization - being very short - Dexterity may have so called Custom Forms - these do not need upgrade - they should work as is. Then Dexterity may alter existing Great Plains forms (so-called Alternate Great Plains forms) - in this case Dexterity customization should be redone for these forms/screens. Plus additional consideration should be given to Dexterity triggers, shadow tables, etc.
? VBA/Modifier customization - Modifier allows you to modify existing Great Plains windows - it creates so called modified Great Plains windows, stored in FORMS.DIC. Usually modification is placing new buttons or fields, which in turn will be given VBA scripts (stored in DYNAMICS.VBA). VBA scripts may call something nice, like Crystal Report, or have some data access logic. Usually the old version of DYNAMICS.VBA workds with the new version. You may need to rearrange buttons on the modified form.
? SQL - you may have some stored procs for data integration, EDI or the like - if the addressed tables will be changed in the new version then you need to analyze your SQL code. The good news is - Microsoft Business Solution doesn't make a lot of changes since version 7.0, because Microsoft is now trying to merge the products it owns: Great Plains, Solomon, Navision and Axapta - and so has different priorities
? ReportWriter - MBS doesn't change tables, but it keeps changing Dexterity formulas used in ReportWriter original reports - this is the problem in so-called Modified Reports upgrade - usually you have these reports modified: SOP Blank Invoice form, SOP Blank Picking ticket, etc. If report can not be upgraded - it should be redone in the new version with some exceptions.
? Crystal Reports - the nice thing about Crystal Report - id doesn't need to be upgraded (if the fields in the tables exist in the new version - which is usually true statement)
What is upgrade for third-party modules? Your Great Plains may have so-called third party modules: Mekorma, Kampdata, Horyzon, Wennsoft, Avalara, Truepay, Trinity, Intellisol to name a few
Third party modules may have their own utility for upgrade. You just need to know that your third-party is ready for the new Great Plains version - if not - you just wait and stay on the old version.
What is migration from Ctree/Pervasive.SQL 2000 to MS SQL/MSDE? MBS has migration tool. You need first to install Great Plains on SQL Server with exactly the same account/segments structure and then install migration tool (it is Dexterity chunk) on your ctree/Pervasive workstation - then, when you integrate the chunk - you will map it to target SQL-based Great Plains Company, select all system and company tables, click the button and it will move all your tables one-by-one. In the case when your Great Plains ctree/Pervasive has third parties - you need to check if the vendor has migration tool - otherwise you have to do manual move, use SQL Linked server to your legacy data
Do I need consultant? It is probably good idea to have consultant to do the upgrade. We strongly recommend you to use consultant in the following cases
? You have Dexterity customization
? You are doing migration from Pervasive/Ctree to Microsoft SQL Server/MSDE, especially when you have third-parties without migration tools
? You have a lot or ReportWriter Modified Great Plains Reports
? You have old version of Great Plains: Dynamics or eEnterprise 6.0 or prior - in this case you can not appeal to Microsoft Technical Support - it is discontinued
? Your Great Plains has more than 20 users and you have to have upgrade done over the weekend - if it fails - you have business problems
? You don't have support - in this case you have to select your Microsoft Business Solutions Partner and pay for the annual support/enhancement plan - you will get new registration key and will be ready for the upgrade
Good luck with upgrade and if you have issues or concerns ? we are here to help! If you want us to do the job - give us a call 1-866-528-0577! [email protected]
Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer in Alba Spectrum Technologies ? USA nationwide Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Great Plains customization company, based in Chicago, California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, New York, Washington, Georgia and Florida and having locations in multiple states and internationally (www.albaspectrum.com), he is Dexterity, SQL, C#.Net, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK developer.