Preparing to Upgrade 1Staff Back Office?
Are you planning to upgrade 1Staff Back Office, but you are not sure what to expect or how to plan for it? Our team at Professional Advantage is here to walk you through some basics to help get you started.
Where should I start?
- First thing first – Just because you are upgrading 1Staff Back Office does not mean you also must upgrade Dynamics GP. Check with your Account Manager to make sure your version of GP is compatible with the latest 1Staff Back Office release. If you are upgrading 1Staff Back Office, you do need to upgrade any other companion products you own, e.g. Webtime, EFI, TEE, XML Import Service, 1Staff Front Office, etc.
- If Professional Advantage is your Dynamics GP partner of record, you will want to reach out to your PA Account Manager and let him or her know you want to upgrade. We will assemble a team and provide you with a Statement of Work to get things started.
- If you are planning to upgrade Dynamics GP and Professional Advantage is not your GP partner of record, you will want to engage with your partner to get a separate Statement of Work for the GP upgrade.
- After you have signed off on the Statement of Work, your assigned Professional Advantage Project Manager will contact you to kick off the project.
This is where we analyze your environment, make note of existing configurations, customizations, 3rd party applications, etc. that will help us determine the size and scope of the project. A Statement of Work is drafted to capture the full scope of the upgrade.
This phase begins after you sign off on the Statement of Work. It is during this phase that several planning activities take place.
- The Project Manager will put together a formal project plan and timeline. If PA is not your GP partner of record, we will collaborate with your partner to ensure a seamless experience.
- Your IT or Managed Services team will prepare the test environment and set up user access.
- If you have not done it already, this is when you should start preparing your testing checklist for validation during User Acceptance Testing. More on this below… keep reading!
This is where the magic happens.
- First, we take a copy of your production databases and restore them to the test server.
- Dynamics GP is always the first application to be upgraded. If you are upgrading more than one major GP version (for example, from GP 2013 to GP 2018), the upgrade process requires a “hop” step to upgrade properly. This situation requires a little bit more work up front because we must set up a temporary environment for each hop.
- After the GP upgrade is complete, then we upgrade 1Staff Back Office and any ISV modules you may be using like Mekorma MICR.
- After the core applications are complete, then we work on the external applications not within GP such as Webtime, EFI, SmartConnect, etc.
- After the upgrade is complete, we will take a backup to create a safe restore point if we need it.
The User Acceptance Testing phase of the project is very important. This is your opportunity to identify and resolve issues, try out new features, train users, and ensure you are able to perform all of your functions on the new version. You will need to sign off on UAT before can begin the live upgrade.
The live upgrade requires we repeat the upgrade process on your Production environment. During this time, we will disable access to prevent users from making accidental changes or compromising the deployment plan. Before we begin the live upgrade, we take a backup to create a safe restore point in case something goes wrong and we need to roll back.
You are live. Congratulations! During this time, the project team will provide you with post go live support and help you resolve any issues that may arise during your normal operations. After an agreed period, we will close the project and you will return to regular Support.
Why do I need to do a test upgrade?
A test upgrade is always recommended for a few reasons which we will explore below.
- You want to ensure the upgrade steps you are executing in the order you are executing them will give you the results you are expecting. If successful, then you can repeat the same steps for the live upgrade knowing what you have done will work.
- A test upgrade is an opportunity for you to identify and resolve issues, whether they are software bugs or process changes. Sometimes new/resolved bugs or functional improvements mean you must change your processes, and that takes some getting used to.
- Depending how significant the changes are from your current version to the new version, you might have to provide additional training to your end users to help them reduce the stress of the ‘new’ way of doing things.
- A test upgrade also gives you good estimate for how much downtime to expect for the live upgrade.
What should I be testing?
Understanding your environment is key to the success of your testing efforts. Knowing what systems and processes you have in place will give you an idea of what you need to test.
- Installed products & modules – Be aware of what products are being used and what functionality is used within each product. For example, within 1Staff Back Office, not everyone uses Discount codes, but if you do, you might want to add this to your testing checklist. Don’t forget about your ISV products such as Mekorma MICR or your 1Staff companion products such as Electronic File Import.
- Workstations & users – Ensure all workstations and/or terminal servers are functioning correctly and that all users have the access they need to perform their duties in the upgraded environment.
- Company configuration
- Path names – If you use any products or functionality that produce an output that goes to a certain location, you will want to verify that the paths are still valid or configured correctly and that folder security is configured the same so users have the same access. For example, if the location of timesheet images or the Webtime export is not accessible to users in the new environment, users will not be able to process timesheet batches properly.
- Email addresses – You do not want to test with real people’s email addresses. There are scripts we can run to overwrite email addresses with test email addresses. Check with your partner to make sure this is done before you start testing.
- Shortcuts – Make sure your shortcuts are pointing to the right database. For example, you might have an SSRS Portal shortcut and you think you are testing in TEST, but you are still pointing to PROD.
- Reports and Reporting Tools
- Sample Data – When you start testing reports, always use test data that you know will be on the report and try things that will pull data that you just tested. For example, if you are testing the Timesheet Status Report, don’t try to test with timesheets that were submitted three weeks ago. Instead, use the test batches in which you were just testing the “Timesheet entry/approval” process.
- Report Delivery – Do you know how each report gets generated and delivered? Is it automatic on a schedule? Does someone build the report each time? Are they out of the box GP reports or are they specific by customer? If it is an Excel report, is it connected to the correct database? These are things you need to be aware of when you are testing reports.
- Customizations – Are you aware of any customizations you might have in your environment? Do you understand why you have that customization and how it should work? If the answer is yes, then this will give you insight as to how you need to plan for testing these customizations. In addition, upgrades are a great opportunity to take a step back and reexamine if you still need a customization. Sometimes bug fixes and/or functional improvements eliminate the need for prior customizations.
- Integrations – Do you have any integrations in your environment? Whether they are user initiated or automated, it is important to know what they are used for and how to properly test them. Examples of integrations might be SmartConnect, SSIS, Integration Manager, front to back office, etc. Testing an integration might be as simple as repointing a database connection or as complex as creating a completely separate test version of that integration. Talk to your partner for advice on how to test each integration.
Is there a method to the madness?
i.e. Is there a testing order
Yes! There is a general order of operations to follow when completing UAT.
- Data Validation – This is the first thing you need to do before you enter any transactions into your test system. You need to run reports before and after the test upgrade to make sure the data matches. You will want to use standard out of the box reports and not custom reports in case you have problems with your custom reports after the upgrade. You do not have to check every single data point. Instead use sampling techniques and random checks…like your auditors!
- Process Testing – This is the second most important thing you need to test and where most of your time should be spent. The goal is for you to be able to run through YOUR day-to-day processes like normal. Focus on what is unique to your organization. Test everything from beginning to end. You want to use the same test data through all your processes, including reports. Post and print as you normally would. Check for accurate content. Take your test data samples from beginning to end. Do not forget about those periodic processes you only perform once a month, quarter, year, etc…!”
- Report Testing – Remember when we said to use the same test data from beginning to end? Well this is the data you need to be using while testing reports. Check that you can connect to the data source and generate the report as expected. Does the content look correct? Are there any layout issues?
- Integration Testing – Remember each integration might have to be tested differently, but you’ll want to check basic things in addition to other functional testing you might have to complete. Can you connect to the data source? Does the import/export work as expected? Are there any errors? If you have an integration to import transactions that later need to be posted, go ahead and post them all the way through. Do not take any steps of the process for granted.
How to organise your testing
Documentation can seem daunting, but it does not have to be overly challenging. It is very important you write down your test plans and keep track of all the tests you have performed.
Create a simple spreadsheet to track your progress. For every test you do, record the test you did and your results including a pass/fail indicator. When you re-test a scenario that failed previously, make sure you follow the exact same steps and do not try to do something different. Keeping your testing spreadsheet up to date will help you know what’s been completed, what hasn’t, and what needs re-testing.
Here is an example of what your spreadsheet could look like.
1Staff Back Office Upgrade
To find out more about upgrading contact your account manager, call 1 (877) 897-1209 or click on the link below and fill in the form.
Tips & Tricks
- Get ahead of the game. Are there any known issues you need to take care of? If you can, address these before you start the upgrade. It will decrease the scope of what you must do during the upgrade.
- Start documenting your environment, products, processes, reports, etc. Prepare your testing checklist!
- Perform basic tests early if you can, e.g. can users connect, log in, access network paths, etc.
- While testing, log in as regular users and do not use administrative accounts. Permissions will vary between accounts and can affect your testing results.
- Instead of testing directly on the server, try to do your testing from a workstation if possible.
- Don’t let a failed test kill your testing spirit. Make note of the failed test and continue with your next test.
- Test everything! Exposing a key issue during UAT of the test upgrade versus post-go live will save you an enormous amount of undue stress.
Upgrade 1Staff Back Office Today!
If you’re considering an upgrade from an earlier Microsoft Dynamics GP version, now is the time to start planning.
Speak to your Account Manager or fill out the form on the link below.
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Professional Advantage has been a multi awarded Microsoft Presidents Club Member and Microsoft Certified Partner for many years, providing software solutions underpinned by Microsoft Dynamics GP and D365/CRM platforms.
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