Why it’s a good idea to opt in to early access Power Platform and D365 updates

Managing changes coming from Microsoft and staying on top of the latest updates and deprecated can be quite daunting for many. If you let up on it for a couple of months, as many of us are wont to do, myself included, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed by what’s new out there simply because of the dramatic pace of change.

One quick win would be to opt-in to early access to new features as early access becomes available, so you can start testing, learning, and leveraging them right away. This advice will always apply, but here’s the guide to early access features at the time of this writing.

For each of the various major releases, you can opt in for early access about 2 months prior. So for the features set to release in Apr 2020, you’ve been able to get early access since February. Wave 2 will release in October, so you’ll be able to opt in in August.

Opt-in timeline for 2020

Here are some reasons to opt-in:

  • You will have more time to test and learn new features
  • You will be able to identify potential problems (such as with deprecated features) faster
  • You’ll get a jump start on development
  • You will be ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge and readiness

I have definitely spoken to a few people who express concerns when it comes to opting in to early upgrades, because it might cause instability with production environments. Putting that aside, it’s a no-brainier to start testing out and leveraging early access features if you’ve got multiple environment that you can use to do so. The early access updates are available for all types of environments, including trial, sandbox, and production. So don’t hesitate to do so for your non-production environments.

Here’s how:

  1. Sign in to the Power Platform admin center.
  2. Select the environment to update.
  3. Under Updates, you’ll see that the new release wave is available. Select Manage.Manage opt-in update
  4. Select Update now, and then proceed through the confirmation dialog boxes to enable the new features and capabilities of the release wave.Opt-in update now
  5. After the update is complete, all early access features will be enabled for your model-driven apps in your environment.

Remember, you can’t opt-out of the eventual upgrade – that’s actually the beauty of SaaS; it forces a different dynamic than the “giant upgrade, sit around and wait, fall desperately behind, repeat” one. It’s for that reason that i’d recommend some best practices in terms of your approach to upgrades:

  • Download the release plans when they become available: Reading these will give you a good idea of what the next release includes. Essential for members of the community! At the time of this writing, the current release plan is in two waves: wave 1 and wave 2.
  • Stay up to date with the Roadmap: This will give you a sense of what’s coming: https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-gb/roadmap/overview/
  • Ensure you have sufficient environments: Production, UAT, Test and Development at a minimum. This is separate from “play” environments that you use for learning. This keeps development far away from your live environment so that early opt-in, not to mention your dev work, won’t break production.
  • Opt in to the early access updates from the Power Platform admin center, and test and evaluate new features against your requirements regularly: Begin with your sandbox environment. An update might introduce new functionality that you can leverage in new engagements as a consultant, solve a pain point on an existing system, or even remove the need for a third-party tool and introduce a cost-cutting shift. So many times I’ve consulted with clients who left feeling like “they should have known better” after paying big bugs for a custom solution when they could have used recently-introduced D365 features OOTB to fullfill all the requirements!
  • Leverage both early opt-in and preview features: The most time-consuming task is testing the updates, so the earlier that you start test features you know are coming the longer you have to test. You want to catch issues as early as possible. This would apply to leveraging preview features as well, although preview features can always change, it still gives you a lot of extra time to test features and prepare.

Hopefully, this makes you more comfortable and excited about staying on top of the latest and greatest. Opting-in to early upgrades is one great piece of that puzzle!

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