With the amount you can read on each Salesforce release and Microsoft slowing their release cadence for Dynamics 365 to be slower than Salesforce and Oracle, it seams like a good time to look at why the release cadence is important.
Firstly though, what is a release cadence? This is the number of times a year that a major release roles out. There are often small releases, which come out in the meantime for performance improvements or bug fixes but these big releases bring the big features. This allows proper testing in a Sandbox prior to the release and allows all companies of all sizes to take advantage of new features.
Interestingly Microsoft says that the change to the cadence is designed to “lower upgrade costs, provide all users access to the latest capabilities, performance improvements and offer a better support experience”. Coming from the Salesforce environment the concept of there being an upgrade cost at all might seem odd but in reality, a lot of companies invest via consultancies or internal time to test and get the most out of new features and whether they should be considered. Having said that though slowing the release cadence can only really help if there are less features being rolled out, which brings up the question of if this will cost in features for Dynamics? I guess that only time will tell on this.
How do upgrades take place and are they overly disruptive? In the Salesforce world all upgrades are tested to make sure that they don’t disrupt or in fact break any customers sites before being rolled out. They are then rolled out using the meta data infrastructure in a seamless fashion. First these roll out to a dev environment, then to sandboxes, then to production. This allows for confidence to be high and to make sure that you get the most from major new features. It is interesting that Microsoft have chosen to state that “New features with major, disruptive changes to the user experience are off by default” and it does make me wonder how many issues they have with upgrades but not being within their ecosystem this is something I have not experienced. Personally, I have only been caught out a couple of times by new features suddenly appearing but they are normally not that removed from previous functionality and easy to master quickly and get the advantages. I like this way of working as otherwise it is too easy for customers to put off upgrades until they get to a point where changing to them is a colossal task requiring a lot of support. This can also often encountering problems as small details from older releases appear as larger problems.
At the end of the day it’s all about balance, you have to get new features out frequently but only when they are ready and with minimal disruption to customers. With this in mind I have to say that I like the thrice yearly update model from Salesforce. There are definitely enough features (563 pages in the last release notes) coming through each time but testing prior to release is possible and actually exciting as people search for new features and race to master them.
Twice-annual tweaks is slower than Salesforce and Oracle, faster than other SaaS rivals.