Before I answer this question, let me take a moment to explain the term “enhancement plan” or “annual maintenance.” These terms are used interchangeably and refer to the fee paid to the software manufacturer each year after the initial purchase. When you buy an on premise version of software from Microsoft (or other manufacturers) you pay a one-time purchase price plus one year of annual maintenance. The first year is mandatory, but after that you have the option to continue that maintenance plan, which is calculated as a percentage of your original purchase price.

A question we get all the time, from both new and existing customers, is: What value is received for the annual maintenance fee associated with on-premise Microsoft Dynamics installations? Or as it’s often worded, “Do I really need to pay this?” ​
I am a firm believer that these plans are an absolute necessity simply because they provide you with software updates, which should be a critical part of your overall security plan. It seems we read about yet another security breach almost every day. While no system will ever be 100% secure, it borders on negligence not to do the simple things like keeping your operating systems and critical business applications up to date.

​There are a number of other benefits that these plans provide and you also have a choice of three different plans to choose from. I will explain these benefits and contrast the different plan options so that you can make an informed decision about which plan is right for your organization.

Plan options and details

The following plans are available:

  • Business Ready Enhancement Plan (16%) – GP, SL, NAV, AX and CRM
  • Business Ready Advantage Plan (18%) – GP, SL, NAV and CRM
  • Business Ready Advantage Plus Plan (25%) – GP, SL, AX and CRM

The amount you pay each year is calculated by taking the percentage listed above and multiplying it by the amount you originally paid for the software.

All plans provide the following benefits:

  • Product upgrades, updates and service packs – you simply must have this.
  • Access to CustomerSource – Microsoft’s customer portal where you can obtain trouble shooting steps and solutions to common issues.
  • Unlimited online training – the training library is extensive and you have access to the same courses that we, as partners, get.
  • Managed community and support forums – “managed” means if the community does not respond to your support questions, then a Microsoft representative will.
  • Protected list price protection – your annual maintenance fee is a percentage of what you originally paid for your software and will never go up even if the cost of the software increases in future years, as long as the maintenance plan stays continually active.

The Business Ready Advantage Plan adds six annual support incidents directly with Microsoft. A support incident can take multiple steps to complete, such as several emails and phone calls. A support incident is not closed until the issue is resolved. Note that software bugs do not count as support incidents.

The Business Ready Advantage Plus plan adds unlimited support incidents directly with Microsoft.

Which plan is right for me?

An Enhancement Plan is required in year one for all new Microsoft Dynamics Customers. Determining the plan that is the best fit for your organization depends on a couple of factors. If you are going with NAV or AX your choices are a little more limited (see the plan options listed above), but this guidance is still applicable.

  • Complexity of Your Implementation – If there are customizations and/or a lot of “add on” modules, your solution is not going to be “out of the box”. Microsoft support works best for “out of the box” installations. Otherwise, the best support is usually provided by your local Microsoft Dynamics partner who sold you the software and helped you with your implementation. They will be familiar with your customizations, and as a systems integrator, also be able to provide frontline support for most third party add-on modules. You will also get to know them personally and it is nice to work with people you know, like, and trust. So, if you have a complex installation, you should go with the 16% or 18% plan and rely on your local Microsoft partner for support. If you have a very simple installation and want to be able to have a firm number for annual support then you may want to use the 25% plan and work directly with Microsoft for most support issues.
  • In-house Knowledge and Skills – If you have an abundance of in-house skills and knowledge (for example you have a former Microsoft Dynamics consultant on staff), you will probably be pretty self-sufficient and not need to rely heavily on your Microsoft Dynamics Partner. The 18% plan is often appropriate in these situations as six support incidents are usually enough. You can always purchase extra support incidents if you need them, or contact your partner.

One final note

Once you have a plan, if you decide to let it lapse, Microsoft will back charge you for all lapsed years, PLUS a penalty fee, PLUS base the new plan on the current list price should you ever want to reinstate your plan. That winds up being pretty expensive. I tell all of my clients that having a plan in place is a necessity simply for the benefit of keeping your software current and up to date. Many customers don’t take advantage of the other benefits, so hopefully, this blog reaches a few current customers and reminds them to use the benefits they are already paying for.