Microsoft Dynamics 365 Certifications

Having recently completed several exams, including the new MB-900 Fundamentals for Dynamics365, I thought it would be useful to set out how the new exam structure works, and what paths can be taken within it.
This post is meant to be for D365 CE, not for F&O (I’m hoping to do a separate post on that another time).

10 Marketing Certifications That Can Land You a Job at Ladder

The first question that usually comes up around certifications is ‘why should I take the exams – I know how to use/configure/deploy the system!’.
The answer to this is actually quite easy – if you know the stuff, then the exams won’t be too hard for you. They’ll also give you a better overview of things, especially due to the new curriculum (eg including cloud offerings, etc).

Not only is it rewarding for you to take (and pass!) them, it shows that you’re able to do so (and you get cool badges…thanks Microsoft for gamifying things lol).
Additionally it can also help your company to qualify for different Microsoft Partner tiers, which can be quite important in the grand scheme of things (I am NOT going to talk about the recent IUR situation…)

It can also help when applying for a job position, as recruiters will check to see if you’re current with the latest exams. Experience is great of course, but they’ll want to know why you may not have any (recent) exams to show your knowledge.

The first exams in the series that I’d recommend to take are:

The MB-900, as per the name, goes over the fundamentals of Dynamics 365, and also gets you used to the new format (it’s now 60 minutes, with approx 25 questions). There are now drag’n’drop questions, multiple choice answers, and ‘journey style’ questions (these are when the question presented depends on the answer given for the previous question)

The MB-200 exam covers the different deployment types, configurations and integrations, and click-based customisations. It expands on the base that’s set out in the MB-900. 

The next question usually asked is ‘what area/app should I specialise in’?
That’s ALSO quite simple to answer – there are (currently) 4 options available for exams (after the MB-900). These are:

So, pick which one you think would be most suitable to your role, and take them. Of course, that’s not stopping you taking some of the OTHER exams as well – why not try to get the whole set in!

Study tips:

  1. Read the syllabus! Microsoft doesn’t just draw them up randomly – they cover the material needed. They’ve also been through Beta phases where feedback has been given (which Microsoft usually take some note of). It will give you an idea of where the focus is, what’s needed to check, etc
  2. Practise – hands on experience. You really DO need this now. Fire up a trial, start playing around. Use the syllabus as a guide for this – if it says that you need to know about cases (eg case management, case routing, case rules, parent/child cases), then make sure that you DO know how to do these!
  3. Talk to others who are studying at the same time – perhaps try to make a study group. I was fortunate enough to join twice-weekly session for one of my exams, hosted by an amazing Microsoft Trainer.
  4. When taking the exam, if you come across something that you don’t know, and are guessing the answer to – DON’T CHANGE THE ANSWER LATER ON. In this sort of scenario the gut reaction is usually 85% correct, and it’s better to leave it than try to second guess yourself.

Also, don’t stress out about the exams. They’re not the Big Bad Wolf – once you do them, you’ll see that they’re not absolutely crazy. Sure, you may have to guess a question or two, but even very experienced people do that.

Useful resources:

Power Platform Admin Centre

Ever wished that you had a single place to manage/create environments, see statistics for all of your systems, view data integrations, etc?

Traditionally, it’s sometimes been quite hard to see all of this – admins have had to go to multiple places to find this information, and then bring it all together manually. A tedious task at times! This was especially true if an organisation had multiple environments – truly a major headache.

Image result for system admin frustration

But now…..there is an answer!

With the new Power Platform Admin Centre (note – it’s currently in Preview), this is all a thing of the past. It’s now extremely easy to see a massive amount of information in just one place. This covers environments, analytics (not only Dynamics environments, but now also the CDS, Flow and PowerApps for a tenant), Data Integrations, Data Gateways, etc.

The URL to use is https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com . When logging in, you’ll see the various options in the left hand menu bar.

Some screenshots (some obfuscation for privacy reasons):

Environments

Analytics

CDS Information

So go log in, and see what wonders you can find. Happy discovery…and enjoy the freed up time that you should now be having!

See which fields have been edited during PowerApps Entity Design

Following on from my tip on Friday ( https://thecrm.ninja/2019/06/28/creating-new-field-s-on-existing-powerapp-entity-quick-tip/), I’ve also realised something else that can be really useful.

Imagine the following scenario:

You’re in the middle of editing the values of specific fields within Dynamics. Suddenly a colleague comes over to your desk to ask you something, or you get a phone call (obviously to assist with a technical matter!). You spend some time on the call, and deal with whatever is needed. You hang up, and look back at the screen.

Hold on. The train of thought is gone. You’re looking at the overall entity, and can’t remember if you did update a specific field, or you didn’t? And if you did, did you already publish the entity, or not?

You’ll need to open up each field that you’re needing to update, to see if you already dealt with it or not. MAJOR pain and headache, and loss of productivity.

Well…not to fear! When dealing with field values in PowerApps Entities, there’s an extremely helpful visual cue for this (outlined below):

How it works is simple:

  1. You open up an existing field in the Entity Designer, and edit something, anything at all, within it
  2. You save it
  3. Bingo! The icon shows next to it!
  4. When you then Publish the entity, the icon disappears

Now, what could we possibly do with all of that time saved…..

Microsoft Stack Part 10: Dynamics365

Microsoft: Dynamics 365

Image result for logo microsoft dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s business application suite, combining in a single system its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. It includes four main applications: Customer Engagement, Finance and Operations, Talent and Retail.

Image result for logo microsoft dynamics 365 customer engagement

Microsoft allows organisations to pick and choose the specific applications they want to use to achieve their needs and objectives. This allows organisations to use only the applications that they need, rather than purchasing licenses to applications that may be left unused.

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement is Microsoft’s CRM system. It contains a collection of separate applications that make up its CRM system, including: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service and Project Service Automation.

Dynamics 365 for Sales

This application enables organisations, and the users within these organisations, to track sales across the entire sales lifecycle from beginning to end, build and maintain close customer relationships through effective management of customer accounts and gain valuable insights on the sales process. The application also includes tips, suggestions and insights which help to maintain customer relationships with ease.

Functionality includes:

  • Contacts/Accounts
  • Leads
  • Opportunities
  • Quotes
  • Orders
  • Invoices

Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Dynamics 365 for Marketing is an application which seeks to optimise the way in which organisations generate sales opportunities and turn them into business relationships. The application seeks to bring together sales and marketing strategy to create a unified approach for managing the whole sales lifecycle. Companies can use the Marketing application to create a personalised marketing strategy which uses data on previous activity to target specific individuals and deliver personalised advertisement messages.

Functionality includes:

  • Event Management
  • Portals
  • LinkedIn Integration
  • Lead Management
  • Surveys
  • Email Marketing
  • Behaviour tracking
  • Customer Journeys

Dynamics 365 for Customer Service

This application provides companies with the ability to provide personalised, high quality customer service on a range of platforms. The Customer Service Hub within the application provides a centralised GUI and includes many tools that companies can use to improve and optimise the service they provide to customers. These tools provide a complete view of customer cases and enable companies to provide personalised support for customers. Users can create and view customer cases, record and monitor progress, view previous customer interactions and see an overview of all open cases, which can be broken down into categories, such as product, priority and incident type.

Functionality includes:

  • Contacts/Accounts
  • Queues
  • Cases
  • Contracts
  • Knowledge Base Articles
  • SLA’s

Dynamics 365 for Field Service

The Field Service application focuses on businesses’ operations in the field and provides companies with tools they need to successfully operate and deliver high quality service to customers when on-site. The application optimises the efficiency of resources through improved scheduling, increasing the effectiveness of staff on-site and utilises Internet of Things to identify and diagnose customer issues early on.

Functionality includes:

  • Resources
  • Bookings
  • Work Orders
  • Inventory
  • Agreements & Billing
  • Universal Resource Scheduling

Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation

Project Service Automation is an application targeted towards companies that provide project-based services and includes tools to increase productivity, efficiency and the quality of the work being delivered. The application includes tools to assist these organisation through the whole project lifecycle and allows users to plan projects, track progress, forecast price and profitability, monitor the scope, review and assess costs and time, optimise resource scheduling, amongst other things

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is Microsoft’s integrated ERP system. It includes a variety of features such as supply chain management, intelligent analytics, financial management, operations support and human resources management. One of the central features of Finance and Operations is its financial management capabilities. This platform allows organisations to use features such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, banking, budgeting and forecasting, fixed asset management and tax management.

Finance and Operations also includes a number of capabilities which aid organisations to manage and optimise their supply chain operations. Some of these capabilities include sourcing and procurement, inventory and warehouse management, materials requirements planning (MRP), and manufacturing management. These capabilities enable organisations to optimise and automate their supply chain at every point throughout the process.

Dynamics 365 for Talent

Dynamics 365 for talent, Microsoft’s human capital management application, provides organisations with the tools they need to optimise the way in which they manage and engage with their workforce. Talent is made up of three central parts:

  • Attract
  • Onboard
  • Core HR

Attract focuses on the all parts of the recruitment process, from finding suitable candidates to submitting offers to successful applicants. Once successful applicants become new employees, the Onboard part of Talent helps to assimilate new joiners into the organisation. Finally, Core HR is designed to enrich the experience of employees and managers in organisations by creating a self-service portal. Within this portal employees can request time off, set and track performance goals, receive feedback and monitor skills and capabilities.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest talent database and often the primary system that recruiters use to find, communicate with, and source candidates for the jobs that recruiters are looking to fill. LinkedIn Recruiter integration with Dynamics 365 for Talent (Attract) makes it easier for users to hire, and to keep the data in sync between the two systems

Dynamics 365 for Retail

Dynamics 365 for Retail works to bring together both front and back office function to assists businesses in optimising inventory, merchandising, store operations and hardware to create a unified multi-channel sales approach that delivers a high-quality shopping experience.

Retail shares functionality with both Finance and Operations, and Talent.

Dynamics 365 for Business Central

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a cloud-based, all-in-one business management solution which enables customers to upgrade from their entry-level accounting software or legacy ERP system to one single, comprehensive solution to manage finances, operations, sales and customer service. Helping organisations streamline their processes, improve customer relations and enable growth through:

  • Business without silos—connecting businesses and boosting efficiency with automated tasks and workflows, all within the familiar Microsoft interface of applications such as Word, Outlook and Excel.
  • Actionable insights—achieving more and gaining a complete view of the business with connected data, business analytics and guidance delivered by Microsoft’s leading intelligent technologies.
  • Solutions built to evolve—get started quickly, growing and adapting in real time with a flexible platform that makes it easy to extend beyond Business Central based on evolving business needs.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Essentials includes the following functionality:

  • Financial Management—general ledger, workflows and audit trails, bank management, budgets, deferrals, bank reconciliation, dimensions, fixed assets and currencies.
  • Customer Relational Management—contacts, campaigns, opportunity management and built-in integration with Dynamics 365 for Sales.
  • Supply Chain Management—sales order management, basic receivables, purchase order management, locations, item transfers, and basic warehousing.
  • Human Resources—employees and expense management.
  • Project Management—resources, estimates, jobs and time sheets.
  • Other—multiple languages, reason codes, extended text, Intrastat reporting, scheduled tasks and Outlook integration

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium will include the above functionality, plus:

  • Service Order Management—service orders, service price management, service item management, service contract management, planning and dispatching.
  • Manufacturing—production orders, version management, agile manufacturing, basic supply planning, demand forecasting, capacity planning, machine centres and finite loading

Microsoft Stack Part 9: CDS & CDM

Microsoft’s Common Data Service

Microsoft’s Common Data Service (CDS) is an Azure-based application which stores and manages the data that is used to create applications on PowerApps and explore insights on Power BI.

CDS is the collective name for two different services offered by Microsoft, CDS for Apps and CDS for analytics.

The former is built into PowerApps and it brings together and stores the data from Dynamics 365 applications and databases to enable users to create business applications.

The latter, on the other hand, is similar to a data warehouse or data lake. It pulls, aggregates, cleans, integrates and stores data from multiple sources which can then be used by organisations for analysis to produce visualisations, dashboards and reports.

Using CDS has a number of benefits, including:

  • Effortless data management: the data is stored in the cloud, so users can benefit from the lower costs associated with cloud storage, scalability. data redundancy and high availability.
  • Security: role-based access allows organisations to easily control who has access to the data
  • Dynamics 365 integration: users can easily utilise data on Dynamics 365 to create business applications
  • Data quality: business rules, workflows and process flows are used to ensure the quality of the data that is stored.

Common Data Model (CDM)

When using multiple sources to create business applications or explore business data, each source may have a specific way in which it categories, formats and structures the data. In order to aid the development of business applications and data analysis, CDS uses the Common Data Model to create standardisation and consistency across the data. The CDM is shared data language that allows different business applications and databases to communicate in the same language, so to speak.

The CDM contains a set of standardised schemas and semantic metadata that creates a standardised structure and format for data coming from different sources. It does this through the set of entities that standard across businesses, as well as the relationships between these entities. Entities are a set of individual data records.

Think of entities as tables within a database and records as specific rows within those tables. It is common for entities to share the same data and thus have a relationship.

For example, the entity “Discount” will likely share data with “Quote”, since businesses will quote a discounted price to attract customers. If a business requires an uncommon, specific entity they have the option of creating their own. Some of the standard entities included in the CDM are listed below.

Training & Certifications – Success!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post ( https://thecrm.ninja/2019/05/08/training-certifications/), I’ve been updating my knowledge and studying for the MBP-900 exam.

At the same time, I’ve also been studying for the MB2-15 and MB2-716 exams, in order to attain the MCSA qualification. These had an inherent deadline, as the 716 exam and MCSA qualification are ending at the end of June 2019.

Once I felt that my knowledge level was up to the necessary levels, I went to book all three of them! My preference is to take the exam using the Remote Proctored method, whereby you use your own system, and the audio/video is monitored by a remote exam proctor. They check the workspace, room (to make sure that no-one else is there), and keep an eye on things.

The date for my exams was June 19th 2019 (yesterday). I staggered the exams to give some time between each to relax and get ready for the next one.

Amusingly as part of the whole process, I memorised the script that the proctors use…which didn’t necessarily endear me to them, as they’re not allowed to skip any part of it 😀

Having taken the 715 and 716 (and passing!), this then resulted in the MCSA award. Knowing that the MCSE was tantalisingly in reach (and also stopping at the end of June 2019), and only needing one more exam to attain, I decided to book the 717 exam for late afternoon – I’ve been looking at the material for it, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to pass it or not.

The next exam was the MBP-900. This is the new format of exam (only lasting for an hour, with around half the number of questions of the previous exams…at least that’s what I had during it). Thankfully due to the marvellous course by Julian, I was extremely well prepared, and sailed through it. One question didn’t make sense at all, so had to guess it – not sure if I answered correctly or not….

Then the last exam of the day was the 717. I took more time on this than any of the others (almost ran out of time), due to not having spent a lot of time studying the material. Thankfully….I managed to JUST scrape in with a PASS!. And as a result, also got the MCSE for Business Apps.

Many thanks to Mark Smith for the motivation, Julian Sharpe for the MBP-900 training course, Neil Parkhurst for the materials on his blog, and many others as well.

All in all, an intense day, but with a real feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment from it. And not to forget – I also get badges! Woop woop

Microsoft Stack Part 8: Communication & Social Networking

Microsoft: Communication and social networking

Teams

Image result for logo microsoft teams

Microsoft Teams is a communications tool that enables the growth of interaction and collaboration by enabling text and video chat between team members. In teams, users can participate in group chat room threads, send and receive instant private messages and video call with two or more users. However, Team is more than just a messaging tool, uses can also view, edit and share documents on OneDrive without leaving the application. Users with Enterprise, Business Essentials or Business premium can access Teams.

Team is available through an internet browser, desktop application and mobile app.

It is possible to use to use teams externally as well as internally. Meetings can be set up and held with people who are external to a company, simply by sending through Team Meeting link. Attendees can then connect to the meeting through whichever device they prefer, or can call in from a phone (in which case there won’t be any option for video).

Native integration with Microsoft Office services include Word and Excel, but also SharePoint, OneNote, PowerPoint, Planner, Power BI, Delve and cloud storage. Among the benefits of the latter is that all team members can view the latest version of data, as content is synced and stored instantly. This can allow members of a team to instantly view and collaborate on documents together – this can also be done whilst on a Team meeting call.

Key benefits of Teams:

  • One centralised hub
  • Office 365 integration
  • Customise Teams through APIs and bot frameworks
  • Enterprise security & compliance
  • Azure Active Directory integration
  • No extra cost to Office 365 users

It was announced that from October 2019, Teams would absorb the capabilities of StaffHub, which will be discontinued. StaffHub is a scheduling and work planning application which helps organisations with the onboarding of new staff, deliver training and assign tasks.

Yammer

Image result for logo microsoft yammer

Yammer is an enterprise social network which allows social networking and communication within organisations. It present a less-formal alternative to email communication, and it creates a space for engagement where employees can respond to the announcements made by management.

Whereas Teams is used for instant messaging in relatively small teams, Yammer can be used for engaging with organisations or departments as a whole. Yammer can be used to send out task reminders, announce recent successes or changes to the business, praise employees and introduce new joiners, for example. Another key feature is that external individuals can be added to the organisation’s Yammer, aiding greater collaboration and engagement with external stakeholders.

Yammer can be described as an organic knowledge repository of information and idea sharing. It’s not uncommon for people to send emails (this is how we traditionally conducted business) but it is also not uncommon for things to get lost in email.

Skype for Business

Image result for logo microsoft skype for business

Skype for Business is a communications enterprise software that can be used on the cloud, known as Skype for Business Online, or on premise, known as Skype for Business Server. It enables users to communicate via instant messaging, as well as audio and video calling.

In September 2017, Microsoft announced that Skype for Business would be replaced by Teams.