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).
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
You open up an existing field in the Entity Designer, and edit something, anything at all, within it
You save it
Bingo! The icon shows next to it!
When you then Publish the entity, the icon disappears
Now, what could we possibly do with all of that time saved…..
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Knowledge Base Articles
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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business
Central Essentials includes the following functionality:
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
Supply Chain Management—sales
order management, basic receivables, purchase order management, locations, item
transfers, and basic warehousing.
Human Resources—employees and
estimates, jobs and time sheets.
Other—multiple languages, reason
codes, extended text, Intrastat reporting, scheduled tasks and Outlook
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.
version management, agile manufacturing, basic supply planning, demand
forecasting, capacity planning, machine centres and finite loading
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
In September 2017, Microsoft
announced that Skype for Business would be replaced by Teams.