Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love

Are Microsoft Certifications Causing Projects to Fail? with Julie Yack and Julian Sharp

May 04, 2021 Neil Benson Episode 32
Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love
Are Microsoft Certifications Causing Projects to Fail? with Julie Yack and Julian Sharp
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Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love
Are Microsoft Certifications Causing Projects to Fail? with Julie Yack and Julian Sharp
May 04, 2021 Episode 32
Neil Benson

Join me with Julie Yack and Julian Sharp as we  discuss my question " are Microsoft certifications causing projects to fail?" Julie Yack is a founder and the chief operations officer at Colorado Technology Consultants. She's an author, a trainer, a solution architect, and an MVP. Julian Sharp  is the founder of Ready 365. He recently received an MVP award and is best known as a prolific Microsoft trainer. Over the past 10 or 15 or 20 years, he's trained thousands of people in Dynamics 365 and Power Platform technologies. The training and certification opportunities for everyone building Microsoft business applications have never been better. 

Our discussion covers:

  • Whether the time spent on attaining and maintaining Microsoft business applications certifications, is crowding out the amount of time that people have for other types of learning needed to have successful projects.
  • Where to start to embark on a certification refresh of your own resume.
  • An overview of what is involved in making a certification from Microsoft's perspective.
  • Why you need more than just Microsoft certifications to build amazing business applications.

Resources

Julie Yack on LinkedIn
Julian Sharp on LinkedIn
Microsoft Learn
Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master
PMI Project Management Professional
Prosci Change Practitioner
LinkedIn Learning 

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

Show Notes Transcript

Join me with Julie Yack and Julian Sharp as we  discuss my question " are Microsoft certifications causing projects to fail?" Julie Yack is a founder and the chief operations officer at Colorado Technology Consultants. She's an author, a trainer, a solution architect, and an MVP. Julian Sharp  is the founder of Ready 365. He recently received an MVP award and is best known as a prolific Microsoft trainer. Over the past 10 or 15 or 20 years, he's trained thousands of people in Dynamics 365 and Power Platform technologies. The training and certification opportunities for everyone building Microsoft business applications have never been better. 

Our discussion covers:

  • Whether the time spent on attaining and maintaining Microsoft business applications certifications, is crowding out the amount of time that people have for other types of learning needed to have successful projects.
  • Where to start to embark on a certification refresh of your own resume.
  • An overview of what is involved in making a certification from Microsoft's perspective.
  • Why you need more than just Microsoft certifications to build amazing business applications.

Resources

Julie Yack on LinkedIn
Julian Sharp on LinkedIn
Microsoft Learn
Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master
PMI Project Management Professional
Prosci Change Practitioner
LinkedIn Learning 

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

Neil Benson: 0:06

Welcome to Amazing Applications, the podcast to help you build Power Platform and Dynamics 365 applications that everyone will love. Hi, I'm your host, Neil Benson. This is the Amazing Applications podcast and our goal is to help you slash your project budgets, reduce your delivery timelines, mitigate technical risks and build amazing, agile Power Platform and Dynamics 365 applications that everyone will love. Welcome back to the show and thanks for listening . This week, 152 people in my LinkedIn feed celebrated attaining their Dynamics 365 fundamentals CRM certification after passing the MB 910 exam. 443 people celebrated attaining a Power Platform certification. Congratulations to all of you. These days, my LinkedIn feed is full of my connections celebrating their new certifications. Maybe it's the same for you. This is a recognition of the importance of our continued learning and development. The challenge, I guess, and the relief of passing an exam and the need to display our credentials to our manager and to our prospective clients. Way back in 2006, Microsoft made online learning content available for free for IT professionals who wanted to learn Microsoft Dynamics. I remember taking that training and achieving my CRM 3.0 certifications. But shortly after that, maybe sometime around 2007, Microsoft put the training content behind a pay wall called Dynamics Learning Portal and charged Microsoft partners, a couple of thousand dollars a year to access it. Microsoft customers were just plain out of luck. I don't think there was any training content on Customer Source. I campaigned for years for Microsoft to restore free online training content, to all partners and customers, and my idea, which was submitted and tracked in Microsoft Connect ran for over 10 years and had hundreds and hundreds of votes. I even wrote a book to train people on configuring and customizing Dynamics CRM 2011, and it's still sells a few copies every few months. I don't know who's buying it, but thank you. Eventually, Microsoft Learn was born and quickly grew into an amazing portal for online learning content. Not just for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform, but you can find content on Azure, Microsoft 365 Teams, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Windows as well. Microsoft has revitalized its exams and certification processes too. And today there are 22 Power Platform and Dynamics 365 certifications. In response, the Microsoft Partner Network keeps tweaking the requirements for Microsoft partners to employ certified individuals in order to achieve or maintain silver and gold competencies. It's all good stuff. Or is it? I don't have any data. So this is just anecdotal, but I haven't seen a significant drop in the number of Microsoft customers experiencing challenging or failed projects that I would expect to see as more and more professionals improved their knowledge and achieved certification. Here's a crazy hypothesis: are Microsoft certifications causing projects to fail? Sounds nuts. Right? But to help me dive deeper into the topic of training, certifications, and what else we can do to ensure we have the right knowledge to deliver the best possible chances of building amazing business applications for Microsoft customers, I've invited two experts onto the show. Julie Yack is a founder and the chief operations officer at Colorado Technology Consultants. She's an author, a trainer, a solution architect, and an MVP. Colorado Technology Consultants has an online learning academy called 365.training filled with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform online courses. And they do a lot of consulting work with Microsoft on its training and certifications. I've known Julie for over 10 years through the MVP program. Julian Sharp is the founder of Ready 365. He recently received an MVP award and is best known as a prolific Microsoft trainer. Over the past 10 or 15 or 20 years, he's trained thousands of people in Dynamics 365 and Power Platform technologies in the classroom, and through online study groups. He's got more Microsoft certifications than anyone I know .There are over 80 certifications on Julian's LinkedIn profile. So let's hear from Julie and Julian, Welcome to the Amazing Applications show. On this show, I've got two guests who are, I hope are going to help me talk me down from the ledge, because I'm wondering if Microsoft certifications are causing projects to fail, to discuss that I've got two amazing guests with me. I've got my good friends, Julie Yack and Julian Sharp. Julie, do you want to take a moment to introduce yourself?

 

Julie Yack: 5:55

Julie Yack, I've been an MVP since 2009. And my first Microsoft certification was CRM 3.0 Applications.

 

Julian Sharp: 6:04

I'm Julian Sharp. I'm a fairly new MVP only for about a year now. But I've been a Microsoft certified trainer for 14 years. My first certification was back in 2003, in .NET architecture, which is actually a really good one, but first Dynamics was Microsoft CRM. 1.0 installation, I think was my first Microsoft exam.

 

Neil Benson: 6:24

I don't think they do installation exams anymore, Julian.

 

Julian Sharp: 6:26

No.

 

Julie Yack: 6:28

It's the cloud.

 

Julian Sharp: 6:28

What a pity.

 

Neil Benson: 6:29

So here's my hypothesis. My LinkedIn feed has got lots of people celebrating their Microsoft business applications certifications. They're collecting badges like Scouts collect badges and sew them onto the arms of their uniforms. There seems to be a lot of pressure on partners to achieve and renew and maintain certifications for the individuals. I'm wondering if that's crowding out the amount of time that people have for other types of learning, project management, design thinking, change management, business process modeling, all these other skills that we need in order to have successful projects. And consultants can pass business applications certifications, and still not know some really deep technical stuff that they need to know: application life cycle management. I'm not sure that's covered in sufficient depth in any of the Microsoft certifications. Licensing. Julie, do you think that's a fair hypothesis? Am I crazy? You've been involved in designing a lot of these training programs. And I don't know maybe about the exams as well. Do you think I'm nuts?

 

Julie Yack: 7:35

A little bit, but also I think we all are. So I think that specifically, since everyone's been working at home for more than a year now, people have decided that it's something they can accomplish, whereas they didn't realize they could do it before. And so I think that there's a lot of people who are going out and getting those certifications for the first time. Then there's a lot of people who are, like you say, collecting them like Scouts collect badges, and the problem becomes if that's your only measure of success is certification. You will not be successful. It is one tool in the toolbox.

 

Neil Benson: 8:11

Julian, what's your point of view? Do you think that Microsoft certifications are causing unsuccessful outcomes for our customers?

 

Julian Sharp: 8:18

I don't think they're causing it. I think there's a, there's something to what you say in that may be diverting people's attention. But I think what you've seen is people taking certification is actually changing Microsoft themselves. Microsoft have changed their approach on certification because they believe to adopt the cloud people need to be trained in it. I'll just go back to why I think certifications are worthwhile in themselves is that I've seen so many bad implementations where people have not had any training. They are developing systems with the old on-premise mindset, they are not making use of all the facilities and capabilities there are. So training is about learning the new things. Certifications just the way of proving that you've done it. But I do understand there is there's a overall temptation that people are just going taking too many there. I've seen people go from like nothing to solution architect in six months, and that's not right. For me that's a mixture of these certifications not necessarily being tough enough, but I'm not sure how to make them tougher.

 

Julie Yack: 9:20

But Julian, on that front, if I've already been doing the work and I just started taking the exams, then I could see going from zero certifications to solution architect in six months. If I'm changing careers, or I just left college, then I can't do it in six months. But if I'm finally back filling the certifications that I've already had that knowledge then six months is fine.

 

Julian Sharp: 9:44

I'm seeing new starters, career changers, going that route.

 

Julie Yack: 9:48

Yeah. And that's very different scenario.

 

Julian Sharp: 9:50

Yeah. And I'm not, that's not what I would like, I don't think that's not really what anybody wants to achieve but there's amount of people, I guess, collecting the badges have gone, 'What's next?', because like you say, Julie, they're at home. So they've got the opportunity to actually learn and spend a bit of time, but there's also a lot of free training be given away by Microsoft with the in UK got Microsoft training days where you go, they give even give you the exam voucher. So it's really encouraging people to do it.

 

Julie Yack: 10:18

Oh Right.

 

Neil Benson: 10:19

And you can not take the exam from home. Before you had to go to an exam center. Now you can do this remote proctoring. So that's made it even easier to get the training and get the certification. I think all those developments are good. I support all of that.

 

Julie Yack: 10:32

Yeah, I think making it accessible to as many people as possible is important because you don't want to have artificial barriers. But it needs to be measured. It needs to be appropriate amount of influence on those certifications. And there are certain people who are just good test takers. My son never studied for his college entrance exams and got in the 99th percentile. He's just a good test taker. And then he didn't go to college, but that's a whole nother conversation. He's very successful without it. But there are people who are always going to be good test takers.

 

Neil Benson: 11:09

Julian, I was going to ask, if you can give us an outline of the current certification tracks that are available. There's Power Platform, Dynamics 365. If I was to embark on a certification refresh of my own resume where would I start?


 

Julian Sharp: 11:25

I always say to start with fundamentals. I actually think the idea of fundamentals is to really actually help people get over the fear of taking exams. Most people I speak to have a real, okay, I'm going to take this and I'm going to fail. And for a lot of people I've seen this as failing Microsoft exam is the first failure they've ever experienced. I've seen it. And it's not pleasant to people. So get, I thought it was a really good to get people used to the whole experience is relatively risk-free. And from that they get that, then they go on. So I'd always say start with your Power Platform, or your Dynamics fundamentals. And we've now got two fundamentals as they split it We're back to the customer engagement, CRM, name again and ERP. But they are getting rid of the customer engagement name it'll to go back to CRM and ERP. Yeah. Then what you've got on the Power Platform, it's a little odd because you've got the App Maker, which is the PL 100, which is aimed at your citizen developer, the person that just builds apps for themselves and their friends. Which was meant to be an associate level exam which means you need to have experience and it's a bit more hands-on, but it's actually quite, I think it's quite hard. I've got to speak to somebody actually yesterday about is they've failed it three times, but they're not an app maker, but they'd be given it by their company to pass. They're a customer success manager, and they're being expected to pass that level exam and it's hard. Then we've got the PL 200, which I call the core or the functional consultant, which is the real main skills for a, the technical skills rather than to, as a customizing the solution. That's the PL 200 and then there's a PL 400 developer. Which is actually more of a developer now .There's still a bit of non-developer in it because developer has to do the no-code. They have to be able to compare between workflows, plug-ins, business rules, and understand when to use what. And then we've got the PL 600, which is still in beta, the solution architect. But it's not path. You don't go PL 100, PL 200, three or 400, PL 600. But I'm seeing people do that because...

 

Julie Yack: 13:27

The world has changed has trained us that you start with the lowest number 100 and you move your way up. And they're very different audiences.

 

Neil Benson: 13:35

I didn't know that I assumed it was a progression. So I've...

 

Julian Sharp: 13:39

yeah, exactly. And the whole, I would say, that when it comes to Microsoft exams, ignore the numbers. Cause we actually start with 900.

 

Julie Yack: 13:44

I would say it depends on your role. So if your role is to be in the ecosystem and to be aware of what's going on around you, but you're not building stuff. Then take the 900 because you need to have an awareness. If you're dipping your toe in the water, trying to figure it out. If you belong here and 900 is great, right. Then 100, hopefully will be trimmed to be more appropriately sized for its intended audience. That's for the incidental app maker. It's not my job, but I like to mix some actual, like to solve some problems. And then the 200, 400, 600. Those are all for people whose careers are Power Platform, building the things

 

Julian Sharp: 14:27

Yeah. And they're the ones that are on the partner competency requirements. 200, 400 and 600, or will be.

 

Neil Benson: 14:34

So I was going to ask you about training and certification for customers, or people working at a Microsoft customer organization, versus people working at a Microsoft partner organization. Obviously, partners, the individuals there, like you said, Julie, it tends to be their career. Their job is to build applications for other people, but if I'm a subject matter expert or a business analyst or a product owner inside of Microsoft customer organization, and I'm going to be working on a project, maybe 50% of my time, then there's another kind of customer persona, which is the system administrator, who's going to be looking after an app or a bunch of apps. Are there good training and certification options? Or is certification even appropriate for those kinds of people? What do you think Julie?

 

Julie Yack: 15:20

Yes, they should do the functional consultant. I think everyone who has hands in a project building Power Platform thing should have the PL 200. I think it's the bare minimum for someone who is building things. If you're willing to do more than that, if you're going to lean toward developer stuff, if you need to have more of a big picture, feel work for the architect but I think that the functional for any of those roles would be important.

 

Julian Sharp: 15:48

The other thing I've done is I've taken the whole project team. They're starting a project. I'll put them all through fundamentals. So that's the project managers, everybody involved the project from business owners, just to give them an understanding of what, because they've been sold to the they'd been sold Dynamics, sold the Power Platform, but we need to get, as you get to actually get past that and understand what's actually involved. And actually it helps them get going. But I agree with you, Julie. I think getting that it's quite hard if they're just starting on a project to take care of, I would not do some training for a very large transport company in Europe. And I've trained them, probably about two year period, regular trainings. I already had another one. I'll get the sales training a couple of weeks ago. I trained the developers in December. So if they have a development team then yeah the developer course is the right one for them.

 

Neil Benson: 16:38

Okay.

 

Julie Yack: 16:40

I want them to go through the training. Whether they get certified or not is their own personal call. That the functional consultant training will get them on the right path.

 

Julian Sharp: 16:48

Yeah, it's interesting, actually. This company they've become more and more interested in the certification as we've gotten along. But I think I scared them with the sales one because they said, Oh, can he got some questions? I'll through them. Some, this is thing you might get asked. And it's 'Whoa', that's quite deep compared to what we trained them in, which is the basic sales functionality.

 

Neil Benson: 17:07

I think that's great advice. I've seen a lot of customers because they've been involved in lots of demonstrations maybe from different partners during the evaluation phase before the project has been launched, they don't have a real understanding of what's a custom feature that was built by a partner for the purposes of the demonstration, or what's a standard feature that comes with Dynamics 365. And if you don't have those right expectations, all hell can break loose at the start of your project with the wrong requirements and expectations.

 

Julian Sharp: 17:36

You also brought up an important, really good points about the administrator. Right now, I don't think we have very good administration level training. First I've got a customer in Denmark who we'll be working with for years on and off. And it puts they've been on my PL 200 course and then one of their marketing people has been on the marketing course and they can do a lot themselves, but they still keep coming to me asking questions and clarification. But yeah, we don't have any administration, management, and all those other day-to-day activities that you do on a, when you're ready to get a live system.

 

Neil Benson: 18:12

Do you think that's a gap that Microsoft acknowledges and will address in time, or is it open for the business application training community to fill that gap?

 

Julian Sharp: 18:26

The trouble istrouble defining the role. So for a certification and for training, you've got to define what it's going to contain, and that it's going to vary so much between organizations but how much they do versus how much the partner does versus how much different people within IT do. Cause it will get split up. But I think there needs to be some training. I think there's been a focus on getting the certification and training for that. I can't see many more roles coming Maybe there will be in Dynamics. Cause in Dynamics and Power Platform, we've got more than anybody else in terms of role-based certs.

 

Julie Yack: 18:58

I would like to see some more training and certifications around things like Power Automate, because there are people who that's, what they do all day long is build flows and automate stuff. And there's so much more available than what can be covered in an all-up exam, like the functional consultant. I think that we should extract out portals and make a portals certification because again, great. Here's a little bit of information that everybody has to do, but there's so much more to it. And I think those will happen before we get the administrator certification, because like Julian said, there's way too many moving parts, Power Platform administrator is likely administering Power Platform, but also Office integrations. So how do we test for that? And because that role is so hard to define, I think it's going to be a little bit longer before we see certifications for it.

 

Neil Benson: 19:50

So here I am with our hypothesis that there's too many certifications that causing our projects to fail. And we've just invented another three or four. Well done.

 

Julian Sharp: 19:59

Yeah, I think the other issue is about these. Let's go back to partners and the partner's competency. I think there's very much that people believe that the exams are driven by the certification competency requirements. It's actually not. I think it's the other way around. I think certification is done. Then the partner MPN team come up says, "Oh, we need five of them. And six of them", without really understanding what they tell you.

 

Neil Benson: 20:21

I just had to look at the partner competencies. I haven't had a look at that for a little while. There are some competencies, for example, I can become a partner with a gold competency in application development, which is really about Azure with four certified individuals. And there's some different exams that they can take. The Business Applications competencies are wildly different and wildly more complicated. They're introducing this new partner competency index, which is a points-based system.

 

Julian Sharp: 20:48

well, It's back to where we were 10 years ago. I remember getting collecting partner points to become gold years ago.

 

Neil Benson: 20:54

Yeah. Yeah, I did the same thing and it's you have to have functional consultants and developers and you have to grow the number of functional consultants year over year. Licensed revenue. You have to add new customers. You have to be, you have to have some large deployments and they measure what large means, and you have to grow the number of active monthly users or monthly active users. Yeah. Wow. How Microsoft is going to track all that successfully without partners feeling left. I have done lots of deployments where it's really hard to get the customer to assign the digital partner of record. Customer doesn't know how to do it. And you find somebody else's name is in there. There's a licensing partner whose name is in there.

 

Julian Sharp: 21:33

I got off the partner treadmill, about just over a year ago. I always say Microsoft's biggest strength are its partners. It's also its biggest weakness because there's some that get back to what we talked about. So many poor implementations.

 

Julie Yack: 21:46

Even with the certification paths that we have, even with the requirements that we have, there are still, unfortunately, a genuine business model for doing rescue implementations. We do entire business on that.

 

Julian Sharp: 21:58

That's what I used to do, I did that for years.

 

Julie Yack: 22:00

Yeah. They're fun! Because it's fun to find and solve the problems. And it's a puzzle. And for me, I want to do the work perspective. I enjoy them. But it's unfortunate that they're coming in from partners who supposedly have all these qualified resources who are just good test takers. And I don't know how to solve that problem.

 

Julian Sharp: 22:20

No, And it's not that. They just get the minimum. Okay. I'm a big partner. And I'll just get the number of people minimum certified. Just get them through it. Just take it. They don't really buy into the idea of doing proper training. It's just a tick in the box and move on because I need to get people billed.

 

Neil Benson: 22:37

What's the least amount of training time wasted on training in order to acquire the certification?

 

Julie Yack: 22:42

What I see is that partners who are partners in something else are like, "Huh, it's Dynamics, how hard can it be?" And then, and they do things like build their entire own custom security layer. And then they're like, "How can it take so long for the forms to load?" Because you have 4 272 security checks before we can load the form.

 

Julian Sharp: 23:02

I do some field service training. I had some add some ed users on it, actually, interestingly and I said, these are my top 10 things not to do in field service. And I could see them shrink horribly. They had nine at the time and it was par. They had a partner. The partner had never been trained. The partner's staff had never been trained. They just thought I can just do this. This is a 5,000 user system.

 

Julie Yack: 23:25

They may have been trained in how to build the stuff, but not to use this stuff. And that's a different, that's a different need, right? That means they didn't have qualified functional consultant because in my view, a functional consultant should know how to use the system inside and out. Not just how to build stuff.

 

Julian Sharp: 23:41

And also they don't know, appreciate what field service did or how internally worked. And you're not going to get that through any training. And I think it goes back to, I think you made the point, Julie certification is very much a starting point for me. It's the minimal, I think Microsoft defines it, it's the minimal qualified candidate. So I think ideally, so my idea of training somebody who's got six months up to six months experience and a bit of it, training should be able to pass the exam. And when you phrase it like that's not really a high barrier.

 

Neil Benson: 24:11

I think most people view the badge as the finish line, not the starting point.

 

Julian Sharp: 24:16

I think that's the issue we're facing. But the is where do you go from there? Where do you goafter you've got that starting point.

 

Neil Benson: 24:24

There's another badge.

 

Julian Sharp: 24:27

I'll go take the PL 400, even though I'm a functional consultant.

 

Julie Yack: 24:29

And I have no desire to take the developer exam. I've got the 100 and the 900, because I helped with some of the behind the scenes work on that. Someone needed to see what the exams were like. And that's the a, if you don't write the questions that the way to participate in the process is to take the exam. I was not the target audience, but I took those exams. I passed them. I am the target audience for the functional consultant and the architect. I took those and I passed those. My tool box is full for now. I have no desire to take the developer exam. That's not for me, not what I do.

 

Julian Sharp: 25:02

I see so many people going and taking I was like, why? Yeah.

 

Neil Benson: 25:05

See, I passed the developer exam and I've never used Visual Studio. That's not nothing to brag about. That's just a badly designed not a badly designed certification, but it's a failing in the certification process.

 

Julie Yack: 25:16

If that's all you have to do is Visual Studio I'm in. Cause I use Visual Studio every day. So if that's all I need, I'm good.

 

Julian Sharp: 25:23

Yeah, Yeah, the Power Platform developer for me, it's not a hardcore. Why some people think it developed because there's more to it. You're not just writing code. You're going to be doing the no- code stuff. You're going to be using Power Automate. You're going to be integrating with Azure. It's not somebody just writes code. And that's why it's quite broad and quite difficult exam to test on. There are questions about coding, but you could be lucky, not get many of them. If you failed them all, you're still gonna pass it on everything else you've done. I think the quality of the exam has come up. Probably when you last took an exam Neil but if you look at three, four years ago, they were very product orientated. They very much regurgitate the facts. I remember we used to teach the courses. These are the numbers you need to remember to pass this.

 

Julie Yack: 26:07

I was complaining about the exams and certification process and I was doing so rather publicly. And then they came to me and said, okay, great. Help us make it better.

 

Neil Benson: 26:17

So tell about the process of making a certification. I don't know how much you can reveal it behind the scenes, but you've been involved in quite a few. Can you give us a high level overview of what that looks like from Microsoft's perspective? How do they do it?

 

Julie Yack: 26:31

So you start with what they call a job task analysis, where you get a collection of subject matter experts who break down what would this person do at their job? Are they building flows? Are they making custom tables? What are they doing? And you list out the tasks that they would do in their job. Then from there, you extract out the items from that should be testable. So like a functional consultant has a lot of soft skills. It's hard to test on how to write good documentation so we should teach it to you, but we can't give you an exam on it. So then from there you get experts who are going to write the exam questions. Different experts will do a technical review and then the exams go into beta. And sometimes you've got the same experts at one or two of the phases, but you won't have one expert participating in each phase of the process. So you'll get different opinions involved. And then from the training material perspective that is built independently using the artifacts that are created from the job task analysis and what they call the objective domain, the things we can test you on.

 

Neil Benson: 27:43

So the training material is developed completely blind to the exam questions. Is that right? Okay, good. That's what I would expect. That's good.

 

Julie Yack: 27:54

The exam questions when you're writing them, typically speaking, you have to provide a publicly available resource that would give you the knowledge to answer that question. So as part of the process, I want to write a question about building forms. I would then provide a link to Microsoft in that process. I would provide a link to Docs, that explained the things that I was wanting to test on. So that is a fair item for people to be able to learn about, and then we can test on it.

 

Neil Benson: 28:26

Okay. Do all those resources have to be Microsoft documentation?

 

Julie Yack: 28:31

No.

 

Julian Sharp: 28:31

They be, but

 

Julie Yack: 28:32

Could be official, where it's available. It's not always available.

 

Julian Sharp: 28:35

Yeah. So blog posts, videos that can be quoted.

 

Neil Benson: 28:41

You mentioned soft skills, Julie, and the criticality of soft skills to the success of a functional consultant. If you could wave a wand, could you, should you, should we be testing soft skills? How would that work? Cause we try and interview for soft skills when we're interviewing candidates for a new job. I agree with you that they're to test. Are there ways that we could ever imagine certifications, embracing skills, soft skills?

 

Julie Yack: 29:05

Not in a way that's fair and repeatable.

 

Julian Sharp: 29:07

No, not at the scale we're dealing with. The only way work is we went back to something like SureStep with a defined methodology.

 

Julie Yack: 29:19

That hurt Julian.

 

Julian Sharp: 29:20

But the idea that's the only way it would work, where there is a methodology, which you everybody's trained in, it's repeatable, but we're not in that world.

 

Julie Yack: 29:28

And then that's too rigid because not every successful project will use that process and not every project that uses that process will be successful.

 

Julian Sharp: 29:37

SureStep was brought in because there were so many failing projects. It was brought to try and create, make sure that partners followed a method or followed a method. I always say a method is better than no method, but there was a lot of no method around at the

 

Neil Benson: 29:53

There still today. Okay. Interesting. I'd love to see some more soft skills. I don't know. I agree with you, Julie, it's really hard to test for and know exactly what soft skills to include in a test. I'm interested in how the certifications are being complemented by other awards and recognition. Like the Microsoft FastTrack -Recognized Solution Architect is an award or recognition, which does include an interview with a solution architect by some experts at Microsoft. Very hard to scale that. There's, a couple of dozen people awarded that each year. I can't imagine them scaling that so that anybody can go and take that interview with somebody at Microsoft. That's not going to work.

 

Julie Yack: 30:37

And the purpose of it. You have to provide a portfolio of your work. You have to have an interview. It's more than just one measure. So I think that's the purpose is to not be scaled.

 

Julian Sharp: 30:52

Yeah. Microsoft used something called the Master, MCM, master certification which you had to go and it cost about $40,000. They, they stopped doing it about seven, eight years ago. Never in Dynamics, but they used to have the idea that you are an expert. You have to go for three weeks to Redmond to do a whole set of interviews. So the FastTrack's okay. Except you have to work on big projects and up to work on. So there's a big barrier for anybody to go take it. They only run it very rarely. So what other certifications are there that are relevant? I've always been a fan of PMP for the project side.

 

Neil Benson: 31:28

So I was just going to ask you the exact same question. So we've got project management, certifications, PMP, Prince 2. There's obviously some agile certifications out there as well. There's Prosci for change management.

 

Julie Yack: 31:39

I am a lapsed scrum master. So I've gone through the courses. I've done some projects, but it's not my day-to-day anymore. Haven't kept it current.

 

Neil Benson: 31:47

Can you imagine Microsoft saying a Business Applications functional consultant needs to have these Microsoft certifications, plus one of these others and Microsoft embracing third-party certification saying, yeah, we recognize Prosci, we recognize PMP and you should have one of those as part of your functional consultant certification?

 

Julian Sharp: 32:07

In the past where we had the old Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, they actually had a joint certification with a third party for that. It was a digital marketing course that you could go take.

 

Julie Yack: 32:22

The problem becomes putting weight on something over which you have no control. So if they say yes, in order to get this recognition, you have to have these three Microsoft certifications and one of these other third-party certifications. And suddenly that third-party certification has major changes, or is no longer relevant, then suddenly no one can meet that bar. And that's a tough one.

 

Julian Sharp: 32:49

Are there the certifications around, say requirement gathering and business analysis?

 

Neil Benson: 32:54

I did a diploma with the British Computer Society in requirements engineering a long time ago. So yes, I think there are. There's UML and other, recognized modeling notations and things. And there are certifications to go with those. I'm just wondering if Microsoft can't include them, and Julie, I appreciate your point of view and why they can't do that. Then, is it up to partners to broaden the scope of their consultant skills and say, let's not focus exclusively on Microsoft certifications, but we also encourage our team to go and get these others? And I think partners need to lead the way in that and not be so focused on Microsoft certifications to the exclusion of all other training and certification.

 

Julian Sharp: 33:34

And I think Microsoft is doing this now with that, they now have training days or learning days at every quarter. And then although some people do the Microsoft certification, they now do the other, they do other courses and other learning, which aren't certification related. I think that is the right way. But for me actually, what you really need to, as partners, you need to get together and share experiences. Cause you're not going to share them with your other partners, but internally you should get together. What we learned from this project? What did we do? Be open and honest about that. And that, for me that's more important than a certification, but it requires coordinating people, getting together and people being open and honest and admitting where they went wrong.

 

Neil Benson: 34:18

In the military, they would call it an after action review. And you would write up a report with the squad who went on the mission, come back and write it up and share that with the squad, with their superiors. And that become as part of a body of knowledge within that military branch. In the same way, some good partners do post-implementation reviews, PIRs, and I think there's some methodologies that encourage that, which I think are great. In agile projects we obviously do retrospectives. We do them very often. And I think we, yeah, we can all do a better job of sharing the learnings from those with people who weren't in the project, so that they can learn from our mistakes and learn from our best practices as well.

 

Julian Sharp: 34:56

My biggest annoyance is there's no sort of corporate knowledge. That you end up just doing the same thing from scratch over and over. You really just want people to be able to come and start a project knowing what they've got to do, what their place is. So if somebody comes and they have a corporate way of working, everybody knows their role knows what they've got to do. So we joined a new project we're not having to reinvent the wheel. That isn't a certification issue. It's a how do I organize my practice? How do we have an ethos as an organization?

 

Neil Benson: 35:24

Julie, any final thoughts on how we can prevent Microsoft certifications causing projects to fail?

 

Julie Yack: 35:30

It's not so much the certifications causing projects to fail. It's the narrow view of their value. And so we need to broaden people's visions on what is required to succeed. And that certifications are just one small piece of it. That nothing is better than experience and just passing a test is not experience.

 

Julian Sharp: 35:56

I think that's what I was trying to get at. If you get experience by working but you get more experience from sharing with other people. It's actually one of the reasons why I still like training. I I learn from my students, they tell me stories. Half the stories I use are other people's stories.

 

Neil Benson: 36:10

I think that's one of the unwritten or misunderstood value of in-person training It's the stories you get from the instructors, from the other students. And that the instructors learn from the students as well.

 

Julian Sharp: 36:21

If you're on a training course, sat next to somebody. You actually learn more from the person sat next to you than the instructor.

 

Neil Benson: 36:26

I'm missing person training. Hope we get back to doing more.

 

Julie Yack: 36:29

Yeah, me too.

 

Neil Benson: 36:31

Great stuff. Julie, Julian, thank you both so much for joining us on the Amazing Applications podcast and sharing your training and certification expertise with us. I'm going to go back and reconsider my certifications.

 

Julian Sharp: 36:45

Challenge you to pass the certification, Neil.

 

Neil Benson: 36:48

Can I start with a fundamentals one please?

 

Julian Sharp: 36:50

Always start with the fundamentals.

 

Neil Benson: 36:52

All right. I'll next time we meet I'll have done my fundamental certification. How about that? Thanks very much for joining me folks.

 

Julie Yack: 36:58

Thank you.

 

Neil Benson: 37:02

Thanks to Julie Yack and Julian Sharp for sharing their training and certification expertise with us on the Amazing Applications podcast. I hope you found their insights useful. Here are my key takeaways. The training and certification opportunities for everyone building Microsoft business applications have never been better. Achieving the certifications isn't always easy, but they're not meant to be. If you're involved in business Applications as a Microsoft customer, you should aim for the PL 900 Power Platform fundamentals, PL 910 Dynamics365 CRM fundamentals or PL 920 Dynamics 365 ERP fundamentals. If your career involves building business applications as a Microsoft partner or consultant, you should aim for a functional consultant certification: Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Field Service, Sales, Marketing, Business Central, Finance, or Supply Chain. If you're a developer working for a customer or partner aim for PL 400 Power Platform developer or MB 300 plus MB 500 to become a Finance and Operations developer. If you're a solution architect, aim for MB 700 Finance and Operations solution architect or PL 600 Power Platform solution architect. And here's the big takeaway from me. You don't need to collect them all. If you're an architect, you don't need the fundamentals certifications. If you're a functional consultant, you're not going to benefit much from the developer certifications. Instead of trying to collect all of the Microsoft certifications like Pokemon cards, your career, and your projects, will be better served by you broadening your skills. Consider well-regarded industry certifications like a Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master (my personal favorite), PMI Project Management Professional, the Prosci Change Practitioner or Certified Business Analyst Professional from the International Institute of Business Analysis. Or it could be a collection of LinkedIn courses in design thinking, communication, teamwork and collaboration, stakeholder engagement, software testing, critical thinking. There are hundreds and hundreds more. LinkedIn courses are great, not just for providing just in time learning on a topic, but also for tasting lots of topics and finding new ones that interest you so that you can dive into them further. Diving deeper and deeper into Microsoft certifications might make you highly certified, but I think you'll be a one-dimensional business applications professional. You need more than just Microsoft certifications to build amazing business applications. Personally, as a hiring manager who has interviewed hundreds of candidates, I can tell you, you need more than that to advance your career. Microsoft partners need more than just a practice full of people with Microsoft certifications. Otherwise they'll lose opportunities to consultancies with a broader set of capabilities. And the projects that they do win are at risk of turning into failed projects and a turnaround opportunity for someone else. Search for the Amazing Applications page on LinkedIn. Find the post for this episode and let me know what you're going to learn next. I'd love to find out more. Thanks for listening. Remember to follow Amazing Applications in your podcast player. So you don't miss an episode. Until next time. Keep sprinting.