In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.
I took the MB2-712 – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customization and Configuration certification last week and will share my thoughts on certification
The CRM version is back
Microsoft removed the Microsoft Dynamics CRM version for the CRM 2015 Dynamics CRM certifications but have added it back. It‘s good because you can tell what certification CRM professionals has, giving you an idea if they studied new functionality in the latest version of CRM.
Certifications are a great motivator to learn the new features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, using new features on projects is delayed by a half a year to a year because solution architects don’t match requirements with the functionality which is still in development or not released when the solution was designed.
Reasons you don’t get to use new functionality
It’s great to learn and use new Microsoft Dynamics CRM functionality in a project but often CRM professionals don’t get to use the latest Microsoft Dynamics CRM version because
- Working support on older CRM versions
- Large projects can take a year or more and solutions designed on older CRM versions
- New functionality isn’t needed for project
- It’s a risk using new functionality, with version 1 often containing limitations or not working properly (Business rules, CRM Mobile, etc)
CRM professionals need to keep up to date with new CRM versions and related products in addition to working on projects because the next project you work might use the new functionality. The best way to stay up to date with new features and products is reading articles on twitter or blogs.
Reading about new functionality is useful but a passive way of learning which leads to a high level understanding. CRM Professionals need to understand
- What new functionality/product is?
- What does it do?
- What scenario’s should it be used in?
- What are the limitations?
CRM professionals need theoretical and practical knowledge of CRM features. I recommend CRM developers start with the CRM SDK before opening CRM and using the new features.
Experience with new features is important for CRM professionals because you have to understand the limitations of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to make sure you pick the right customisation for the right job. This is why .NET developers struggle with CRM development, a lack of experience.
Studying for Microsoft Dynamics CRM certifications combines learning about new functionality and trying it out because the best way to studying for a CRM certification is by looking at new features and
- Try it
- Learn it
- Study it
- get certified in it
If you are not convinced by the value of Microsoft Dynamics certifications, check out the benefits of CRM certifications
The MB2-712 certification is big, covering a lot of functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, look at the certification criteria here
- Configure settings
- Security – Business units, teams, access teams, security roles
- fields, views, forms
- Business rules
- Business process flows
Some of areas are massive, security and solutions are complex areas of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it’s vital a CRM professional understands those areas in depth.
The E-Learning training course is over 12 hours long, you must be logged into partner source to use the training
I’m not a fan of video learning because you can’t skip the parts you know and I find it difficult to sit and focus on long videos. Microsoft do a good job of overcoming these problems by splitting up the videos into small sections.
One improvement would be to make the test questions similar to the questions exam questions, giving people an idea of the standard they needed to pass the certification.
The criteria is big, covering commonly used functionality, such as fields, forms, views, security and solutions. Many CRM professionals will know these areas because they use them regularly.
The exam is the same but different
I’ve taken the customisation and configuration certification from CRM 4 onward, this is my 5th customisation and configuration certification.
In the past the certifications focused on the new features, this made sense because it differentiated the certification from earlier CRM certifications, concentrating on learning the new features.
This exam was different, I’m not sure if it‘s because there wasn’t lots of new features but the exams tone was different than earlier certifications.
The questions were more realistic in testing skills CRM professionals use in regularly. A few questions were like requests I received from end users. This differs from earlier exams where the questions focused on testing the user’s knowledge of CRM.
There are still some ridiculously odd/badly worded questions, I needed to read some questions 5 times to get close to understanding the question was asking. It puzzling Microsoft can let such poor questions to make it into the final exam.
The tone of the questions was a lot better, so well done to the Microsoft.
After finishing the exam, I felt much of my studying wasn’t needed and many areas I focused on didn’t come up in the exam. I’m not sure if my notes were too detailed or it was the change in type of questions. In earlier exams you needed to understand the limitations of functionality in detail.
Taking a certification is a big hassle, the test centres are often small buildings in odd locations with habit of closing down regularly. It can easily take half a day taking a CRM certification with the drive to and from the test centre, the need to get to the test centre early.
Pearson VUE and Microsoft allow you to do proctored exams, which means you can do an exam using a computer which has a webcam and microphone, awesome.
I booked the exam in the morning to do in the afternoon (booking test centre exams often done weeks in advance to get a decent time slot). As long as you have a laptop with Windows 7, 8 or 10, a webcam and Microphone you are probably OK to do the test from home or the office.
You will need to jump through a few hoops, clean your desk, covering pictures and bookshelves, emptying pockets, no interruptions, closing all applications on your computer. This is good policy because you don’t want people cheating but it can take 15-20 minutes to go through your room with the “greeter”.
The exam time has dropped, you now get 1 hour 30 minutes for 48 questions. I’m sure it was 2 hours, giving you time to go through the questions twice and have 20 minutes left.
A couple of things to note about the proctored exam, finding the url is a bit tricky, it wasn’t obvious and the link to the exam was small but this tells you what to do
- To begin your testing session and connect to a Greeter: sign-in to www.microsoft.com/learning, click “Your benefits & exams” to view your appointments, and then choose “Start a previously scheduled online proctored exam.”
If you are going to take the proctored exam make sure you run through the test exam, to make sure the software will work on your machine without problems.
The exam ends suddenly ends, it tells you if you have passed or failed and then exits, it left me wondering if I needed to do anything else.
Proctored exams are great, well done Microsoft.
I passed the exam with a score of 800, the bbenefit of the certification is learning new features and functionality which I hadn’t before but only read about
- Themes – What you need to know about themes
- Hierarchy security
- Business process flows
- Alternate keys
- updated business rules
- Mobile apps and forms
- I learnt about mobile and business rules in this post
- CRM 2016 – Default CRM mobile app works fully offline and the limitations of previous offline versions
The training videos are great and credit to the trainer and the slides are a great resources for revising. It was enjoyable but I’m glad its done.