Why apprentices work well with Dynamics development

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

It’s not the quality of the plan but the quality of the people that is vital to success #HoskWisdom

Capgemini has a degree apprentice scheme which offers an alternative to going to university, it allows you to study for a degree funded by Capgemini, whilst working full time.

In 2018 Capgemini are hoping to add 90 apprentices.   Watching apprentices grow and improve is like a home-grown player making the football team, it feels more rewarding.

The Capgemini Dynamics team added at least two apprentices each year for the last 2 years and it’s worked well.

The cost of degree?

The cost of degrees in the UK is huge, students pay back via a percentage of their wages for 20 years after graduation (the degree gets them a better paying job and worth the investment)

With degree’s costing so much money, I’m surprised alternatives or getting a degree at university is still the popular choice.

Alternatives such as

  • Making degrees into 2 years (do you need 3 months off for summer?)
  • Night school
  • smaller focused courses relevant to software engineering/programming or other specialisations

The cost of a degree is £9000 per year (tuition fees, excluding living costs) lasting 3 years, people should question

  1. Is a degree worth the money?
  2. is a degree worth the time?
  3. What are the alternatives?

The Capgemini Dynamics team experience

we had at least 2 apprentices each year for the past 2 years and it worked well.  The apprentices are put onto projects and work as Dynamics developers.

Recent articles on apprentices on the Capgemini Dynamics team blog

Apprentices often learn faster than experienced developers who have learnt bad habits.  The Capgemini Dynamics team bring the best practices of software engineering to Dynamics development

  • Plugin framework
  • Unit testing
  • code using business logic and repository pattern
  • DevOps (CI, CD)
  • GIT not TFS (pull requests differ from check ins :-))

The apprentices pick up the development process often quicker than experienced developers because they haven’t got use to writing code without designing their code or writing unit tests.

Some CRM developers don’t see the value of unit tests but if you are working on a large projects and don’t write unit tests the quality of your code base will deteriate.  The effects of reduce quality code is harder to read, maintain, test and extend your code; The project will slow down and make any changes costly in terms of time and money.

Articles on why you should unit test

Articles on designing code and technical debt

My experiences

The apprentices are are expected to

  • Contribute ideas
  • One Microsoft Dynamics Certification each year
  • Share information with the team (presentations, blog posts)

These help the software engineers learn about Dynamics 365, integrate and get engaged with the team.  Studying for Dynamics certification allows apprentices to learn Microsoft Dynamics 365 quickly and learning good software engineering principles takes longer.  Using frameworks and code reviews you can make sure junior developers creating code the right way.

Junior developers work best on a project with experienced developers who help them with the intricacies of Microsoft Dynamics development (which has it’s idiosyncratic ways of doing things).


Its a great way to get a degree and Dynamics project experience without the debt (it does take longer to get your degree)

You need to be hard working and dedicated to take this route but the benefit is you get your degree paid and project experience.  The downside is it takes longer to finish the degree and you need to study and work.

It’s amazing to think of the practical experience the apprentices get working on projects, learning from software engineers whilst people studying at university only have theoretical knowledge.

I look forward to the Capgemini Dynamics team getting more apprentices each year.  You can find out more here if you want to learn more about it.


The Hosk is writing again

Never be afraid to throw away all your ideas and start again with a blank page #HoskWisdom
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin Franklin

Tasked with creating the social media strategy for the Capgemini Dynamics team, it has got me back into the habit of writing.  I have created a Capgemini Dynamics publication (https://medium.com/capgemini-dynamics-365-team) on Medium and share the good practices and great work the team are doing.  It will include other team members contributing posts as well my writing

This  prompted me to write on my blog – Why developers should read books, I enjoy thinking and writing (publishing your best thoughts).  Writing is a tool for teaching yourself and extracting knowledge from experience through reflection.

Busy busy busy

Why wait for tomorrow, when you can start today #HoskWisdom

I have been busy with project work, thinking and reading that I neglected to write, I got out of the habit.  Everyone is busy making excuses, to explain why they aren’t doing what they really want to be doing, you have to admit it and change.

It doesn’t feel I stopped writing blogs because there are tons of notepads and Evernote pages full of half-written blog posts.  Writing clarifies thought and helps you understand your approach to problems.


I enjoy the writing process because thinking about a subjects helps you understand.  Many thoughts don’t make the finished post because one thought leads to another.  The quality of thought and understanding grows with each thought.  At the end you step back and view all your ideas and take the best bits and organise them into an interesting structure before sharing it with the world.

I’m going to extreme 365 in Dubrovnik because of my blog, another reason I’m thankful to my blog.

Older blog posts are thoughts, experiences, challenges and problems I experienced, there are over 1000 posts and I can’t remember most of them but I don’t need to because I can go back and read them.  I view the blog as a storing my thoughts and knowledge in the cloud with the benefit of being searchable by myself and others.

Be ready to read more Hosk writing this year

Dream big but start small #HoskWisdom

Hosk’s Top Dynamics 365 Articles of the week – 14th – August


But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. Ernest Hemingway

Articles of the week


Best of the rest



The Hosk – currently reading

Hosk’s CRM Developer Articles

A collection of my favorite CRM Developer articles I have written

CRM 2016 – Tips on passing the MB2-712 customization and config exam

All the CRM 2016 content to help you pass the exam

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The difficulties of scaled agile projects

There are many projects which are Agile in name but chaos in reality #HoskWisdom

The Agile framework is like a person with a hammer, all problems look like nails and all projects look like Agile projects #HoskWisdom


Agile/Scrum used on large/enterprise projects with multiple Scrum teams, scaled Agile increases the complexity of a project and if not managed, adding more people can slow projects because there is a cost to adding more people to a project and increasing complexity.

Many agile project require an increase in velocity to meet an earlier completion date, the common method is to add more people to the project.

These Brooks quotes, author of the Mythical man month are apt
Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. Fred Brooks
The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. Fred Brooks

Adding more resources (usually developers) to a project would seem sensible.  If one team have a velocity of 25 story points Sprint (Story points gets internally translated to days by 91 percent of the population #HoskWisdom).  So if there are 4 teams a velocity of 100 story points per sprint.

The reality is teams and individuals don’t start delivering 100 percent instantly because there are other factors to consider.

Increasing people on a project increases complexity of working, collaborating and communicating #HoskWisdom

These other factors have been explained by Brooks Law

Brooks Law

 Brooks points to the main factors that explain why it works this way:
  1. It takes some time for the people added to a project to become productive. Brooks calls this the “ramp up” time. Software projects are complex engineering endeavors, and new workers on the project must first become educated about the work that has preceded them; this education requires diverting resources already working on the project, temporarily diminishing their productivity while the new workers are not yet contributing meaningfully. Each new worker also needs to integrate with a team composed of several engineers who must educate the new worker in their area of expertise in the code base, day by day. In addition to reducing the contribution of experienced workers (because of the need to train), new workers may even make negative contributions, for example, if they introduce bugs that move the project further from completion.
  2. Communication overheads increase as the number of people increases. Due to combinatorial explosion, the number of different communication channels increases rapidly with the number of people.[3]Everyone working on the same task needs to keep in sync, so as more people are added they spend more time trying to find out what everyone else is doing.
  3. Limited divisibility of tasks. Adding more people to a highly divisible task such as reaping a field by hand decreases the overall task duration (up to the point where additional workers get in each other’s way). Some tasks are less divisible; Brooks points out that while it takes one woman nine months to make one baby, “nine women can’t make a baby in one month”.
The problems associated with adding new teams is ramping up, individuals need to learn/understand
  • Business logic
  • Project processes
  • Best resources for situations
  • Project politics
  • Collaborate with others

A scrum team takes 2 sprints to get up to  speed, usually 50% efficiency for sprint 1 and 60/70% in Sprint 2.  When you add the added overhead of trying to collaborate with other teams this can slow new teams further and slow existing teams.  

Deadlines are the common cause of adding more people to a project which adds more pressure to the project and the newly arriving people.

A big overhead is integrating the work from multiple teams into one solution, even with continuous integration there will be problems when bringing solutions together


Sutherland one of the creators of Scrum mentions scaling in this article

InfoQ: Now that more and more larger organizations are using Scrum, the need for scaling increases. Can you give some suggestions how organizations can scale Scrum?

Sutherland: Scrum is designed to grow like a biological system. To create a baby, you need one good cell that replicates. If this cell is bad you have a lot of problems. So the challenge is to first get a single team successful to use as a model for other teams, then replicate it. As you grow, Scrum as large follows the same basic principles as Scrum in the small. If it doesn’t you have introduced waste into the system. You will build out organ systems, just as in the human body that have some specialization and need some training on how to handle cross team coordination, elevating impediments all the way to senior management, avoiding the introduction of unnecessary teams that can compromise performance, and scrumming the entire organization.

We have published several papers showing that a properly scaled Scrum can provide linear increases in global velocity, something never seen before in software development. However, you need to do Scrum really well to make this happen.

Hosk thoughts on scaling agile projects

The first rule of large agile projects is not to do large agile projects #HoskWisdom

Large Agile or Scrum projects are difficult but this doesn’t mean Agile/Scrum are not right for large projects because large projects are difficult and have similar problems no matter the framework or methodology used.

Agile projects have an extra dimension because quick decisions are needed from empowered product owners to give Scrum direction and feedback

Having multiple teams adds the need for more communication and collaboration and managing dependencies between teams.

There are lots of different scaled agile frameworks, many of them discussed in article below

Comparing scaling agile frameworks

Most of the frameworks try to solve problems with shared resources between teams and collaboration between teams (Scrum of Scrums meeting).

If you want existing teams working efficiently, you must remove project level impediments before adding new teams.  When a team works well then try adding one more team at a time.

There are other reasons for project troubles

Is Safe Evil


Big projects are difficult, hard and challenging and having people with experience of large projects helps.  There is pressure with big agile projects because sprinting and collaborating create conflicts and complexity.

Stick with the processes and aim to keep improving your processes and relationships.  Challenging projects are the most satisfying to deliver because you have to work hard and earn the achievement of a successfully delivered project.

A few last great quotes from Fred Brooks on why projects are delivered late
Fifth, when schedule slippage is recognized, the natural (and traditional) response is to add manpower. Like dousing a fire with gasoline, this makes matters worse, much worse. More fire requires more gasoline, and thus begins a regenerative cycle which ends in disaster. [page 14]

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time. Fred Brooks

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The Top 10 Hosk Dynamics CRM blog posts for 2016

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results. Willie Nelson

The company that needs Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and hasn’t bought it, is already paying for it #HoskWisdom

I have written Dynamics CRM blogs for 6 years and this year I got the most views in a year 673873,  beating last years numbers 661057.  Thanks to all the people who read my blog posts and support the Hosk Dynamics CRM blog post.

I have written blog posts so long the default category is CRM 2011!

A lot of people have told me this year how the Hosk Dynamics CRM blog post has helped them which is great.

Here is a list of the most viewed blog post in 2016 (I am always tempted to write CRM 2016, that will now stop with Dynamics 365).  The views don’t include articles viewed on other sites.

Home page / Archives 48326
CRM 2013 – Understanding Solutions and how they work 13408
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Developer Interview Questions 12904
CRM 2013 – Step by Step Update Plugin Tutorial using the CRM 2013 Development Toolkit 11382
What are the limitations of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and how do you work with them? 10162
CRM 2015/CRM2013 – JavaScipt to get the current users name 9753
CRM 2013 – Javascript to get id of current record 7370
CRM 2015 – how to find Statecode value 7141
MB2-703 – CRM 2013 Customization and Configuration Certification Information 7131
CRM Plugins – Stopping infinite loops and understanding PluginExecutionContext.Depth 7005
Where is the CRM Developer toolkit for CRM 2015? 7004

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In Praise of the Incomplete Dynamics 365 consultant

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. John Wooden

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellencethen, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

During dynamics CRM projects there are many scenarios when something goes wrong.  Mistakes shouldn’t surprise us, CRM projects are complex, involving multiple people, processes and goals.

A project is organised chaos, setbacks and mistakes can lower affect the morale of the team but when mistake’s are opportunity to make strategic decisions to put the project back in the right direction, ensuring you are delivering the business goals

Don’t be surprised when mistakes happen during a Dynamics 365 project, be prepared #HoskWisdom 


In the excellent book The Mythical Man-month: Essays on Software Engineering Brooks challenges adding more people to a project to shorten time scales, highlighted by this quote

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
― Frederick P. Brooks Jr.Mythical Man-Month, The: Essays on Software Engineering

In the Mythical man-month Brooks discusses communication overhead, described here  Brooks Law

Communication overheads increase as the number of people increases. Due to combinatorial explosion, the number of different communication channels increases rapidly with the number of people. Everyone working on the same task needs to keep in sync, so as more people are added they spend more time trying to find out what everyone else is doing.”

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM projects meet project complexity overhead when a team works on different parts of a project becoming difficult to understand what other people are doing and how their information affects the CRM project.

The book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things RightAtul Gawande examines complexity and knowledge.  A problem doctors face is not having the required knowledge to cure patients but understanding what treatment should be used among a list of possibilities.  The increase in medical understanding has doctors struggling to make the correct diagnoses in time.

“sometime over the last several decades—and its only over the last several decades—science has filled in enough knowledge to make ineptitude as much our struggle as ignorance.”

― Atul GawandeThe Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects involve teams working on different partscollecting customers’ requirements and creating technical solution. The difficult to create CRM solutions aligned with business requirements, constraints and limitations required by the business, it’s a great breeding ground for mistakes and missteps.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects have many moving pieces with different directions and purposes.  You can’t focus on each piece because you need to understand the whole picture and overall strategy.  Dynamics 365 projects focus on many tasks and trying to understand the overall strategy can lead to mistakes because it‘s difficult to focus on many parts of a project with the same intensity.

Think like a datacentre

data center must not fail to keep within it‘s 99.9% uptime promise,  when failure occurs, it must recover because that what the customers pay for.

Microsoft Azure’s data centres need a strategy not to avoid hardware failure but to cope with hardware failure and not lose service.  Microsoft Azure allow you to choose different availability sets to reduce the likely hood of your servers being on the same rack, datacentre and country.

I’m not suggested you work on a project with the aim to fail but you should be prepared there will be mistakes and you must learn from them and not let mistake turn into failure.

Incomplete Leader

The article the In praise of the incomplete leader https://hbr.org/2007/02/in-praise-of-the-incomplete-leader inspired me to write a CRM version, the quote below gives a flavour.

It’s time to end the myth of the complete leader: the flawless person at the top who’s got it figured out. The sooner leaders stop trying to be all things to all peoplethe better off their organizations will be

The leader’s job is no longer to command and control but to cultivate and coördinate the actions of others at all levels of the organization. Only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete—as having both strengths and weaknesses—will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on others.

Incompleteness and Dynamics 365 Professionals

Incompleteness is a fact of life in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM professional, we
  • Incomplete requirements
  • Incomplete solutions
  • incomplete code
  • Incomplete knowledge
  • Incorrect estimates
  • incomplete knowledge of the project due to communication overhead issues + time issues

Customers expect dynamics 365 consultants and developers to be experts Microsoft Dynamics 365, Dynamics 365 professionals expect customers to be experts in their business, capturing their requirements, limitations and complexities of their business.

There is too much to knowtoo many distractions, not enough time in an IT project.  During a project mistakes are likely, we can miss something, not collect all requirements and there is plenty of scope for misinterpreting the requirements.

We shouldn’t be surprised when things go wrong or off track because this happens with people, complex requirements, complex solutions.

Two things are important

  • communication
  • relationships

When you add the two factors together you get collaboration.  Collaboration is a vital ingredient to a successful project and if you have worked on an unsuccessful project, you will find problems in the relationship and communication which created an environment ineffectual collaboration

Internal collaboration

CRM professionals won’t know everything individually, to be effective you must use the experience, knowledge and ideas of your colleagues.  The size and breath of CRM and related services means no one CRM professional can have deep knowledge of all new CRM features and new products.

Group knowledge/experience is key to delivering projects which don’t implement customisation not suited to the business requirements or might cause problems later down the line.

One attribute of CRM professional is to know when to get help or delegate part of the project to someone who specialises in that area.

Four Capabilities

leadership as a set of four capabilities: sensemaking (understanding the context in which a company and its people operate), relating (building relationships within and across organizations), visioning(creating a compelling picture of the future), and inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision).


Business requirements must always drive solutions, if a CRM solution is not aligned to a customers business needs it won’t make a significant impact or deliver significant gains to the customer.  When gather requirements the key is to ask the right questions, to do this you have to understand the context of the company and how it operates.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has generic functionality for sales, marketing, case management etc, most companies do not have generic requirements.  Companies want you to tailor the CRM solution to fit their individual way of working and their particularly business needs.

When gather requirements you must constantly relate them to the companies needs, goals to ensure you solution makes a business impact.

When demoing functionality the CRM professional must simplify the functionality to enable the user to understand what it does and how it works.  On the other side try to get the business users to simplify their requirements and remove any ambiguity.

Sometimes it‘s a case of the CRM professional keep working, understanding the business will help you understand the business requirements.  When you understand the reason behind a business requirement it‘s easier to understand and explain to other members of the team.


A successful project builds on the foundation of a good working relationship between the users and the CRM professional.   During the project you spend time asking the team to do things for the project, the better your relationship the quicker and better the users will carry out those tasks.

The key to building a good relationship is to understand the users perspective and present information so they can understand it.  Encourage input and listen to their options.  Successfull projects are collaborations between the user (business knowledge) and the CRM team (technical CRM knowledge).  Unsuccessful projects occur is when one side is to dominate or doesn’t listen to the other sides opinion.

The article called the key point is you when you understand where the user is coming from you can relate to their business requirements and functionality needed.  CRM professionals will find customers can find it hard to relate to Microsoft Dynamics 365 functionality you should use the customers business language and terminology to help visualise the solution.


You gather requirements, user stories which you use to create a solution.  The features of the solution must be easily traced back to the business goals/objectives.  When creating a solution create a compelling vision of the future and sell this to the customer, they must believe this will make their working life better by helping them to their job more effectively.

When creating the solution get input from the business and technical experts with deep knowledge of Dynamics 365 functionality.  Feedback from business users and technical experts is vital at these stage, you must find flaws and problem areas.  A useful tool is a premortem where you predict the source of problems with the solution and investigate it.

The problems you find in the designing the solution are easier to fix before you started creating the solution.  Problems you find later means rewriting code or reworking a customisation as well as designing an alternative which fits the constraints of an existing solution.

Don’t let bugs get into production environments


The customer needs to be prepared for the incomplete solution, it‘s this time when missed requirements, incomplete requirements and misunderstood requirements can distort the solution to not forefill the customers requirements.  Mmisaligned solutions are often assumptions not fully questioned.

A key part of delivering is to make sure the users get trained on the new system, customers can get frustrated and annoyed if they don’t understand how to use it.  The new system instead of helping them do their work, hinders the user because they can’t do something or it takes longer than the old familiar system.


Successfully delivering a project is an art not a science, you will make mistakes along the way.  A team delivers a project and the more people you have contributing the better it will be.

Projects must relate to the business goals, processes and the people who work there.  When project teams focus too much on technical solutions they can lose sight of the real purpose of the project and the CRM solution, help users archive business goals, which helps the business execute it‘s business strategy.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. Colin Powell

If someone does make a mistake, make sure they get given the Fail Fairy – The Fairy of failure – Who broke the build


The Birmingham Dynamics 365 user groups historic first meeting

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” -Helen Keller

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

Work is not about being clever it’s about working together

The Birmingham Dynamics 365 user group meeting and 15 people meet up at the chambers of commerce to discuss Dynamics 365 – Dynamics 365, What is it, Pros, Cons?

Group details

  1.  Check out the official meetup page and sign up – Birmingham Dynamics 365 user group
  2. To understand why you should join read this blog post – Birmingham Dynamics 365 User Group has startedJoin now
  3. We have 56 members and new members are joining all the time
  4. We plan on meeting once a month and having a deep dive on new Dynamics 365 features and functionality
  5. The group has great CRM professionals, including a CRM MPV – Neil Parkhurst USD MVP – who blogged a

The first meeting

The meeting started with a small talk from Neil Parkhurst summarising the recent CRM MVP summit.  Unfortunately due to the NDA he couldn’t tell use the details but it was interesting to hear about the work which goes into becoming a CRM MVP and  the MVP summit experience.

15 people turned up to the first meeting and the Dynamics 365 presentation produced interesting discussion on Dynamics 365, everyone’s understanding of it and how it will affect the future of Dynamics professionals and solutions.

bout the first meeting – new user group up and running 

I think the group will grow from strength to strength with more people turning up for meetings and I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting presentations and discussions.

The Hosk Blog

A few people at the meeting  thanked me for the content I published on my Dynamics CRM blog, it‘s great and humbling to know sharing my experiences and knowledge on Dynamics CRM has helped people.

When I started out blogging about Dynamics CRM, the goals of blogging was

  • Increase my knowledge on Dynamics CRM by explaining it to others
  • log errors and workarounds to help myself and others
  • An online brain dump for issues I had resolved
  • develop my understanding of how Dynamics CRM works

My goals focuesd on improving myself and improving my understanding of Dynamics CRM.  I have blogged about Dynamics CRM for years and I am meeting quite a few people recenctly who thank me for writing my blog posts and explain how my blog helped them either learn to develop Dynamics CRM solutions or helped resolve a problem.

I appreciate the great comments and I’m glad other people find the blog useful.

Two people who helped my blog

  • CRM MVP Adam Vero has left many comments which corrected parts of my blog posts and encouraged me to keep writing my blog
  • CRM MVP Gus Gonzalez who encouraged me to create posts featuring my own thoughts and ideas (the first 500 blog posts were of poor quality)

I’m not a CRM MVP but I’m glad the Hosk CRM blog has helped lots of people in the Dynamics CRM community.  Blog writing persistence pays off because I am meeting more and more people who tell me they are readers of my blog.

It gives me a platform to annoy people like Adam with #HoskWisdom to poor subsribers expected Dynamics 365/CRM posts but instead get some HoskWisdom

Signup, learn and have fun

If you live in the Midlands please sign up for the user group and meet excellent Dynamics professionals sharing experience, knowledge, opinions and stories on Dynamics 365 development.

I look forward to more interesting presentations and learning points from future meetings.

Great thanks to Imtiaz for setting up the Dynamics 365 user group