I did a blog post a few weeks ago discussing the new Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E) exams that have been steadily coming out since the start of the year. At the time, I mused that there may be more to expect in the future exam-wise:
I would hope that these exams are a stop-gap for a completely new range of exams that will be released in the future, that place the D365E application front and centre with the other much-loved favourites in the Microsoft “family".
At the time of writing this, I had very much intended “future” to be a long time away - certainly 2018 at the earliest. With this being said, it was therefore incredibly surprising/pleasing to find out earlier this week of the introduction of two new certification types for D365E: The Microsoft Dynamics 365 MCSA and the Business Applications MCSE:
Big thanks to CRM trainer extraordinaire, Julian Sharp, for posting about the release and bringing it to everyone’s attention. AX fans can also rejoice, as an MCSA has also been released that covers the new version of this application, rebranded as Dynamics 365 for Operations. Previously, AX was in the same boat as Dynamics CRM in being restricted to Specialist-level exams only.
How To Get the New Certifications
Both the MCSA and MCSE are designed to fit around the current exam lists that have been released for Dynamics 365, specifically all of the ones that I have looked at previously on the blog. This means that, in practice, there is nothing additional or special that you need to prepare for; and, to be honest with you, CRM exam veterans should find little difficulty in obtaining the certifications. Here’s why, as I summarise what you need to do get each respective certification:
- MCSA: Pass exam MB2-715 (Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement Online Deployment) and MB2-716 (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customization and Configuration)
- MCSE: Obtain either the Dynamics 365 or Dynamics 365 for Operations MCSA and then pass an additional exam relating to a specific application area - for D365E, this can either be MB2-717 (Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales) or MB2-718 (Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service). Like with other MCSE’s, you will need to “keep up with the Joneses” each year by passing a fresh exam to maintain your certifications. At this stage, it is not clear what exam this will need to be, although I suspect it will be the exam that you didn’t pass the first time i.e. if you pass MB2-717, then you will need to pass MB2-718 the next year.
So it might very well be the case that, if you have passed any or all of the above exams already, then there will be something new and shiny on your exam transcript from Microsoft :)
How the certifications stack up against other MCSA’s/MCSE’s
Looking at how the MCSA compares with some of the other ones out there, there is definitely less exam content that you need to thoroughly learn before sitting the exams. That being said, the Dynamics 365 MCSA is very much geared to the types of skills that are measured as part of other MCSA’s - namely, how to setup the application in question and how to manage it. It is only when you start to get into the upper echelons of the MCSE that you start to see specialisation in specific application areas. This is similar to how SQL Server Reporting Services is treated, as there is very little exam material covering this at SQL Server MCSA level. For D365E, this is a very good approach to take, as a lot of the information that you will need to learn as part of customizing CRM/D365E in the past is instantly applicable to the Sales/Case Management exams, and even gives you a head-start in making assumptions about how these system entities operate.
When I look at the requirements needed for the MCSE, I can’t help but feel that the exam requirements are somewhat simple (without wanting to be too glib, given that I have yet to sit either exam!). Having said that, it does seem that the requirements for MCSE’s have been relaxed across the board and the re-certification requirements have also been overhauled to take into account the increased frequency of releases across the Microsoft range of products.
Why their introduction is so important
The success of D365E and, indeed, the entire rebranding of the range of Dynamics applications depends solely on how the range of applications are perceived within the range of other products in the “Microsoft family”. If there is an imbalance at all anywhere in the chain, then customers who are evaluating the product are not going to take a second look at it. Because, let’s face it - if the organisation that is selling the product does not seem to care about it, why should you?
I think back to a recent evaluation that I did of an anti-virus and device endpoint encryption product from one of the largest computer technology companies in the world. The product in question was acquired a few years back by the company and, when evaluating it, it was indeed an excellent and perhaps greatly innovative solution to have in place within an organisation. Our interest was killed quickly by the following factors:
- It took weeks to arrange a demo. As we found out after the fact, the demo request went through the corporate maze, as no one could figure out who was responsible for carrying out pre-sales demos.
- After the demo was scheduled and completed, attempting to obtain pricing information was nigh on impossible; again, it went through the corporate maze and we gave up in the end due to the delay.
- The product itself was not mentioned in great detail on the organisation’s website, only a token page or 2 outlining what it is and what it does (in a very poor manner)
All of the above stems from the fact the organisation was not actively behind the product at every single opportunity; even a weakness in one of these areas could make or break the success of a product when presented to potential customers.
Education and certification is an important element of this, as organisations can take comfort that a product has a range of effective and recognisable certifications that demonstrate an individuals or organisations competency in delivering solutions utilising it. From a Microsoft standpoint, the MCSA and MCSE are the gold standard of accreditations. If a Microsoft product does not have a corresponding MCSA at the very least, you can bet that it is not a great product or has not been given the love and attention needed to bring it to the forefront as part of potential sales opportunities. Now that we finally have MCSA and MCSE qualifications for D365E, we can now start to say definitively that this is the time for Dynamics 365. No longer is the product just the black horse contender for CRM/ERP king amongst the likes of SalesForce and Oracle; it is an established presence and very much here to stay.