One of the exciting announcements that came out earlier this week, in tandem with Microsoft Build 2020, was the introduction of a new Power Platform exam and corresponding certification, which will be released later on this year. Exam PL-100 will target those building applications on top of Power Apps and, for those fortunate enough to get a passing grade in this exam, you will automatically receive the Power Platform App Maker Associate certification. Given the breadth of the platform as a whole, of which Dynamics 365 forms a separate, but arguably integral part, this move makes logical sense. Canvas Apps, in particular, only feature a tiny amount within some of the exams available today. This state of affairs means it’s incredibly difficult to both assess candidates detailed knowledge in Power Apps and demonstrate that individuals have sufficient ability in this area to build out practical solutions. PL-100 will, I hope, address both of these concerns in the most effective way. Also, and it has to be said, any opportunity to try and earn a new shiny certification badge is one that I, and I suspect others, will wholly embrace. :)
In terms of what to expect from the exam itself, we can get an initial glimpse by reviewing the skills measured document, which breaks down what candidates need to know to achieve a passing grade. Having read through this in detail, I thought I’d highlight some of the areas of interest arising from this and indicate specific areas of attention if you are considering sitting this exam in future:
- Accessibility and localisation are in front of centre in this exam and also something you should consider anyway when it comes to designing your apps. Candidates should, therefore, familiarise themselves with the tools within canvas Power Apps to help identify and fix accessibility issues and also how you can localise model-driven apps on a per-language basis. You can achieve this by either using RESX files, installing new languages onto the tenant or by exporting/importing entity/field text translations.
- Solutions sit within the area of the exam with the most weighting, with candidates expected to know how to create one, alongside its corresponding solution publisher. It’s interesting to note here though that the specification does not mention anything about understanding the differences between unmanaged / managed solutions or how you can use the Solution Checker to identify issues with your developed components. This omission perhaps would indicate that these are not areas candidates should demonstrate knowledge in, but I would caution against ignoring them entirely as part of your revision.
- Understanding what I would term as basic entity customisation will be a necessary pre-requisite before sitting this exam. Specifically, you will need to know how to create entities, fields, relationships and how you can load data into your new entities - via the more traditional tools available within Dynamics 365 or through more modern mechanisms, such as data flows.
- Microsoft dedicates a whole section of the exam towards Dynamics 365 / Common Data Service processes - including Business Rules, Business Process Flows and classic workflows. As an integral component within any model-driven app, it is unsurprising that this is an area chosen for assessment and should not be one you take for granted during your revision. Power Automate flows also have a whole section dedicated to them, covering pretty much the entire development lifecycle of a flow. Do not neglect any of these areas and take time to understand the best usage scenario for each feature, based on their capabilities. For example, classic workflows can be executed in real-time, whereas flows cannot. Therefore, if the requirement is to apply any custom logic as soon as a user saves a Dynamics 365 / Common Data Service record, classic workflows will be the most logical choice.
- From the looks of it, the exam assesses on a relatively new, preview feature for canvas Power Apps, known as components. If you haven’t experimented around with these yet, then I would urge you to take a look, as they can significantly reduce the amount of time involved when building out multiple apps, by grouping together re-usable groupings of various controls.
- Although it forms a minimal part of the overall exam (between 5-10%), be sure to understand how SSRS reports function within Dynamics 365 / the Common Data Service and the potential usage cases for these compared with Power BI reports. An excellent example of this is that SSRS reports let you read data directly from the Common Data Service database in real-time and allow you to export out information into a variety of different formats.
- Although it again forms a relatively small part of the exam, I would urge you to set up a trial of the AI Builder capabilities within Power Apps and experiment around with their features within a canvas app. The object detector component is one that is both straightforward and quite fun to test further with, producing some intriguing results in the process.
- Continuing the general cross-over theme alluded to already, the exam will also assess candidates on the many of the security components within Dynamics 365 / the Common Data Service - including security roles and field-level security. Interspersed with this, you should also understand how to go about sharing a canvas or model-driven app, as there are a few gotchas here that may surprise you. Understanding the behaviour, and implications, of implicit connections, is also a key area I would draw your attention towards; not just for this exam, but for when you are implementing these solutions in the wild. For example, if your app is using a SQL Server connection, users leveraging this app will use the same connection details you have defined when building the app out.
- Version control of canvas apps is an area that traditional Dynamics 365 professionals should draw their attention towards, and is one that is strictly related to canvas Power Apps only. Spend some time understanding how versioning works, how apps are published out and also how you can restore your Power App to a previous version using the portal.
As you can see, there is a lot to take into account with this new exam, and I suspect it will present a challenge for candidates when it is released. Hopefully, this post has given you a good insight into what to expect and hasn’t put you off in the process. I’m looking forward to sitting this exam as soon as it becomes available. Let me know your thoughts on the exam in the comments below and whether you plan to take it as well once released!