As I tweeted a couple of days ago, my head has been spinning with Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E) recently ūüôā :

https://twitter.com/joejgriffin/status/850419515401924609

I took a detailed look at the upgrade process involved as part CRM Online organisations last year, and thankfully the process has not changed much. Indeed, the whole upgrade seemed to complete a lot quicker – 40-50 minutes as opposed to over an hour, which was nice to see.

As part of any planned upgrade, you should always endeavour to perform a thorough test of your existing application customisations with an environment running the latest version – either with a spare sandbox instance on your subscription or by spinning up a 30 day trial of D365E. We were quite thorough as part of our upgrade process with respect to testing, and fortunately, the upgrade completed with only some minor issues left to deal with. For those who are contemplating or have their upgrade scheduled in over the next few weeks/months, then there will be a few things that you may need to be aware of ahead of time to avoid you having to deal with any potential problems with your new D365E deployment. With this in mind, here are 3 things from our upgrade process that bear in mind before you make the jump to 8.2:

Switch Off Learning Path in System Settings To Prevent Annoying Popups

Attempting to keep up with the number of new features that Dynamics 365 brings to the table is a colossal task. It was for this reason that I only became aware of the new Learning Path feature. Boasting functionality that is not too dissimilar to products such as WalkMe and available across the whole spectrum of the D365E experience (Web Client, ISH and Mobile/Tablet app), the feature is designed to provide a guided means of training new application users on how Dynamics 365 works within the specific context of your business. Induction and new user training can be one of the major hurdles that can affect the success of a system deployment, so having a very contextualised, built-in and guided process of training and reminding users how to complete tasks within the application can surely be an important tool for any organisation to have at their disposal.

Unfortunately, the feature looks to be a little bit too intrusive from an end user experience viewpoint, as leaving the feature enabled post-upgrade will result in the application attempting to open pop-ups through your browser of choice:

To disable the feature until you are ready to start rolling it out across your business, then you have two options at your disposal:

  1. Direct your end-users to select the Opt Out of Learning Path option from the gear icon on the D365E sitemap area:
  2. Go to System Settings and then select No under the Enable Learning Path option. This is the recommended option, as it will disable the feature across the board for all users:

Modify Your Error Notification Preferences Options for all users

Error messages can occur occasionally within the web application. Generally, these will take the form of the Send Error Report To Microsoft variety, and can result from either a problem within the application itself or an error that has been caused by a developer customisation (e.g. JScript function, Sitemap amend etc.). The default setting for this is that users will be prompted before an error report is sent to Microsoft on these occasions. Having the default setting enabled can prove useful when diagnosing issues with the application, but could cause problems and distress for your end users if the application is throwing them regularly.

Whether due to customisations involved as part of the above upgrade system or a fault with D365E itself, these error messages seem to be throwing a lot more often in the latest version of the application; in fact, almost pretty much every time a user leaves a record. The error messages are sufficiently non-descript and lacking any reference to customisations made to the system (such as a JScript function name) to indicate that it could be a problem with the customisations itself. By selecting the option to send the error reports to Microsoft, you can ensure that these errors will be looked into and hopefully addressed as part of a security update in the future. But I would recommend, if you are upgrading to D365E, to ensure that have selected the Automatically send an error report to Microsoft within asking the user for permission on the Privacy Settings page to ensure that your end-users are not getting bombarded with constant error messages:

Don’t Upgrade Just Yet If You Are Using Scribe Online

Scribe Online is currently one of the de-facto tools of choice if you are looking to accomplish very basic integration requirements around CRM. The tool enables you to straightforwardly export your application data into external sources – whether they are SQL-based data sources or even completely different applications altogether. I have not had much direct experience with the tool myself, but I can attest to its relative ease-of-use; I do take issue, however, with how the tool operates within a CRM environment. For example, it creates a custom entity directly within your CRM instance within the default solution, using the default solution prefix (new_). Most ISV solutions instead deploy any required customisations out to the application using the much better supported and best practice route of Managed Solutions, allowing application administrators to better determine which components are deployed out as part of a 3rd party solution and to expedite any potential removal of the solution in future. Having said all that, Scribe Online should be your first port of call if you have a requirement to integrate with external systems as part of your CRM solution.

Now, I deliberately avoided mentioning D365E in the above paragraph, as it looks as if the Scribe Online tool has issues either as a direct result of the upgrade process involved with D365E or due to Scribe Online itself. Shortly after upgrading, the application/Scribe Online will modify the properties of your entity records to set the modifiedon field to the same value for every single entity record. If the number of records in your entity exceeds the default amount of records that can be returned programmatically (thereby requiring the use of a paging cookie), then Scribe will return an error message similar to the below when it next attempts to run your RS solution:

Unable to get the next page of data. Dynamics CRM has not advanced the page cookie for Entity:new_mycustomentity, PagingCookie: <cookie page=”2″><modifiedon last=”2017-01-03T06:42:21-00:00″ first=”2017-01-03T06:42:21-00:00″ /><new_mycustomentityid last=”{A56661B7-C969-E611-80EF-5065F38A8A01}” first=”{797EAA25-1645-E611-80E1-5065F38A4AD1}” /></cookie>

This issue looks to be occurring for other organisations who have upgraded as well, and Scribe have published an online support article with a suggested workaround for this situation provided by Felix Chan:

To work around the issue, we used JavaScript with the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Web API to update all of the account records by changing the value of a field we don’t use (e.g. telephone3) from null to “” (which translated back to null). Needless to say, this effectively updated the modifiedon datetime stamp. It also resulted in the change to Telephone 3 to show up in the Audit History of each account record.

The above Workaround is all very well and good if you dealing with a small number of records and have the appropriate knowledge on how to implement some form-level JScript functions. But my concern will be for organisations who lack this knowledge and are instead left with a solution that does not work. Despite not having firm proof of this either, I suspect that the issue is a fault with Scribe itself and not as a result of the upgrade. This is based solely on the value of the modifiedon field being well after the upgrade has taken place and during the time when our RS Solution was running. Scribe need to ideally acknowledge the existence of this issue and confirm what is causing the error to take place; but, in the meantime, if you are reliant on Scribe Online for business-critical integrations, I would strongly recommend to hold off on upgrading until this issue is acknowledged or until you can identify a replacement service that does not suffer from this problem. In our case, we were only using Scribe Online to backup our application data to an Azure SQL database and were instead able to get up and running quickly with the rather excellent Dynamics 365 Data Export Service.

When working with form-level JScript functionality on Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E), you often uncover some interesting pieces of exposed functionality that can be utilised neatly for a specific business scenario. I did a blog post last year on arguably one of the best of these functions when working with Lookup field controls – the Xrm.Page.getControl().addPreSearch method. Similar to other methods exposed via the SDK, its prudent and effective implementation can greatly reduce the amount of steps/clicks that are involved when populating Entity forms.

I’ve already covered as part of last years post just what this method does, its sister method, addCustomFilter, and also some of the interesting problems that are encountered when working with the Customer lookup field type; a special, recently introduced field type that allows you to create a multi-entity lookup/relationship onto the Account and Contact entities on one field. I was doing some work again recently using these method(s) in the exact same conditions, and again came across some interesting quirks that are useful to know when determining whether the utilisation of these SDK methods is a journey worth starting in the first place. Without much further ado, here are two¬†additional scenarios that involve utilising these methods and the “lessons learned” from each:

Pre-Filtering the Customer Lookup to return Account or Contact Records Only

Now, your first assumption with this may be that, if you wanted your lookup control to only return one of the above entity types, then surely it would be more straightforward to just setup a dedicated 1:N relationship between your corresponding entity types to achieve this? The benefits of this seem to be pretty clear – this is a no-code solution that, with a bit of ingenious use of Business Rules/Workflows, could be implemented in a way that the user never even suspects what is taking place (e.g. Business Rule to hide the corresponding Account/Contact lookup field if the other one contains a value). However, assume one (or all) of the following:

  • You are working with an existing System entity (e.g. Quote, Opportunity) that already has the Customer lookup field defined. This would, therefore, mean you would have to implement duplicate schema changes to your Entity to accommodate your scenario, a potential no-no from a best practice point of view.
  • Your entity in question already has a significant amount of custom fields, totalling more than 200-300 in total. Additional performance overheads may occur if you were to then choose to create two separate lookup fields as opposed to one.
  • The entity you are customising already has a Customer lookup field built in, which is populated with data across hundreds, maybe thousands, of records within the application. Attempting to implement two separate lookups and then going through the exercise of updating¬†every record to populate the correct lookup field could take many hours to complete and also have unexpected knock-on effects across the application.

In these instances, it may make more practical sense to implement a small JScript function to conditionally alter how the Customer Lookup field allows the user to populate records when working on the form. The benefit of this being is that you can take advantage of the multi-entity capablities that this field type was designed for, and also enforce the integrity of your business logic/requirements on the applications form layer.

To that end, what you can look at doing is applying a custom FetchXML snippet that prevents either Account or Contact records from returning when a user clicks on the control. Paradoxically, this is not done by, as I first assumed, using the following snippet:

var filter = "<filter type='and'><condition attribute='accountid' operator='not-null' /></filter>";
Xrm.Page.getControl("mycustomerlookupfield").addCustomFilter(filter, "account");

This will lead to no records returning on your lookup control. Rather, you will need to filter the opposite way Рonly return Contact records where the contactid equals Null i.e. the record does not exist:

var filter = "<filter type='and'><condition attribute='contactid' operator='null' /></filter>";
Xrm.Page.getControl("mycustomerlookupfield").addCustomFilter(filter, "contact");

Don’t Try and Pass Parameters to your addCustomerFilter Function (CRM 2016 Update 1)

If your organisation is currently on Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1, then you may encounter a strange – and from what I can gather, unresolvable – issue if you are working with multiple, parameterised functions in this scenario. To explain further, lets assume you have a Customer Lookup and a Contact Lookup field on your form. You want to filter the Contact Lookup field to only return Contacts that are associated with the Account populated on the Customer Lookup. Assume that there is already a mechanism in place to ensure that the Customer lookup will always have an Account record populated within it, and your functions to use in this specific scenario may look something like this:

function main() {

    //Filter Contact lookup field if Customer lookup contains a value

    var customerID = Xrm.Page.getAttribute('mycustomerlookupfield').getValue();

    if (customerID != null) {
   
        Xrm.Page.getControl("mycontactfield").addPreSearch(filterContactNameLookup(customerID[0].id));
    }
    
}

function filterContactNameLookup(customerID) {

    var filter = "<condition attribute='parentcustomerid' operator='eq' value='" + customerID + "' />";
    Xrm.Page.getControl("mycontactfield").addCustomFilter(filter, "account");

}

The above example is a perfectly sensible means of implementing this. Because, surely, it make more practical sense to only obtain the ID of our Customer Lookup field in one place and then pass this along to any subsequent functions? The problem is that CRM 2016 Update 1 throws some rather cryptic errors in the developer console when attempting to execute the code, and does nothing on the form itself:

Yet, when we re-write our functions as follows, explicitly obtaining our Customer ID on two occasions, this runs as we’d expect with no error:

function main() {

    //Filter Contact lookup field if Customer lookup contains a value

    var customerID = Xrm.Page.getAttribute('mycustomerlookupfield').getValue();

    if (customerID != null) {
   
        Xrm.Page.getControl("mycontactfield").addPreSearch(filterContactNameLookup);
    }
    
}

function filterContactNameLookup() {

    var customerID = Xrm.Page.getAttribute('mycustomerlookupfield').getValue()[0].id;
    var filter = "<condition attribute='parentcustomerid' operator='eq' value='" + customerID + "' />";
    Xrm.Page.getControl("mycontactfield").addCustomFilter(filter, "account");

}

I’ve been scratching my head at why this doesn’t work, and the only thing I can think of is that the first function – main – would be executed as part of the forms OnLoad event, whereas the filterContactNameLookup is only triggered at the point in which the lookup control is selected. It’s therefore highly possible that the first instance of the customerID is unobtainable by the platform at this stage, meaning that you have to get the value again each time the lookup control is interacted with. If anyone else can figure out what’s going on here or confirm whether this is a bug or not with Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1, then do please let me know in the comments below.

Conclusions or Wot I Think

It could be argued quite strongly that the examples shown here in this article have little or no use practical use if you are approaching your CRM/D365E implementation from a purely functional point of view. Going back to my earlier example, it is surely a lot less hassle and error-prone to implement a solution using a mix of out of the box functionality within the application. The problem that you eventually may find with this is that the solution becomes so cumbersome and, frankly, undecipherable when someone is coming into your system cold. With anything, there always a balance should be striven for on all occasions and, with a bit of practical knowledge of how to write JScript functionality (something that any would-be CRM expert should have stored in their arsenal), you can put together a solution that is relatively clean from a coding point of view, but also benefits from utilising some great functionality built-in to the application.

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 ‚Äúfamily”.

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:

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 ūüôā

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.

Perhaps one of the best pieces of news arising from the detail behind the Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E) announcement was the introduction of a number of freebies that are included as part of any subscription. Previously, under CRM Online licensing, you would have to purchase a number of Professional licenses before getting any free items. Now, regardless of the number of user licenses in your subscription, new and existing customers get all of the following at no additional charge:

  • 10GB of total database storage across all of your instances (Production/Sandbox)
  • Free Sandbox instance
  • Free Portal
  • Add-on services, such as Microsoft Flow and Project Online.

Given that the monthly cost for most of the above previously amounted to a significant figure¬†in the hundreds of ¬£’s, it is good to now see that arguably essential subscription elements (for example, Sandbox instances, to ensure a separate¬†development/testing environment for customisations) are included at no additional charge.¬†The question of whether or not this is value for money, however, is something that will likely depend on the size of your¬†D365E deployment and the number/type of user licenses involved.

With this in mind, there is doubtless a high amount of impetus to encourage organisations who are currently on Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1 or earlier and/or are still on the “old” Office 365 SKUs for CRM Online to start migrating across to one of the new plans – either Enterprise Plan 1, Dynamics 365 for Sales/Field Service etc. or Team Members.¬†Organisations who are still on CRM Online plans can choose to either upgrade now or when their plan retires, in addition being able to take advantage of transition upgrade pricing. In some cases, this can amount to an average reduction in monthly prices of up to 20%. Therefore, if you are currently paying for excess storage at ¬£7.50 per GB per month, additional sandbox instances at ¬£113.10 per month and a Portal instance at a whopping ¬£377 per month, then there may be a good business case for not waiting until renewal and to upgrade straight away to the new D365E SKU’s.

This was certainly the case with an organisation I was working with previously. The deployment was rather small in nature, approximately 60-70 users in total. The majority of licenses were allocated towards Basic and Essential license types. As such, the organisation was unable to benefit from the previous offer of a free sandbox instance with 25 CRM Professional licenses and additional, free database storage with more Professional users; meaning that they had to buy 2 additional sandbox instances and a large amount of additional storage to cover their requirements as part of the solution. The organisation was, therefore, an excellent candidate to transition across their CRM Online Professional to Plan 1 Enterprise license types.

With the above TechnNet article open and during an appropriate out of hours timeslot, I was then tasked with carrying out the license migration. I was relieved that the process went largely to plan, with no major hiccups. I was able to confirm successfully that the free sandbox instance appeared within the Dynamics 365 Administration centre after purchasing the new plans and did not vanish when cancelling the CRM Online Professional subscription. However, the same could not be said for the free storage. In the past, myself and colleagues have observed that purchasing additional storage can take some time to appear on the Dynamics 365 Administration Centre Рsometimes up to an hour or more. After noting no change in the storage count after waiting this long, it definitely looked as if something had gone wrong as part of the upgrade. : /

After temporarily adding on some additional storage to cover the amount that we expected to gain as part of the transition and waiting until the next weekday, I opened a support ticket with Microsoft to clarify the situation regarding the additional 5GB of free storage we were expecting to receive and to determine whether something had in fact gone wrong. In good time, I was duly informed the following by a Microsoft support representative:

We informed you that ‚Äúto get 5gb free storage for their organisation, update of CRM organisation to 8.2 is recommended and you will receive this free storage whenever your organization will be updated‚ÄĚ.

At this juncture, it should be noted that one crucial piece of information has been left out as part of the above ūüôā All of the organisations CRM instances were at version 8.1. According to the above then, one (or all) of the organisations Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1 instances need to be upgraded to D365E to take advantage of the free storage offer.

Since the above incident, we have scheduled in all of the organisations instances to be upgraded to 8.2 i.e. to D365E. I will report back after this upgrade has been completed to confirm the presence (or lack thereof) of the additional 5GB storage. Why the scepticism? I find it rather strange that you have to upgrade¬†all¬†of your instances to the latest version to take advantage of the new storage offer. I was always under the impression that the storage “layer” of your CRM/D365E instances are separate from the instances themselves. This being the case, I had therefore assumed that the SKU change would have been the flag to tell¬†Administration Centre to add on an additional 5GB storage. This would appear to be how the additional Sandbox instance worked because, as demonstrated above, the free instance updated into Administration Centre without issue. The world of CRM/D365E can always throw up interesting and bizarre behaviours, so I won’t rule anything out at this stage. Stay tuned…

UPDATE (28/03/2017): Well, I can confirm that the support engineer is correct and at least one of your instances as part of your subscription needs to be running 8.2 for the free additional storage to appear on the portal. So if you have a spare instance and are itching to get your hands on additional database space, then I would recommend that you reset one of your spare sandbox instances to the latest version via the Administration Centre.

In the world of Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E), the start of the year generally means the introduction of new exams in line with the latest version of the product. 2017 is no exception to this rule and, at the time of writing, there are 4 new D365E exams that you can start to get your teeth into:

Microsoft appears to be drip feeding the current wave of exams this time around: the first exam to popup was MB2-716 at the start of February, with the remaining exams cropping up over the last week or so. What’s also worth noting is that the current exam list for D365E is only viewable via the US Microsoft Learning site; if you are UK based like me, then the current Dynamics certification page makes no mention of the new exams…yet. I seem to remember this being a problem last year as well and, like back then, you can still book your exam and sit it in your country of choice by simply going through the US Microsoft Learning Website.

Exams present a good opportunity to re-familiarise yourself with areas of a particular product that you have not had much exposure to previously, as well as introducing you to anything new that has been introduced over the past year. In this week’s blog post, I will take a closer look at the new exams and the differences that new and previous candidates should make note of before preparing to revise.

Customer Organizational Structure: What It Is and Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Both the MB20715 and MB2-717 dedicate a significant percentage of exam performance on a candidate’s ability to ‘Create a Customer Organizational Structure‘. Exam veterans may initially be put off by this terminology, as it is not something that has ever been referenced previously. Upon closer inspection of both exams, the skills measured differs, compounding any potential confusion. Fortunately, the top-level terminology is more confusing than what is underneath. To simplify things for those who may be still scratching their heads, here is a breakdown for each exam of what you will need to focus on:

  • MB2-715
    • Support the Microsoft Dynamics 365 client environment: This covers things such as knowing which browsers are compatible with D365E, which mobile devices/operating systems that the mobile app support and also minimum software/hardware requirements for the D365E App for Outlook (Note: this is NOT the same as the¬†Dynamics 365 for Outlook).
    • Deploy Microsoft Dynamics: This will likely cover what license types are available, what permissions they grant across the application and also what features you get as part of a subscription. For example, remember that subscriptions now include a free sandbox and 10GB database storage.
    • Import Data into the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Environment: This will cover the Data Import Wizard and all its subtle nuances, as well as the new Data Loader service (surprising, given that it is still in preview apparently).
    • Manage the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Environment:¬†This is likely to cover all of the Office 365 “soft skills” that are required as part of managing D365E Online and, rather interestingly, Single Sign-On (SSO) via Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) – something that has only ever come up as part of On-Premise exams previously.
  • MB2-717
    • Manage Customer Records: This will include topics covering your “basic” record types and how they behave (Accounts, Contacts etc.), as well as having to demonstrate knowledge of Business Units and how to structure the application to match a business hierarchy.
    • Manage the Sales Process: This will cover your full sales qualification process – Lead to Opportunity to Quote to Order to Invoice – and how these record types interact, the unique behaviours of each and potentially some stuff covering Business Process Flows.
    • Manage Customer Communication: Same as the above, this will be focused towards knowledge of Opportunity and Lead records. There may also be a sneaky question or 2 about Social Engagement chucked in, based on the terminology used.
    • Manage sales literature and competitors:¬†This will include working with document templates, the Competitor record type and potentially some questions regarding Connections and Connection Roles.

So on balance, nothing too scary as part of the above for those who have sat previous exams. That’s why it’s always important to dig deeper behind a headline to get the true story underneath!

And It’s Goodnight From Me: Saying Farewell to the On-Premise Exam

One notable absentee from the list of new exams is the On-Premise Installation exam. The previous exam for 2016, MB2-711, demonstrates a candidate’s proficiency in installing and administrating the On-Premise version of Dynamics 2016; something which, based solely on my own experience managing an on-premise lab environment, is no small feat. Now it very much looks if this exam has gone the way of the Dodo.¬†As highlighted by legendary CRM/D365E MVP Mark Smith, there is currently no content on the Dynamics Learning Portal/Imagine Academy that covers On-Premise installation of D365E.

Although the retirement of this exam type (if true) does come with some drawbacks for those who may be tasked with supporting on-premise versions of the application in the near future, it is perhaps not surprising. The key thing that Microsoft have been trying to highlight as part of the D365E release is the clear benefit of the cloud version of the product over its companion, self-hosted versions. This is why Microsoft have been offering incentivised upgrade pathways, sprinkled with a generous helping of price reductions, to motivate organisations to move to the Online version of the product. Whilst On-Premise D365E will continue to have a role to play in the months and years ahead – which is why Microsoft offer Dual Use Rights with online subscriptions (see below) – its role will be relegated to merely providing organisations with an offline mechanism for deploying development/test environments within their own infrastructure.

Excerpt from the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition Licensing Guide. Click on the image to download the full guide.

With regards to some of the topic areas covered by the former On-Premise Installation exam – such as Server-Side-Synchronisation and CRM for Outlook – you can be assured/annoyed at the fact that these topics are picked up within the new MB2-715 exam instead. So don’t take these subjects too lightly when revising ūüôā

Missed Opportunities

As we welcome the new exams and what they can offer, they also present an opportunity to evaluate what is missing and what could be improved upon in the future. With this in mind, here are a few things that are a shame to be have been missed as part of this wave of exam releases:

  • With the retirement of MB2-701: Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 at the end of the last year, the death knell was signalled for Developer CRM/D365E certifications. With no current exam on the horizon to replace MB2-701, this presents a major missed opportunity. Familiar readers of the blog will know that I have railed against this in the past, chiefly for the reason is that it creates a lack of incentivisation for existing functional CRM consultants or developers new to the product to take a dive and learn what is possible via the platform through coding. I hope that this is eventually addressed and that we see an Extending Dynamics 365 exam or similar released in future.
  • I did a post last year discussing the possible imminence of a CRM Portal exam, based on evidence garnered from the Adxstudio website. CRM Portals is such a huge product in of itself, that presents its own unique blend of learning curves and challenges when coming from a purely CRM-focused background. Having an exam dedicated solely to this presents, in my view, the surest way pathway for those interested in implementing the product as part of future projects to get running with it. This being the case, it is a shame that a Portal Exam has not yet been included as part of the above list.
  • I did hear some rumours last year that Microsoft was planning on “resetting” the current state of affairs regarding CRM/D365E exams and their status within the Microsoft certification hierarchy. Unlike the “big hitters” in the Microsoft range of products, such as Azure and Office 365, which have MCSA/MCSE level qualifications, CRM/D365E have continually been relegated to Microsoft Specialist level for each of the exams passed; something which, I have to admit, does not look as snazzy on your C.V. ūüôĀ I was hoping that with the love and attention shown to CRM last year as part of the D365E rebranding, that we would see a brand new D365E MCSA released. Perhaps this may happen in the future, as I believe this is one of the ways that Microsoft can clearly signal the importance of D365E moving forward.

Conclusions or Wot I Think

I have yet to sit any of the new exams, although it is something that I am tentatively planning for over the next couple of months. It will be interesting to see how the experience differs compared to previous exams, if at all. Despite the rebranding, the content of these exams feels to be very safe on balance; i.e. the structure is largely identical compared to their equivalent 2016 version, with some slight peppering of new content to cover some of the muted new features within the product. Some new features appear to have been left out altogether – for example, there is no specific mention of some of the new Process updates or even the new built-in Sitemap editor. 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.” This would also have the added benefit of providing¬†candidates with the opportunity to more clearly specialise within non-traditional areas of the application.