Becoming a Certified Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE Functional Consultant

If you are going to be working on implementations of Dynamics 365 having certifications under your belt can help demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge that make you up to the task – although there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Depending on your role, the certifications you are interested in might differ. With Dynamics expertise, the job title that gets a lot of attention is functional consultant, and you can now earn associate-level certification as a functional consultant for any of the main Dynamics 365 CE and F&O verticals:

  • Sales (CE)
  • Customer Service (CE)
  • Marketing (CE)
  • Field Service (CE)
  • Financials (F&O)
  • Manufacturing (F&O)
  • Supply Chain Management (F&O)

You see, Microsoft recently switched up its certification structure for Dynamics 365. In fact you may have noticed a wave of LinkedIn notifications a while back from all the people who earned the certs while they were still in beta (congratulations to all those people by the way!). These new exams are replacing the old exams, and in turn the new certifications are replacing the old ones.

Until recently, you could earn an expert-level certification as a Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) in Business Applications for Dynamics 365. You see, Microsoft certifications have 3 levels: Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert, with Expert being the highest level of certification currently available for any kind of certification.

The MCSE in business applications for Dynamics required you to first earn a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate certification in Dynamics, requiring exams such as MB2-715 (now retired) before taking more exams to upgrade to the expert-level. This was significant because with the old Certification system, you could earn the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) designation by getting the expert-level MCSE certification.

as of right now there is no expert-level certification available for Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE.

This is being revamped – the designation that you will now earn going forward is Microsoft Certified Functional Consultant – by getting certified in one (or more) of the functional areas of Dynamics 365 for CE. You do this by passing the MB-200 Exam, plus one additional exam per functional area you want to get certified in: Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, or Field Service. It is interesting and important to note that as of right now there is no expert-level certification available for Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE.

Before we continue, just what is a functional consultant anyway?

Functional consultants are involved in the planning, design and oversight of the implementation of a system – in this case, a Dynamics 365 CE implementation. They take the requirements of the client or customer – often but not always discovered and documented with the help of a business analyst (BA) – and use their understanding of the technology (Dynamics) to analyse various methods and solutions to build a system that meets the requirements of the client. The job requires a balance of providing technical solutions and meeting and manipulating business requirements. I mentioned the role of functional consultant in my article on Building the Perfect Portal Team and I’ll speak about the qualities that make for a good functional consultant in a future article.

So what are the exams, and more importantly, how do you prepare for them? Before I get to the breakdown, I’d like to point out the resources available for learning. Obviously, there’s no substitute for hands-on learning and practice. It’s assumed that you are taking these exams after working a fair bit with Dynamics 365 CE. However, it’s unlikely that in the regular course of using and configuring the system that you are going to bump into every scenario equally often and discover every nuance. Therefore it’s a great idea to study up as well. To this end, there are 3 big buckets of free knowledge available that should be enough to get you prepared for the exams.

First, there’s community learning as I outlined in my last blog post on the Adoxio Community Website on the subject. Second, there’s Microsoft learn. Finally, there is material available on the Dynamics Learning Portal (DLP) – but that’s only available to partners, so if you aren’t a partner you might need to find alternative ways of accessing this or similar content and it likely won’t be free.

You can also pay for courses / bootcamps – and if you are new to Dynamics that’s probably worth the investment – but if you aren’t new to Dynamics try the free sources first. A further recommendation is that even with all these learning materials, some of the latest features are still lacking much content, especially free Microsoft Learn content. So it’s important to go through the MSDN documentation as well. Not really the ideal learning content, but great for filling in the gaps.

For my breakdown of the exams, I’ll talk about the exam and the topics covered, and link to the Microsoft Learn resources that can be used to prepare. I’ll also point out the course numbers from DLP that are relevant for those readers lucky enough to have access to that resource. If you are going through the Microsoft Learn material, remember that you can get a lot more information on every topic covered in the MSDN documentation as well as the community resources I previously mentioned. So don’t just read through and think that’s enough; on every page, look up the documentation on MSDN on the subject, and google additional material. Also, don’t forget to play around as much as possible.

Exam MB-200: All of the Functional Consultant Certifications require the exam MB-200 as a prerequisite. In order to prepare for this exam, you’ll need to learn the following skills (with links and DLP course numbers):

  1. Implement and Configure Dynamics 365 CE and Learn Power Platform Basics:
  2. Manage Data and Implement Security:
  3. Manage Processes (Microsoft Flow is optional but recommended):
  4. Configure OOTB integrations:
  5. Configure Portals:

Exam MB-210: This is needed for the Functional Consultant for Sales Certification:

  1. Understand the Sales Process
  2. Configure Advanced Analytics
  3. Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator:
  4. Apply Goal Management

Exam MB-220: This is needed for the Functional Consultant for Marketing Certification:

  1. Configure Marketing Applications
  2. Manage Custom Journeys, Emails, Forms, and pages
  3. Manage Events and Webinars
  4. Configure Microsoft Forms Pro (In October 2019 this will be the new way to create forms)

Exam MB-230: This is needed for the Functional Consultant for Customer Service Certification:

  1. Understand Cases and the Service Desk
  2. Configure Service Management
  3. Configure a Knowledge Base
  4. Use Voice of the Customer

Exam MB-240: This is needed for the Functional Consultant for Field Service Certification:

  1. Configure the Application
  2. Manage Schedule, Works Orders, Assets and Inventory

When it comes to the format of the exams – well, if you’ve taken Microsoft exams in the last 5-10 years they will seem pretty familiar. One thing I’d say is that many of the questions involve having memorized the exact sequence of steps to perform certain actions. To me this is rote memorization, and I feel truly understanding the capabilities of the system and how they apply to different scenarios is far more indicative of a good functional consultant than having memorized the sequence of actions to configure a security role. Nonetheless, you’ll need to know that stuff to pass the exam so be prepared.

Hopefully you’ve found this post useful! If you have your own resources to share, please leave them in the comments! I’d love to update this guide. For now, I’ve limited it to mostly Microsoft Learn and DLP, with a few gaps filled in by MSDN documentation. But, I’m happy to expand this guide so feel free to leave suggestions!

Either way, if you think this kind of thing is useful, let me know.

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Portals have come a long way since Adxstudio’s xRM Framework

In case you haven’t heard, the Microsoft October 2019 Release plan has some pretty huge news when it comes to Portals – They are going to be put on center stage as a first-class app type along with Canvas Apps and Model-Driven Apps.

Starting soon, when you go to web.powerapps.com and go to create a new app, in addition to Model-driven apps and Canvas apps there will be a third type of app: Portal!

These Portals will be exactly the same as the previous portals, but you don’t need dynamics CE anymore. These Portals run off of the Common Data Model (just like before, really). In fact, you’ve been able to see the CDS portal in action for a while now. Now, Dynamics CE is still an important vertical to consider, so in a future post we’ll look at when you should skip CE and when you should still include it in your solution.

Portals are going to now be open to a much bigger audience as people jump onboard the power platform. With PowerApps, you can built out purpose-driven applications to suit your business needs – no longer are we modifying a CRM system to implement a system that doesn’t really have anything to do with CRM. Naturally, Portals are a key part of that story and the technology used to build Dynamics portals is being brought forward as the missing part of the puzzle. This feels so rewarding as all the work that my colleagues and I did at Adxstudio back in Regina, Saskatchewan at the old park street office building Portals has really come to full fruition.

Let’s rewind to 2009. I had just completed my Master’s Degree – well, scratch that – I was close to completing my degree and decided to start working full-time while I finished up the last “month or two” of my thesis. Actually finishing and defending my thesis would take well over an additional year, but that’s another story.

You see, I had accepted a fantastic offer for a brand-new developer from a local company in Regina, SK called Adxstudio. I started off right out of the Gate as a Developer on the Product Team working on little product called the xRM framework, which was nearing completion of version 2.2 when I came on board.

Most of Adxstudio’s business came via it’s other product, a Content Management System (which was a big deal at the time) simply called Adxstudio CMS. It was a fine piece of software, but most of our investment was in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which had recently released version 4. We believed that Microsoft Dynamics was the future – and we were all in. What we had developed was a framework which allowed developers to interface easily with Dynamics CRM without interfacing with the SQL database directly. The primary use case for this was to integrate a website withe Dynamics 365, so that records such as contacts from CRM could be surfaced in some way on the website. Sound familiar?

Included was an authentication model that allowed you to log in and have your user associated to a Contact in CRM. It also had a fully functional CMS allowing you to manage the website via Web pages, Web Links, Content Snippets and so on. We developed a few different websites too – we didn’t call them portals yet – such as the Company Website, branded Wireframe Industries – boy I wish screenshots from back then survived – the Conference Website, which used the amazing technology of Silverlight, and Community Website, which added some baked in features such as Blogs, Ideas and Forums.

Well as Dynamics CRM 2011 came out the door, we made the decision to give the xRM framework base code to Microsoft. It became part of the official Microsoft CRM SDK. This was rewarding it it’s own way but put us at an advantage because now the best way to surface data from CRM onto a website was to use a Portal using our framework. You could do some basic stuff for free using Microsoft’s accelerator portals, or starting from scratch using the framework that came with the SDK, but if you really wanted to play with power, you could use our product, which we kept adding features such as Web Forms, and later Entity Forms, Entity Lists, and finally Entity Permissions to. This product was finally named Adxstudio Portals (v4 of the xRM framework).

As Dynamics went through releases over the years so did Portals. With version 5 the solution layering was completely redone from scratch – manually, by me at first (!) – while we refined our ALM processes (and eventually came out with a great toolkit called the ALM toolkit to help automate the process ). With version 6 the front-end was completely redone to use bootstrap and Entity Permissions were added. With Version 7, we added liquid support which radically changed how customization of the Portals was done. It was now ready for the cloud.

And with that, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Portals (and the Adxstudio brand). I had the privilege of working with their new Portal product team to help integrate the Portals into their product lineup. Version 8 of Portals, as we called it internally, would soon be released as Dynamics portals – a fully in-the-cloud solution that extended Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement.

Fast forward to today, and finally we are able to do the things with Portals that we saw ourselves doing with it way back in the days were we used “xRM” as a buzzword. I can’t wait to work on many more Portals implementations and I’m interested to see where we go from here.

Thanks for reading,

A Closer look at Entity Forms and Entity Lists created by the Create Portal Content Wizard

In my post about the Create Portal Content Wizard, I talked about how easy it is to add content to the portal using point-and-click configuration, and demonstrated that the Wizard creates a whole lot of records in the background for you so that you don’t have to. It’s like magic! It certainly does beat having to spend the time configuring Entity Forms, Lists, Permissions, and web pages all from scratch. However, the Wizard also has its limitations. There are several scenarios that it simply can’t manage, including some fairly basic ones. The Wizard can also leave you with a fair bit of manual work or cleanup to do, depending on what you’re building.

In order to better understand the Wizard, I figure now’s the time to spell out exactly what records actually get created by the wizard. To do this, we’ll go through the different options for configuring a list (we care mostly about displaying organization entities, so that’s the focus of this article) and then see exactly what configurations are created with each and what changes occur with the different settings. If you aren’t familiar with the Wizard, I explain the steps for using it here. Read that first, then come back – this article is more of a deep dive.

Continue reading “A Closer look at Entity Forms and Entity Lists created by the Create Portal Content Wizard”

Building the Perfect Portal Team

Recently I participated in a group discussion with Colin Vermander about what it takes to have a successful implementation of Dynamics 365 Portals. Among many other factors that I’m sure we’ll discuss in the future, one that struck me is how to build the perfect Portals Implementation team

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the skillsets that are needed to build that team, and the roles associated with those skillsets. Now let’s make the distinction clear before we get started that many of these roles overlap, and the people who fill these roles simply need to have the skillsets required. Very often, one person might fill multiple roles on a smaller project. For example, the Business Analyst and Functional Consultant might be the same person. Conversely, on large implementations with tight deadlines, you might have a very large team with multiple workstreams. Each workstream might have a team of BAs, its own dedicated functional, solution architect, and development team. The golden rule at the end of the day is to ensure that the project is not understaffed, and that each of the below skillsets is taken into consideration when building your team.

Also note, that this article tries to be methodology-agnostic as much as possible. Some roles might only apply to certain methodologies – for example if you are using scrum you’ll need a scrum master, etc. Alright, without further adieu, let’s get down to it.

Continue reading “Building the Perfect Portal Team”

Basic Portal Entity Permissions and the Create Content Wizard

In the last article I wrote on this subject, we talked a bit about the Create Portal Content wizard. In that article, we walked through creating a list of leads that displays on the portal. Anyone can access the list, and it’s read-only. Where can we go from here?

Perhaps we don’t want to allow any anonymous users to see our lead list because we only share this information with partners, for example. In this case, we want the ability to create new leads or edit existing leads from the portal, or to take actions on those leads. In other words, we want a secure list of leads that can be modified by those with the appropriate permissions.

For now, let’s not worry about the realism of this scenario.  In a future post, I’ll show you how to build out an awesome portal, and we’ll look in more detail at a realistic business use case at that time. For now, let’s use this simple example to build our knowledge of how to manage permissions for entities exposed on the portal.

Continue reading “Basic Portal Entity Permissions and the Create Content Wizard”

Embedded Canvas Apps within Model-Driven Forms

Just this past December, Microsoft announced the ability to enrich model-driven forms with embedded canvas apps – and this is really exciting. Since I first started working with the power platform, the fact that canvas apps and model-driven apps don’t really play together has seemed a notable limitation. This enhancement really helps bring everything closer together because we can get the same pixel-perfect purpose-driven UI that we’ve come to love (and we all know we do) about canvas apps but within a fully functional model-driven application. In case you are wondering, yes this does potentially open the door to embedding canvas apps within UCI for Dynamics 365 as well (since UCI for Dynamics is essentially a model-driven app).

First off, it takes only a few clicks to embed a canvas app on a model-driven form. Canvas apps are easy to develop (hence the somewhat-maligned concept of the citizen developer) and you can craft very nice visual layouts with “no coding” required (in fact it’s the same level of coding that you’d be using with custom excel apps for example). Furthermore, to bring in and display data from external services, you can choose from a long list of connectors that PowerApps offers for popular services such as SharePoint and Office365 or they can create custom connectors. Finally – and this is important – you get the context of the model-driven form passed in to the canvas app – including the current record or list of related records.

Continue reading “Embedded Canvas Apps within Model-Driven Forms”

Dynamics 365 Hybrid Interface

Microsoft’s Power platform is the direction to be looking at if you are involved with Dynamics 365 implementations in any sense. Built on the Common Data Model (CDM), Model Driven Apps – including yes, Dynamics 365 moving forward with version 9 – will be using the Unified Common Interface or UCI for short.

Many Articles have been written about the Unified Common Interface, including it’s ease of use and slick user experience. Much fuss has also of course been made about it’s limitations – which are mostly temporary. These limitations include but are not limited to:

  • Advanced Find
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Record Sharing

There are various tricks that can be used to access the old interface, and these are well documented (one less documented way is to simply add “?forceClassic=1” to the end of the URL in your browser. However, if you like the new interface and wish to fully adopt it, instead of using the old interface for these functionalities a hybrid mode is possible which enables the aforementioned features in the new interface to a degree.

These features are enabled through a setting in System Settings (which you ironically need to access the old interface to get to).

  • Go to Settings > Administration > System Settings
  • Select the “General” tab
  • scroll way down…to the bottom…
  • Set “Enable embedding of certain legacy dialogs in Unified Interface browser client” to “Yes”

blogpostdec212018

After enabling, the hybrid experience will enable a bunch of options that utilize the old interface (and cause the old interface to pop up in a rather glaring fashion) in the Unified Interface command bar.

hybrid-edit-merge-share

Pretty nice. Enjoy!

Coming up soon, the next part in my series on Portal Management. View part one here.