Category Archives: CRM Training
Training and certification for Dynamics CRM 2013.
Apologies once more for the lack of posts in this blog in recent years. After Ebola, I stayed on at the World Health Organisation in the role of a Business Analyst and so no longer regularly work with Dynamics CRM at present.
This post then is about business analysis, something relevant for any work that seeks to bring about a change to a business and so potentially of interest to those working with Dynamics CRM projects.
In an earlier post, I covered Microsoft’s Sure Step methodology, but here I’m going to concentrate on the ECBA – the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis from the IIBA – the International Institute of Business Analysis (based in Toronto). This is the entry level qualification ideal for those wishing to start a career in business analysis or for those, like me, that have done the work for years but now seeking some certification to validate that experience.
Beyond ECBA there are two higher levels of certification also available, CCBA (Certification of Capability in Business Analysis) and CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional). There is also a “Thought Leader” certification CBATL.
Details of all four levels and how to become a member of IIBA are available from their website: –
ECBA seems to be a fairly new or under-utilised certification (I suspect that most people might head straight for CCBA) as I wasn’t able to find much information online about preparing for the exam so I hope this blog post will fill that vacuum since I took and passed ECBA in January 2018.
Business analysts enable change in an organisation by studying needs, formalising them as requirements and then recommending solutions. It’s a critical part of any project and poor business analysis is a sure-fire way to project failure and unhappy customers.
The IIBA provides a methodology to guide the correct execution of business analysis work and its synthesised into the BABOK – the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (currently at version 3.0 and published in a big orange “guidebook”). All exams are based around the BABOK.
Preparing for ECBA
Regardless of whether you are starting out in your career as a business analyst or brining years of wizened experience, you are going to need to spend some quality time with the BABOK guide (currently at v3.0). The ECBA is taken exclusively from this material and so you will need to become a member of the IIBA (by paying a yearly subscription fee) and their either downloading or ordering a paper copy of the book.
Everything you need is in the book and you will need good familiarity with the terminology, the methodology and the definitions that BABOK employs.
My recommended approach is: –
- Read through the book in its entirety once. Concentrate particularly on the introduction to ensure that you know, after the first reading, the definition of stakeholders and concepts and how BABOK approaches business analysis (i.e. the difference between a knowledge area, a technique, a competency). You should know the requirement categorisations.
- Have a look at the preparation material on the IIBA site itself, they give a percentage breakdown of the number of questions to expect from each area. You will see that for ECBA the stress is mainly on definitions and
- Go through the six work areas in detail and make your own notes, at the end you should be able to look at a big chart listing each work area and the tasks within it and speak about each to describe what it does. You can use a diagram like the one below. For instance, you should know the difference between validating and verifying requirements or the difference between the “Define Change Strategy” task and the “Assess Requirement Changes” task. I have included a link to my notes at the end of this article.
- Reread the definitions and the introduction section of the book so that you understand the definition of a requirement, an assumption, know the responsibilities of each of the roles (What does a sponsor do? What jobs fall to the business analyst?) and can talk about them too to a friend that tests you.
- Read through the competencies and the techniques once, there are fewer direct questions on these in the ECBA but questions will reference them via the work areas so you need to understand the terms and have a basic familiarity with the different approaches to elicitation and modelling that a business analyst can apply.
- You can now attempt some practice questions. There’s a small set of six questions available on the IIBA site via the Certification section and these will give you a flavour of what to expect. Beyond that I didn’t find any other free practice material, only paid for question sets and most of them were for CCBA and CBAP. Personally, I didn’t buy any question sets, I just developed my familiarity with the BABOK guide to the level described above and I believe that is enough for the ECBA exam.
- Pay exam entry fees via the IIBA website (more details in the next section) and schedule your online proctored exam with the provider. When I did the test, the provider was PSI (https://www.examslocal.com) and you will be guided through creating an account on their site.
Cost of ECBA
Costs for the exam are available on the IIBA website and I won’t include figures here which are likely to get out of date but the cost breaks down as follows: –
- Yearly IIBA membership.
- Application fee for exam.
- Exam fee.
After passing you will have the option to find a local chapter of the IIBA and they may also charge a (normally much more modest) membership fee for access to business analysis events in your area.
Format of ECBA
ECBA is an “online proctored” exam meaning that you will take the test from your own machine via a web browser maximised to full screen while an invigilator monitors your desktop and your webcam to ensure fairness. The exam authority (PSI) should provide a utility to check that the machine on which you wish to take the exam meets minimum standards and you should check this BEFORE paying to the sit the exam!
I’d then recommend logging in 15 minutes ahead of your exam slot (you can start up to 15 minutes early than your scheduled time) to complete the pre-exam checks. The invigilator will guide you through these via a chat session: –
- Make sure that you are in a room with no one else.
- Make sure that you are working on a clean, empty desk with nothing within arms’ reach.
- Make sure that there are no whiteboards or information posters on the wall which might contain information to help you in the exam.
- Make sure no one disturbs you during the exam, talking to anyone can mean a disqualification.
- During the exam, the invigilator will ask you to keep your eyes on the screen.
- The exam will be run in full-screen mode with desktop monitored so that you can’t reference anything on your machine. He/she will also walk you through opening “Task Manager” and shutting off any other processes running on the machine.
- Obviously, no screenshot or notes can be taken during the exam.
This might sound like a lot but don’t worry, the invigilator walks you through the process with competence.
The invigilator cannot however answer information about the exam format so you should check these on the IIBA website beforehand. The essentials are: –
- ECBA consists of 50 multiple-choice, single-answer questions.
- It must be completed in 1 hour.
- The interface will allow you to return to questions.
- The interface will allow you to flag questions you are unsure about.
- The interface will allow you to change your answers.
- You will have a confirmation when you “End Test” and you will receive feedback straight away on whether you passed or failed. No indication of your score is given.
- You will receive a confirmation email within two days from IIBA confirming the result and this also does not give you a score, but simply describes if you were above, below or at average for each topic area that the exam tests.
- If you fail I believe you can retake up to twice in one year (a fee applies each time) before needing to wait.
Without practice questions, I did go in to the exam with a bit of trepidation. All up I probably spent about 3 man days reading over the BABOK guide and writing my notes and this was plenty. If you have zero background knowledge or work experience of business analysis then I think five days would be more realistic.
The ECBA is a worthwhile endeavour, it helped me align my language and terminology, taught me about some new techniques I had never used (decision modelling anyone?) and made me reflect on my own competencies and scope for improvement.
So, good luck, I hope this has proved useful and please feel free to download and use the notes I made during my ECBA preparation by clicking on the link below.
The introduction of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM) in Q2 2014 (code-named the “Mira” release) brings a whole new tool set with which Dynamics professionals must gain familiarity, particularly if they’re considering taking the MB2-720 Functional Application in Microsoft Dynamics Marketing exam as professional recognition of their knowledge.
MDM was created around Microsoft’s acquisition of the Marketing Pilot software in October 2012 and this article is intended as a quick overview of the product if, like me, you are coming from a solid Dynamics CRM background and want to understand where it fits in, how it is priced and technically how it integrates. This is intended as a technical quick start therefore.
In the next few months I will prepare for exam MB2-720 and so will also post my revision notes and observations on that when my own knowledge of the tool has improved.
MDM is quite a different beast from Dynamics CRM and here are the key points to bear in mind if you’re approaching it: –
- It is only available as an online service. You sign up via your Office 365 portal and access it via the browser only. It worked best in IE11 for me and some functions (such as navigating the folder structure for assets) did not render at all in, for example, Chrome.
- The interface is very similar to Dynamics CRM with a top-level primary navigation of tiles that splits to a secondary list of options.
- The security model is very different from CRM with a limited number of user types (Regular User, Media Buyer for instance) and a set of roles that we can add to a user and afterwards modify in a grid of permissions.
- It is centred around a set of powerful campaign management tools that you’ll easily find articles and blog posts about. There’s a campaign workflow designer for automated actions (screenshot below) and an in-built email editor. These are the most popular and well-known features and includes mass mailing of your email shots and tracking of opens, click-throughs, bounces etc. There’s also quick functionality for managing opt-on, opt-off subscription lists, getting email recipients to sign up via a web form and tracking web page visits. Auto-scoring of leads is another crowd pleaser.
FIGURE 1: Campaign Automation flowchart in Dynamics Marketing
- Almost all the material I found online related to these core features but if you scratch the service there is a very rich and complex set of additional functionality with which you’ll need to be familiar for exam MB2-720 and for mastery of the tool. This includes the screens for managing assets, routing marketing material for approval with on-screen mark up and a very complex mini ERP system that tracks your Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, expenses, timesheets, media purchasing, purchase orders, inventory valuation etc.
- Personally it was this ERP aspect that I found most difficult to learn since it’s a mini “Dynamics AX” for marketing and I’ve yet to find good training material that starts from the basics for someone without a rudimentary knowledge of accountancy practices!
FIGURE 2: Mini-ERP functionality of Dynamics Marketing
- The integration process to link CRM to MDM is relatively straight-forward and involves an initial request to Microsoft Support to turn “on” the connector. A Service Bus in Azure is used for the exchange of data between the two systems so you’ll need an Azure account to enable your integration.
- Like Dynamics CRM, MDM exposes an ORest service that can be consumed from Excel for the production of Power View, Power Map visualisations that you can then publish back to a Power BI website. There’s even a Power BI “widget” for the home page (an IFrame that points at a Power BI URL) so that you can deliver your report there.
- There’s no concept of Dashboards similar to Dynamics CRM, each user is free to add components to their home page as best suits their needs.
- When viewing a single record, any data in a one-to-many relationship is shown at the bottom of the page in a section that you can modify by selecting the title from a drop-down list. Confusingly some of the training material I have seen refers to this area of the tool as “Dashboards” e.g. the Contacts Dashboard to show the people who work at an Organisation.
FIGURE 3: Power BI visualisations of Dynamics Marketing Data
MDM is available at the Enterprise level of licensing, which also adds the Unified Service Desk and Parature Knowledge management services to CRM. This level of license was announced in June 2014 and is in force at the time of writing (October 2014). My understanding is that you therefore need, at minimum, one user with Enterprise license privilege for MDM to be activated.
You can buy an Enterprise license for a user of your existing CRM and this will cost US$200 (EUR153) per user per month or, if you are not a Dynamics CRM customer then you can also purchase MDM “stand-alone” for US$125 (EUR96) per user per month. This underlines the important fact that MDM can be happily used without any integration to CRM whatsoever.
After these licensing costs the only additional costs you might incur are for increasing the ceiling on how many mass emails you can send per month (an extra 10,000 mailings will cost you US$50 / EUR41 per month). By default you get 50,000 mailings per month included in your licensing. Also, if you need to purchase extra GB for the storage needs of your solution you will pay US$9.99 / EUR8.20 per GB per month.
If you want to link your MDM and CRM instances then the high level steps are: –
- Have active CRM and MDM instances of course!
- File a request through the Office 365 Service portal that Integration Services be enabled for you. I recommend doing this first since although Microsoft turn the requests around pretty quickly, this can take a few days.
- Download and run the Connector installer .msi file which will extract a CRM solution file.
- Install the CRM solution file in to your CRM Instance via Solutions.
- Set up a user with appropriate rights to act as the synchronisation agent in CRM and in Marketing note that this user does therefore consume a license.
- Configure an Azure Namespace as your communication bus.
- Perform initial synchronisation (this took about 45 minutes for me with minimal data the first time so you need to be patient).
- Perform some tests to ensure that the default, out of the box entities are being synchronised in near real-time.
Microsoft provides an excellent walkthrough of connector configuration in this video and there’s also a great detailed blog article of each of the connector steps listed above. I worked from both links and the integration went surprisingly smoothly.
Once configured, entities like Accounts, Contacts and Marketing Lists are synchronised.
FIGURE 4: Welcome Page customised per user in Dynamics Marketing
A round-up of useful links then for learning the tool includes: –
- MDM Home Page.
- Online help for MDM.
- MDM Guided Tour – this is a walk-through of some screenshots and unless you’re a Microsoft partner company it is not currently possible to sign up for a free/trial copy of MDM as you can for Dynamics CRM.
- Dynamics Community blog.
- Technical articles – a small selection of technical articles from Microsoft.
Yesterday I passed Microsoft’s CRM 2013 Applications exam (MB2-700), which is part of the new wave of updated CRM exams for the 2013 release. This post covers how I studied for the exam, what sorts of questions came up and what material I used for anyone else thinking of adding this qualification to their hit list.
In my limited CRM experience, very few of the projects I have done have used the Sales and Case management modules to their full potential – usually because the way these processes are modeled in the “out of the box” CRM does not match the specific customer’s needs. As a result I realised, when studying for the exam, that I hadn’t fully explored all the functionality present and so relying on my work experience alone would not be enough to get through the exam.
A solid grounding in sales and case management also seems wise at the moment, given the enhancements to these areas which are arriving with the Spring 2014 CRM release.
The exam is the usual 48 questions of multiple-choice format with a passing level of 70%. It concentrates on two areas of CRM’s “out of the box” functionality, namely: Sales Management and Case Management and there are two seperate Microsoft courses which cover these (80545 – Cases and 80546 – Sales). The exam I took was evenly balanced with questions from both areas. The Microsoft web page describing the exam and the skills tested is listed below and this should always be your final check list that you are ready: –http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/exam.aspx?id=mb2-700
For preparation I did three key things: –
- I worked through the two official Microsoft courses (about 14 chapters of notes split into individual PDFs) and can happily confirm that the exam is based on this material with all questions relating to information covered in the courses.
- I made my own notes as I went (there’s a copy of them at the end of this article for download).
- I worked through some lab examples and tested out some scenarios in a copy of CRM 2013. More so than the other exams I think this is critical for MB2-700 – as several of the exam questions related to the different processes for handling leads, opportunities, contracts, contract templates etc. and there is no substitute for actually playing with these – it certainly seemed to stick in my head a lot better when I was “hands on” as opposed to just reading lots of abstract training material.
Here’s a review then of the sorts of topics/questions that came up: – For CASE MANAGEMENT
- Be comfortable with the workflow of a case, how it gets raised in the system and then routed to different people.
- Know what parts queues play in case management, how permissions work with queues and the difference between “Worked On” and “Owner”.
- Understand the use of the Knowledge Base, the different template types and how you deactivate/delete a template and what that means for any articles already using that template.
- Know the workflow of a Knowledge Base article and the conditions for emailing it out to a customer.
- Know the way that contract templates and contracts are used specifically the different allotment types and how they work.
- Understand the use of contract lines and what state a contract must be in for you to be able to add these.
- Be familiar with the contract life-cycle, what stages can pass to what other stages and what stages allow you to link cases to the contract.
- Understand how cases can be linked to contracts to use up their allotment and the difference between calculated Total Time and Billable Time.
- Look at the subject tree and know which entities MUST have a reference to the tree to be saved.
- Know what conditions are necessary to be able to close a case (specifically closing activities linked to that case).
- Be familiar with that entities can be easily converted in to cases.
- Know about the use of comments and notes against a Knowledge Base article.
- Memorise which entities are enabled for queues “out of the box” and which entities have queues created for them automatically.
- Understand the relationship between a Queue Item and the record it relates to.
- Understand the use of goal metrics and the goals that use them – this was one area where I found it essential to set up some examples myself and play with them.
- Know how you use in-progress and actual goals.
- Know about the different time periods to which a goal applies.
- Have a play with rollup queries to understand their use.
- For service scheduling, look at the service calendar and understand the different types of resources that can be scheduled.
- Understand the selection rules for combining resources to provide a service.
- Look at the periods of unavailability for resources and how the schedule engine will take note of these when proposing the next available slot. Be aware that CRM is clever enough to take time zone in to consideration and site.
- Be familiar with the use of capacity for resources.
- Look at customer’s preferences for service provision.
For SALES MANAGEMENT
- Know the difference between a lead and an opportunity.
- Be comfortable with the workflow of a lead and the entities that can be created when a lead is won.
- Understand how emails, activities etc. can be converted in to leads and opportunities.
- Be familiar with all the key entities in the sales area and how they link together – which entities can use sales literature for example?
- Be comfortable with the workflow for an opportunity and what related entities get closed when a workflow is won.
- Understand the use of the resolution activity.
- Play with the product catalog and understand the use of unit groups, discount lists and products.
- Understand the use of kits.
- Know how the standard price directly present on a product record can be used by the price lists and the different sort of pricing methods available.
- Be comfortable with how CRM handles price lists of different currencies.
- Know the quote – order – invoice workflow like the back of your hand 🙂
- Know how the use of price lists and system calculated pricing flows through this workflow.
- Be familiar with what triggers an update to automatically-calculated prices, particularly for mixed currencies.
- Look at the links between products and quotes and products.
- Understand what happens to a quote when an order is generated.
- Know what changes you can make to quotes, orders and invoices AFTER they have been activated.
- Look at the Sales History and Sales Pipeline reports and understand what they are built to show and what data they use.
Solid preparation is needed for this exam as the questions went in to quite a bit of detail about the workflows, about the set up of certain screens and about how CRM can be used to handle some particular scenarios.
I firmly believe that playing with the system and testing out everything you learn as pure theory is the best preparation you can do. On my exam there were a few of those annoyingly ambiguous questions that Microsoft seem to throw at you from time to time where it’s not 100% clear what exactly is being asked or multiple interpretations are possible but on the whole the exam was good, very close to the training material and a great way to familiarise yourself with these modules.
Here are the notes I made during my own preparation, I hope they are of use to you.
Here’s some study and exam advice for anyone considering becoming a Microsoft Sure Steps guru by taking exam MB5-705.
I passed this exam in October 2013 and since it’s so new here’s some guidance on what it contains, how to prepare and a list of useful links for anyone else that is planning their study. The post contains an overview of the exam, resources available to study, my suggested preparation, the key knowledge areas and some useful links,
In September 2013 Microsoft retired exam MB5-858 and replaced it with the new MB5-705: Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations. The exam is intended for anyone who works to implement or support Dynamics projects and is based around the Microsoft Sure Steps methodology.
The exam is 2 hours long with 45 multi-choice questions. Questions vary between the “find the right answer” to “choose 2 or 3 answers that form part of the solution or complete solutions in themselves”. The pass mark is 70%.
There is no Microsoft eBook dedicated to this exam yet (as far as I know) but Microsoft has produced the two-day instructor lead course 80450. This is split in to ten modules when walks you through a project management concepts overview before concentrating on the specifics of the Sure Steps approach and the recommended approach for managing Dynamics implementations. The course is further backed up by a detailed case study of Tailspin Toys which walks you through a fictional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementation for a wooden toy manufacturer.
Since there is no Microsoft eBook I dipped into the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Steps 2010 book by Chandra Shankar and Vincent Bellefroid. This was good background reading.
The other essential was the Sure Step User Guide itself which can be downloaded from the Microsoft site (links below).
Finally, commercial test providers will sell you sample questions for the test (many of which are very similar to the actual exam questions) but beware – the samples I saw contained about 1/3rd incorrect answers so you should not be alarmed if your answer differs from those provided by the example papers you have purchased.
My suggested preparation then for taking this exam is: –
a) Download and install the Sure Steps client application and get familiar with the layout, structure and how you drill down to find information.
b) Look at the online Sure Steps web application and note the key differences between this and the client application.
c) Review the Sure Steps user guide.
d) Work through the eBook or, ideally, the material for course 80450 as the exam is based around this material.
e) Set up your own test project and have a look at some of the key documents. The most important ones in my opinion were the high level project charter and high level project plan at the diagnosis phase and the functional design requirements, fit gap spreadsheet, functional design document, technical design document and solution design document.
f) You should also be familiar with the cut-over document and the go live process.
g) Take some sample questions if you can find or buy a sample MB5-705 set of questions but double-check the suggested answers.
h) Finally you can use my high level checklist in the next section which highlights the most important areas of knowledge in my opinion.
Here is a list of the key knowledge points, from my experience of the study for the test and the test itself.
1) Know the Project Management Institute (PMI) definitions of a project and the different phases for PMI e.g. Initiation, Planning, Execution, Closing and Continuing.
2) Know the triangle and diamond models of projects and how changing one element affects the others.
3) Know the activities of the Diagnostic phase, particularly the dependencies between the different possible accelerators and what the deliverables in each accelerator are. Can the fit gap be performed before the business requirements and solution blueprint accelerator, for example (no, it can’t).
4) Know the low-level details of the Proposal activity (for example, that a high level project charter and a high level project plan are created a part of proposal creation) and the use of the Statement of Work and the Licensing Agreement information. You should know what project roles are responsible for each document.
5) Know the pre-conditions for starting each of the different accelerators – for example, that a qualified sales opportunity exists.
6) It should be pretty obvious that you should of course know the Sure Step phases in their correct order and the key deliverables from each. If there is a clear pre-condition/trigger for a phase you should know that too.
7) Know when the solution is actually installed and customized and critically that non custom elements can be deployed before the development phase during design. I made the incorrect assumption early on that all actual “hand on” work with the Dynamics product would occur in the Development phase – it doesn’t!
8) Know the dependencies and the order of flow of the following documents; the functional requirement document (FRD), the Fit Gap analysis, the Functional Design Document (FDD), the Technical Design Document (TDD) and the Solution Design Document (SDD).
9) Be familiar with the core project roles and their responsibilities.
10) Be familiar with what happens at project closing and the transition to the operations phase, it’s not always intuitive I think what activity falls into what phase so I needed to revise closely to have this process clear.
11) Be aware of the cross-phase processes but these didn’t seem to feature highly in this version of Sure Steps. A more important area is to know the project disciplines and the sort of activities that relate to each one.
12) Pay careful attention to the definition of an agile project and its practice.
13) Know the “light” agile project management approach and what documents are produced, critically the solution backlog and the use of sprints.
14) Know the suggested timing for sprint activity – 16 hours maximum for a task, daily sprints for a really flexible customer.
15) Know the recommendation of performing a full and then a delta data migration one week apart before go-live.
16) Be familiar with the online and client Sure Steps tools and the differences between them – particularly the use of SharePoint of shared file repositories for project documents and what data you can change after you have set a project up (can you change the project type for example… no!)
17) Be familiar with the types of trainers and the documents produced in support of training and when it is delivered in the Sure Steps life-cycle.
18) Be aware that operations is still very much part of the project – even when the system is delivered and working in its production environment there are still ongoing project activities up until project closure.
19) Understand the go-live cut over process.
20) Understand the use of kick off meetings, who is present and what agenda is recommended by Sure Steps.
As promised, a list of useful links related to the exam: –
- Official Microsoft page for the exam
- Sure Steps online, but will need a partner-affiliated Live ID to access it.
- Partner Essentials service plans.
- Sure Step Training Road Map
- Microsoft online course material, you will need to be an Microsoft Certified Trainer to access this.
- Download the Sure Steps client application
- Sure Step web seminar
- Student course material for Sure Steps study, you will need to be a Microsoft Certified Trainer to access.
Here are the notes I made during my own preparation, I hope they are of use to you.