Your essential guide to learning Microsoft Dynamics 365 & Power Apps

 I have been a corporate trainer in most of my career before founding my startup Pascalcase to handle Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects. It was my monthly schedule to visit new companies and train their employees of the emerging technology. Almost everywhere I visited, I met amazing people eagerly looking to learn Dynamics CRM (now Dynamics 365). One question regularly came up in our discussions “How can I learn Dynamics 365 easily?” 

The best way to learn is to experience it. Don’t you agree? After all, Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember. Involve me, I learn.’

The question is, how do you involve yourself? Why would anyone hire you knowing you don’t have prior Dynamics 365 experience? It’s a classic Chicken & Egg problem. Please read this article till the end to know how I approached solving the problem.

Let’s talk about another problem. The ubiquity of content on the internet is not helping you either. It’s making us more confused and helpless. The content ranges from online courses on hosting platforms like Udemy, Pluralsight to hundreds of blogs, presentations, Youtube videos, Community forums, Microsoft Documentation, to name a few.

Result of Ubiquity of Content

  • You don’t know where to begin and what topics to learn, considering your role and prior experience.
  • Some topics may demand additional knowledge leaving you behind while everyone marches forward.
  • No proper direction & support if you have any questions.
  • Learning in bits and pieces.
  • Microsoft code examples on the website https://docs.microsoft.com are challenging to understand for a new guy.

While online course platforms such as Udemy and Pluralsight are good, the courses are not updated regularly. Lack of support is another primary reason cited by most people I met in the past. Don’t get me wrong; I am an Udemy instructor. I experienced the same issue. When we are selling each course for less than $5, how can you expect quality support?

Students don’t want mediocre and half-baked courses for $5. They are ready to pay more for the quality of the course and premium support.

We can discuss solutions to these problems later. Let me go one step back and examine it from the beginning of how one should approach learning Dynamics 365 and Power Apps.

Have you not convinced enough to learn Dynamics 365?

If you are a newbie, probably you may not have any idea of what Dynamics 365 is and how organizations are using to improve the customer experience.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based business application that combines the components of both Customer Relationship Management(CRM) aka Customer Engagement as well as Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP). (For the article, we are only concerned with the CRM part of Dynamics 365 here). Learning the ERP part of Dynamics 365 is entirely a different ballgame.

Dynamics 365 improves how you interact and do business with your customers. It helps you manage and maintain customer relationships, track sales leads, marketing, customer service, etc.

Note: There are also ERP modules in Dynamics 365. The guide only talks about CRM aka Customer Engagement modules.

One of the main reasons why many companies are choosing Dynamics 365 over other CRM products is due to its flexibility to adapt to SMBs as well as enterprises.

Top 10 reasons why one should learn Dynamics 365

  • 67% of revenue growth over a year (as per Microsoft quarterly report). Trust me, the percentage of people is not growing that faster.
  • Easy to learn (no code — low code platform).
  • Dynamics 365 operates on the cloud and on-premise also. So flexibility for organizations.
  • There is no need to update; it is automatically done by Microsoft.
  • Reasonable cost compared to Salesforce.
  • Excellent integration with Microsoft Office.
  • Microsoft Power Platform.
  • Excellent integration with Azure.
  • Rapid business innovation by introducing AI, social, and mobile capabilities.
  • User-friendly interface which can be customizable according to users need.

Where do you start? The topics that you need to learn during Microsoft Dynamics 365 Training

I strongly recommend you follow the below learning path, as shown in the form of certifications to get a better understanding.

There are various certifications available for Microsoft Dynamics 365. These certifications are divided into two categories based on the roles.

  • Certifications for functional consultants
  • Certifications for technical consultants

First, the basic one

MB-200 Microsoft Power Platform + Dynamics 365 Core:

The first course you need to learn is MB-200 (there is also another basic one called MB-900. I don’t recommend it as a separate course. For example, in my training courses, I already covered most of the MB-900 topics in MB-200 course itself).

This is the core certification you need to clear irrespective of role. By clearing MB-200, you pave the way to learn more training on advanced topics such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and Field Service certifications.

Topics under MB-200 are about designing the apps, fundamentals of Common Data Service, Security configuration, Integrations, Solution management, Data management, etc.


Certification Path of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Apps 

 

Certifications for technical topics:

There are two other exams, MB 400: Microsoft PowerApps+ Dynamics 365 developer and MB 600: Microsoft PowerApps+ Dynamics 365 solution Architect.

Don’t get boggled by the sheer number of certifications. Even experienced professionals might have cleared just one certification (most likely MB 200) because the certification exams are too demanding.

The first certification MB 200 is a colossal one, and clearing it is not easy. You need to learn so many topics, and it will easily take a month, even if you keep efforts continuously.

My advice is to focus on understanding and applying the knowledge on building case studies rather than clearing the certifications.

Keep a realistic target for passing the certification, and probably you can target MB 200. You don't need to clear all the certifications to get the job. Unfortunately, clearing certifications alone will not guarantee passing job interviews. In fact, Microsoft has omitted so many topics that we use every day, and these topics are nowhere on the certification tests.

Now, let’s see what topics we are supposed to learn for doing your job right! (and, of course, to crack interviews).

Learning Common Data Service:

Common Data Service acts as a database to your Dynamics 365 and Power Apps instance.

Of course, every application needs a database. Since Dynamics 365/Power Apps is SaaS (Software as a Service), Microsoft takes care of everything for you, including hosting, management, tuning of the database. Microsoft leverages several technologies (MS SQL Server, Blog storage, etc.) under the hood to build Common Data Service that allows us to store a wide variety of information such as unstructured data along with relational data.

 


Editing Common Data ServiceEditing Common Data Service

 

The good thing is you don’t need to learn technicalities such as writing SQL queries for creating the database, tables, views, relationships, etc. Everything will be taken from the UI. The UI allows you to modify the schema of the database completely. All you need to have is a basic idea of what tables and attributes you need to create with the help of the ER diagram.

Learning Business Processes & Workflows in Dynamics 365:

Business Processes:

A Business Process Flow in Microsoft Dynamics 365 helps to lead users through a business process in the system. They are displayed on the top of the entity form.
In the Business Process Flow, you can learn how to compose each stage and how fields can be added within stages. With business process flow, a user can see under which stage they are in the process, and which steps they need to complete before they proceed forward.

Designing Business Process Flows in Microsoft Dynamics 365 & Power Apps

 
We can also create flows using Microsoft Power Automate, but unlike Bussiness Process flows, Power Automate is not just limited to Dynamics 365 and PowerApps. It allows you to create automated workflows between apps and services by synchronizing files, sending notifications, collecting data, and more. 

Workflows in Dynamics 365:

Dynamics 365 workflows consist of a series of steps to automate your business process. Workflows can either be built-in or custom.
In this section, you can learn how workflows run in the background or how they can be triggered under certain conditions. For example, you can trigger a workflow when a record is created.

Charts and Dashboards:

There are many reporting options in Common Data Service. We can use either out of the box Charts and Dashboards functionality or leverage Power BI integration. We can even integrate with Microsoft Excel and visualize the data directly in Microsoft Excel.

We need to learn the designing of various types of charts such as pie, bar, line, funnel charts.


Learning Security Concepts in Dynamics 365

This is one of the crucial topics of the entire course. Proper understanding of the different security models of Dynamics 365 is essential for doing your job right.

You are required to learn the below topics:

  • Business Units
  • Security Roles
  • Hierarchy Security Models
  • Field Security Profiles
  • Users
  • Teams

The entire security model depends on these terms.

Business Units:

Business units are the foundation of security in Dynamics 365. You must know what root business unit is, when it is created, etc.

Security Roles:

You need to learn what security roles are. How are they divided based on their privileges, access levels, etc.?

Hierarchy Security Models:

You must know the hierarchy security model is an extension of security roles. You need to learn what are its types, what are its functionality, etc.

Field Security Profiles:

In Field security profiles, you can learn how to gran record level permissions to fields that contain sensitive data. Read, Update, and Create privileges to these fields are given.

Users & Teams

You can learn how each user in Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a set of attached privileges at various access levels. What are the security roles assigned to each user, what is the default security role when the user is created? In teams, you can learn on what basis a team is formed, how easily data can be shared, etc.

What do you learn in extending Dynamics 365 and Power Apps with Code?

For most of the business requirements, you don't need to write code. You can just customize & configure the components in the UI. But large enterprise companies often require complex business logic resulting in writing custom code.

Technical consultants of Dynamics 365/Power Apps are the ones who not only customize the UI but also write code to extend it. These guys need to have necessary programming skills as they are the ones who write the code.

Prerequisites to be a technical consultant:

  • Programming knowledge on C# or any other object-oriented language.
  • Basics of HTML, JavaScript, CSS.

Server-side code

C# is the programming language we use here. It is similar to Java and C++. Visual Studio is the tool (IDE) where we code C#. Server-side coding is used to modify the default business logic and change the behavior of the application as per the requirements of the clients.

A Plugin is one such server-side component we write code for. The below picture gives you a glimpse of what it takes to write a Plugin.


Also, there is another component called “Custom Workflow.” You are expected to know the writing code, debugging, and deployment of these components. 

 

Client-side scripting:

Client-side scripting uses JavaScript for handling things like data validations and conditional display of data on a form in Dynamics 365. A form can contain UI elements such as fields, a quick form, or a sub-grid. You can interact with these form elements through JavaScript.

You can also build custom UI with the help of components called web resources, which are designed with HTML & CSS with the help of JavaScript.


Learning Integrations

Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be integrated with other Microsoft solutions and a myriad of third-party applications easily.

Make sure you learn the following out of the box integrations:

  1. Microsoft Office integration such as Excel templates and Word templates
  2. Office 365 integration for identity and access management.
  3. SharePoint & OneDrive integrations for document storage.
  4. Data integration, such as importing and exporting data from a variety of sources.
  5. Power BI integration for reporting and intelligence.

Also, custom integrations can be done using Web API and SOAP web services.

  1. You can integrate native .Net applications using SOAP pre-build DLLs. Examples are console applications, tools, Windows applications, .Net based web applications.
  2. Web API based integration with non-native applications such as external technologies.

So far, we discussed what you are supposed to learn in the Dynamics 365 Training program. As I trainer I designed


My offerings

Dynamics Labs

Dynamics Labs is a dedicated Dynamics 365 related course hosting platform by me and other former Microsoft employees.

We teach Dynamics 365 and related technologies exclusively, nothing else. We have build

What is so special?

  1. 18+ hour training content carefully designed and refined based on feedback from thousands of my past students.
  2. The Dynamics 365 training program draws on everything I have learned directly as a Developer, Consultant, Trainer, Architect of implementing Dynamics 365 for more than 30 companies. The training stems from my experience of teaching more than 50 companies as a corporate trainer across the globe, including the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, India, and the Middle East.
  3. My earlier courses are trusted by more than 12,000 people on Udemy.
  4. Providing comprehensive courses with the latest updates.
  5. Slack based premium support for the students (on-demand support). Scroll down for more details on this.
  6. Case study based training program. (Scroll down for more details)
  7. The training program is similar to what I delivered in big companies/universities like Microsoft, HSBC, Wellforgo, City of University of New York, The University of Texas at Arlington, Infosys, TCS, HP, Syntel, Capgemini, AllState, Hitachi Consulting, Tata Technologies, CGI, Ericsson, Revature, Lexmark, Aricent, Fiserv, etc.

Teaching Case Study - Expense Management System

We talked about the Chicken and Egg problem earlier in the article. As we have already discussed, the best way to learn is by experiencing it. You will be working on implementing a case study using Dynamics 365 & Power Apps with a project “Expense Management system” for a fictional company called Northwind.

In this project, employees submit their expense requests, and managers have to approve or reject them. Each expense request contains several expense items. For example, if an employee has to attend a business meeting in a different city, and he can have different types of expenses such as taxi expenses, hotel expenses, etc. You will be taught how to design and develop a complete application right from creating an Entity-Relationship diagram, creating an app, entities, forms, fields, and configure requirements such as security, business processes.

The pragmatic approach will give you a different learning experience and a new perspective on application development.

Using Slack for Premium support

I acknowledge that the most significant resentment of online training is the lack of support. We provide Slack based support for all our paid students. The goal of the premium support is to assist the student in every path of the way.

For my courses, we have a private Slack. What better way to support students other than chat? Our support team is waiting for you 14 hours a day (Monday to Saturday). Once you are subscribed to the course, you will be given exclusive access to the Slack channel. All you have to do is go through lectures and ask questions over chat. As simple as that.

You are saving thousands of dollars.

Trust me, there are companies (Microsoft learning partners) in the USA like Netcom Learning, Firebrand Training, etc., charge students in the range of USD $3000– $5000 for instructor-led training, which generally lasts 3 to 5 days.

You can check out the pricing on their websites. 
1. https://firebrand.training/en/pricelist?fbt=1&ccode=mcsad&cid=916&vid=5
2.https://www.netcomlearning.com/products/1426/microsoft-dynamics-365.html

After spending thousands of dollars, you don't even get support after the training program. Also, they design many smaller courses, and you will end up taking at least 2–3 courses depending on what you are planning to learn.

Disclaimer: I worked for these companies in the past and delivered instructor lead training in the USA and other parts of the world. 

How much am I charging?

Out cost is just a fraction of what others are charging. Kindly go to our website to check the pricing. You can buy a bundle of Dynamics 365 courses in one go.

How much time do you need to dedicate?

The depends on your experience level with other technologies. If you are a newbie, it will take a minimum of two months to complete the training if you spend at least 2–3 hours every day.

Remember, how much you are learning is essential rather than how many hours you spent. One suggestion is that be regular and be active on our Slack channel. The best way is to learn with others. Meet new people and ask questions. Keep yourself motivated.

Many of us have had the experience of starting new things like the gym, yoga, online course with great enthusiasm, and quickly lose interest after starting it. In his book, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, author George Leonard outlined that consistent effort is the key to mastery. Also, skill is not linearly proportional to the time you spend. There are ebbs and flows, as shown in the below diagram.


The Mastery Curve ImageThe Mastery Curve Image Credit: Alastairfu

Conclusion

I hope this guide helps you in understanding what it takes to be a Dynamics 365 and Power Apps professional.

Whether you join us (Dynamics Labs)or a different training program, but don't miss out on the excellent opportunity of learning Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. I am sure it will be a joyride.


Check out our 90-day training challenge to become a professional in Dynamics 365. With the perfect plan and guidance, we will assist you at every step to reach your goal.