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Introducing the Biz Apps Classroom podcast

Jan 12
Yes, it’s true. Literally everyone now has a podcast, including me. Jason Gumpert and I go way back. We’ve always been supportive of each other’s efforts, but never had a chance to work together. But a random hallway conversation at...
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Dynamics 365 Training

Here’s the story of shortcuts.

Nov 15
About a million years ago, we opened a business banking account with Bank ABC. At the time, they had two primary types of accounts, personal and business. So far so good. Personal accounts had data fields for all the expected...
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I need experience to get experience

You’re trained.

You’re eager to work.

You’re not getting hired because you have zero experience.

We’ve heard this story over and over again.  And it’s tough.  It’s hard to go through all the training, get excited about new tech and new beginnings.  And not be able to get the job because you lack “real-world” experience.

We’ve launched a new initiative at The Pivot Program to help address this.

Our volunteers will be accepting applications for new candidates to be project resources, specifically targeting people new to Power Platform and Dynamics 365. 

We know that everyone deserves to be paid for their work, and we will continue to seek paid apprenticeships for those new to the industry.  But we are hopeful this program can help you keep that forward momentum you’ve gotten from your training. 

You’re excited and ready to work, let’s keep you moving forward.

To learn more about our efforts, visit our Projects page

If you want to support us with paid opportunities, reach out to me directly and let's make it happen.


15 years (and counting) as a Microsoft MVP

In the beginning of my MVP tenure, there were not very many of us in my chosen area of expertise.  We all knew one another, all knew spouses of one another (well, let’s be honest, there were two women, we all knew the wives of the others), knew about the kids.  We became a family with not only a common love of technology, but for each other.  We jokingly call the guest room at our house the MVP suite because so many have come to stay while in Colorado, even more came for a homemade dinner.  I have enjoyed visiting countless MVPs on my world travels.  Made so many memories together.
PXL_20230919_020836624

It was this feeling of family, of unwavering support for each other, that made me determined to stay part of this group.  Even in the years where it was tough. And I will be honest that some years are easier than others.  I always love the community work, I always hate the tracking of it.  Sometimes it’s tough to see where you can make a difference.  There was certainly a year or two that I was going through the motions because it’s what I knew, but was unsure of my motivation. This past year some paid projects reignited my passion for this community. 

There were two times we all auto-renewed for various reasons (program realignment and COVID).  One of those years I was actually really struggling with my health and had thought for sure I would lose this family because I just couldn’t keep up.

Over the years the family has grown, and so has the technology.  I hear from so many old-timers that we just can’t keep up with all the new growth of our beloved CRM and Power Platform.  My immediate thought is, same here.  I cannot keep up with the tech, or these new MVPs.  Then I realize I don’t have to be an expert on everything.  I can still make an impact on the community.  I compare myself to prior versions of me, not to someone else.  While it might not be daily growth, or daily learning, am I better today than before?  Do I know more today than before?  As long as that answer continues to be yes, then I am good with myself and feel that I still belong in this MVP family. There’s room for all of us to succeed.

I see friends deciding to step back from being an MVP after they lose their passion, redefine their own priorities. I am so happy for them that they followed their hearts.  I’m not there yet.  When I think it’s time, I’ll follow my heart too.  I don’t see that happening soon, but we’ll see.

There are now hundreds of MVPs in my chosen specialty.  I do not know all of them.  I try to know as many as I can.  And while I professionally respect your technology expertise and your community commitment, I’m more likely to ask about your family or your dog than I am to chat about your most recent blog post.

I grew up in a big family, with not a lot of money or opportunity.  I can’t remember being told I could do bigger or better things.  The people around me didn’t have that vision.  I will forever be grateful for marrying into a family who had that vision, who gave that support.  And then the continued support from this MVP family.

Do the things. 

Do all of the things.

Then find new things to do.

Love,

CRM MVP #23


Power Platform advice from 90s boybands

My friend Joel wrote this up and offered to have me (or anyone, he wasn't picky) publish it.  He didn't think it fit his own blog.  But we couldn't keep this from the world.  

Power Apps, part of Microsoft’s Power Platform, is a suite of applications, services, and connectors that provide a rapid application development environment to build custom apps for business needs.


Using browser translate for Microsoft Learn content

Використання перекладача браузера для матеріалів Microsoft Learn

I will show the steps in Edge browser, but Chrome has a nearly identical way to do this also.
Я покажу кроки в браузері Edge, але у Chrome є практично ідентичний спосіб це зробити також.

Navigate to the settings area of Edge browser.
Перейдіть до області налаштувань браузера Edge.

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Add your preferred language.
Додайте бажану мову.

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Prioritize your preferred language.
Встановіть пріоритет вашої бажаної мови.

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When on the page that needs to be translated, right click and select translate.
Коли ви перебуваєте на сторінці, яку потрібно перекласти, натисніть правою кнопкою миші і виберіть опцію "Перекласти".

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Your page will now be in the translated language.
Тепер ваша сторінка буде у перекладеній мові.

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If you use the lesson’s navigation to page to the next page the translation continues.
Якщо ви використовуєте навігацію уроку для переходу на наступну сторінку, переклад продовжується.


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If you navigate separately, you can simply right-click and translate again.
Якщо ви навігуєтесь окремо, ви можете просто клацнути правою кнопкою миші і знову перекласти.

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Now your page is displayed in the translated language again.
Тепер ваша сторінка знову відображається у перекладеній мові.

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How to share your transcript from Microsoft Learn

When the time comes and someone needs to review and confirm your credentials, you may need to share your training transcript.  In Microsoft Learn, it’s pretty straightforward.

Navigate to your profile.
Navigate to your Learn profile


Select transcript.
Navigate to transcript page

Select share link.

Select share link

Copy the link and send it to whoever needs it.  Be mindful that the transcript contains not only your certifications and completed learning modules, but also your MCID and program email.

Copy transcript link

Your transcript looks like this, sharing the details of your training and certifications.

 

View of transcript


Introducing 365Ai in Power Platform training courses

365Ai is rolling out across courses in the portfolio at 365.Training.  365Ai allows you to ask questions while in the context of a course and get detailed responses related to that topic.
365Ai logo


You can view more courses with 365Ai here

For example, in our Zero to model-driven apps course, you can ask:

What is the difference between a model-driven Power App and canvas Power App?

And 365Ai will return the following:

Model-driven Power Apps and Canvas Power Apps are two different types of Power Apps that serve different purposes and cater to different development styles.

Model-driven Power Apps:

  1. Focus on the data and business logic, automatically generating the user interface based on the underlying data model and relationships.
  2. Primarily built using Microsoft Dataverse as the data source.
  3. Provide a responsive design that works well on both desktop and mobile devices.
  4. Offer a more structured and consistent user experience, suitable for complex business applications.
  5. Require less design effort, as the app's layout is determined by the data model.

Canvas Power Apps:

  1. Focus on the user interface and user experience, allowing for pixel-perfect control over the app's design.
  2. Can connect to various data sources, including Microsoft Dataverse, SharePoint, SQL Server, and more.
  3. Offer more flexibility in terms of design and layout, suitable for custom and visually appealing applications.
  4. Require more design effort, as the app's layout is built from scratch using drag-and-drop components.
  5. May not be as responsive as model-driven apps, requiring additional effort to optimize for different devices.

In summary, model-driven Power Apps are best suited for data-centric applications with complex business logic, while canvas Power Apps are ideal for custom, visually appealing applications with a focus on user experience.

365Ai is fully integrated with the course and contained in a module.  Just look for it from the navigation while viewing the course.

Screen image from site navigation

Once there, simply ask 365Ai your questions.

screen image from 365Ai page in a course

We are rolling this out across several courses, and it is currently available as mentioned in our Zero to model-driven apps course, and also in our Power Fx Basics course

365Ai knows the topics that are relevant and will respond with answers from those topics only.  It uses that latest available technology, but it might still produce occasional inaccurate information.

Our Power Fx Basics course is free.  Our Zero to model-driven apps course is available for purchase or included in all of our subscriptions.


What kind of apps would a citizen developer make?

Sure, I’ve been around this industry forever, but I hardly ever have a chance to make personal productivity apps for me.  I’m also spending loads of time training and have less and less time for building stuff.  I’ve never been into coding, not even copy/paste of someone’s script on a CRM form.

And as much as it pains me to say it, I made a Power App with an Excel data source.  But that’s what the situation called for, and that’s what Power Platform enabled me to do.

Please note that I am aware that there are a million ways to accomplish what I did, this is the way that I chose to make it with my time and available resources.

Power Apps come in all shapes and sizes to solve business problems of all kinds.  They don't have to be fancy, they have a job to do.  As long as they do the job, that's often just what you need.

This is the story of making a gradebook app.

Some of the details:

  • Four users of the app, we are all licensed users on the same tenant
  • We are supporting cohorts of students and their weekly assignments
  • Each cohort has about 100 members
  • Cohorts last six weeks
  • Most of the time we have two active cohorts because their weeks overlap, so that’s around 200 active students at a time

Also of note:

  • I am not an admin of the tenant
  • I have a good Enterprise Office/Microsoft 365 license, but no Power Platform add-ons

The general flow of things is that each week students have short writing assignments.   Trainers need to review the assignments and provide feedback to students in a timely manner. There are a few other things we track, but the heavy lifting is the writing assignments and feedback cycle.

The writing assignments

Each cohort has 6 forms, one for each week. We open up each week using native functionality to start the new week’s form on a certain date. 

Data

Let’s start with the backend, the data.

There is a connector that allows me to capture Forms responses.

There is a connector that allows me to populate an Excel row in a table.

Our unique identifier in this case is the student email address.  This comes with good and bad.  Good, it’s easy for me on the build side.  Bad, so many ways for this to not make the match we hope for, and it causes the cloud flow to fail.  For now, we review failures and manually correct our gradebook as needed.  Better error handling/avoidance is on the near-term backlog.  ***edited to add*** I added some error handling this weekend and woohoo, it was so easy!

Each week has a form.  Each form has a flow.  And because of data retention policies each cohort has its own series of forms.  So, March cohort has 6 forms and 6 flows; April cohort has 6 forms and 6 flows, and so on.  For me, for now, this is ok.  We have a master set of each and making the forms and flows for a new cohort takes fewer than ten minutes total.

The flow is very simple.  Very. 

The trigger is this named form is submitted.

Now take the info from the form.

Match to this row of this table of this file in this location.

Add these things to the row.

Pictureflow

The Power App

For the app itself, it is built in the Teams channel we use to manage the cohorts.

It has 8 screens.

Main screen- This is where we pick the student we need to view.  This is a read-only screen. 

Student detail screen- We see the student info to include identifying info and assignments in summary form. This is a read-only screen.

Weekly screens- there are six of these pages, one for each week.  They are effectively the same except each week shows that week’s questions and answers.  From here we can track some of their non-writing activities and we can offer them feedback on the writing assignments. 

Let’s look more at the functionality of each screen.

Main screen

Picturescreen1

This is a simple page to select the student.  For now, the students are listed by their username they have on the cohort Team. That might change to their email in the future, we’ll see how it goes in practical day-to-day use.  Sometimes we need to see a student for weekly feedback.  Sometimes it’s to update their participation in other activities. 

When a trainer is going to spend some time offering feedback, it’s easier if we know who is waiting for the feedback.  So, the checkbox will only show us students who have submitted assignments and have not yet received feedback for that assignment.  This query was the most cumbersome because we have to perform the same check for each of the six weeks in this one query.  It was a bunch of if this and this or this and this, and so on.  Once the first weekly logic was set, adding the other weeks was very simple.

I had noticed that sometimes the selected student wasn’t clearing as expected.  It was sticky.  I would look at Student A, go back home.  Select Student B, and on view would see Student A instead.  So I added a clear button for when that happens.  It was so inconsistent that this was the fastest way to solve the problem instead of troubleshooting the why, we just solved it with a button.

Student detail screen

Picturescreen2

The available actions on this page are to go home (click that shiny cohort badge/logo takes you home), or drill into a week.  Looking at this example you can quickly see that the first two weeks have the writing completed by the student, and feedback provided.  But the third week has the student input, but no feedback yet.  So, the trainer clicks the button for the week from the center of the page.  If you were here to track other activities, you would still drill into the week to track that.

Weekly feedback screens

Picturescreen3

This is where the action happens.  Before we got here, everything was read-only and directional. First, we have the non-action, action items.  You can go home from here by selecting the icon.  You can go back to the student summary screen with the back button. 

Most of the fields on this page are read-only.

If you are here to track the non-writing activities, you can add your responses to those fields (there are two) and select the save icon.  This sends the updates back to the Excel table. (Yup, we’re still on Excel here, did you forget?)

If you are here to provide feedback to the writing assignment, you enter your text in the review box, and select the Send Feedback button.  This will send the save back to the table for any of the three fields you could have edited.  But it also uses the Office connector and sends feedback in an email to the student.  The email comes from the current user of the app.  This is NOT a flow, it’s via a formula here in the app.

If you need to view other weekly activities for this student while you are here, you can navigate to any of the weeks directly from this page using the buttons on the top.

Random findings

  • Still not a huge fan of Excel as a data source, but it’s what we have available here so it’s what we use. It is stored in a location far away from our other daily files, so chances of it accidentally being updated are less than if it were in a common location.
  • Even experienced people have to search for formula help, and they make things via trial and error. I’m surrounded by super smart people and asked for help when I needed it.  They still had to go look things up.  And often things didn’t work on the first try.
  • There is usually more than one way to do the same thing. For example, sending the feedback to the student each week could have been a cloud flow.  The send feedback button was originally intended to trigger a flow to grab info from the table, then compose and send the email.  But, it turned out for our purposes, using native functionality we could compose it all inline in the app itself and make it a more direct path to send, and it was easier to make it come from the current user with the in app email send.
  • I could probably make a single flow for each cohort combining the six weeks into one cloud flow. For me that adds a layer of complexity that is just not needed here.  It would make troubleshooting problems more difficult.
  • Flow error messages can give enough detailed information to be able to manually complete the task, if the task is small.
  • Things were easier for me because I am pretty good at quickly recognizing patterns and using them as needed with minor modifications.
  • Things were more difficult for me because I am a three-dimensional thinker and Excel is not a relational database, it’s pretty darn flat.
  • It’s ok to ask for help.

All in all, I spent about 20 hours on this so far.  That includes everything from the structure of the table that powers the backend to the apps and automation.  I also needed help a couple of times that added up to another couple of hours from my friends.  This app will save our team several times that amount in a single cohort and we start new cohorts each month.  It was definitely worth making this app.  Even with Excel.


How you can support the women around you

Full disclosure, you should be doing these things daily.  But if it took a special named day to get your attention, and now that I have your attention, I’m going to tell you how you can support women in your personal and professional orbit. 

  1. Support our choices with our bodies. That includes keeping your unwanted hands and opinions to yourself.
  2. Pay women what they are worth. 
  3. Stop charging more for women’s products.
  4. Celebrate the successes of women.
  5. Listen to us. We have great ideas.
  6. Stop talking over us. Finishing my sentence isn’t even cute if we’re married.
  7. Don’t take credit for our ideas and our work.
  8. See to it that others see your example, and feel free to tell them to do better when needed.
  9. It doesn’t matter if we are feminine, masculine, or somewhere in between, we belong at the table, on the stage, anywhere we want to be.

And if you just can’t do the things above, get out of the way.  You don’t have to help, just stop making it harder.


Certification renewals from Microsoft Learn

Recently we’ve had the option to incrementally update some of our certifications.  A certification has a shelf-life.  And it should.  The product, the training content, the exam questions, are all updated quite often.  However, the incremental differences are not worthy of a full re-do of a certification every year.  We now have the chance to take an assessment of the net new and extend a certification.

With the renewals, you have a few chances to pass.  My strategy, take the assessment to see what gaps I may have to fill to be more current.  Just like with the exams themselves, there is no better study guide than the test itself.  If I started the assessment and knew right away it was not going to end in my favor, then I slow down and re-read every question, every one of the answer options.  Make sure I know what is expected of me for the next time.  The renewals are free, and you get more than one chance to pass.

A million years ago, I did a blog post about my failing a certification exam.  You can find my post from 2011 here.  So much of it is still relevant today.  It even looks like Microsoft may have taken some of my advice and split the old-school applications exam into separate ones based on products/modules.

You should set realistic expectations of yourself.  No one has to know your score, unless you tell them.  Certifications are binary; you are certified, or you are not certified.

When you pass the exam by one question, you get the same certification as the person with a perfect score, no gold stars for anyone- Julie Yack, 2011

 

I did my renewal yesterday and am just as certified as anyone else. 

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Which business applications cert is for you?

I am often asked what exam to take...how do I know it applies to me? It is super important to understand that the numbers with the certification exam do not convey any level of difficulty. 

Here's my summary of the Business Applications exams.

PL-100- Power Platform App Maker (aka the citizen developer exam)- Your job is not Power Platform. Maybe you’re an accountant, maybe you work on the shop floor. You are an expert in what you do but you want to solve problems with Power Apps. This is a good way to show IT that you can be trusted to make apps in ”their” environments, or maybe even transition to a role of making Power Apps.

PL-200 -Power Platform Functional Consultant- You make Power Apps with low code or no code. You automate stuff with Power Platform resources using Power Fx, cloud flows, and connectors. This is your explicit job. (In my opinion, this is the toughest exam because it covers SO MUCH STUFF).

PL-300- Power BI Data Analyst- You transform data in a way that makes it consumable to stakeholders.  You need to understand the sources for the data, and that may or may not be a Power Platform data source.  This is your explicit job.

PL-400-Power Platform Developer-You extend Power Apps with code. You will do this better if you also understand what’s needed from PL-200/MB-200 above. This is your explicit job.

PL-500- Power Automate RPA Developer- You automate tasks with robotic process automation, and you do it with pro-code level skills. This is your explicit job.

PL-600-Power Platform Solution Architect-An advanced certification for architecting Power Platform solutions. You need to know a bit of everything and be able to apply it to solve real problems. This is your explicit job.

PL-900- Power Platform Fundamentals- Your job might be Power Platform, but the non-technical side. It’s important for you to understand abstract ideas about what the platform can and should do.

MB-210- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant- You implement Dynamics 365 Sales. You understand the sales process and how users best work with sales automation software. You recognize and mitigate inefficiencies. You have a strong base knowledge of Power Platform, specifically model-driven apps and cloud flows.  This is your explicit job.

MB-220- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing Functional Consultant- You implement Dynamics 365 Marketing. You understand traditional and digital marketing needs and strategies. You recognize and mitigate inefficiencies. You have a strong base knowledge of Power Platform, specifically model-driven apps and cloud flows.  This is your explicit job.

MB-230- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant- You implement Dynamics 365 Customer Service. You understand how and why users use software to track and solve customer service issues. You recognize and mitigate inefficiencies. You have a strong base knowledge of Power Platform, specifically model-driven apps and cloud flows.  This is your explicit job.

MB-240- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service Functional Consultant- You implement Dynamics 365 Field Service. You know how users can manage and implement software solutions in the field to better service customer needs. A solid understanding of Internet of Things will help you do your job better. You recognize and mitigate inefficiencies. You have a strong base knowledge of Power Platform, specifically model-driven apps and cloud flows.  This is your explicit job.

MB-260- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Data Platform Specialist- You implement solutions for customer profiles and engagement tracking.  You have a very good understanding of Power Platform that includes Dataverse, Power Query, and general CRM principles.  You have a general understanding of the common data model and Azure concepts like Azure Machine Learning, Azure Synapse and Azure Data Factory. This is your explicit job, likely along with either Power Platform or CRM-type implementations.

MB-300- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Core Finance and Operations- You need to know the common features and concepts for the finance and operations apps.  You might become a functional consultant, developer or other supporting role for an implementation. You will likely specialize in one of the other ERP-focused areas.  This is your explicit job.

MB-310- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant- You analyze business requirements and turn them into business solutions and processes using the finance application.  You understand industry best practices and how it applies to ERP-related operations. You are capable with other finance and operations apps, but specialize in finance solutions.  This is your explicit job.

MB-330- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant- You analyze business requirements and turn them into business solutions and processes using the supply chain application.  You understand industry best practices and how it applies to ERP-related operations. You are capable with other finance and operations apps, but specialize in supply chain solutions.  This is your explicit job.

MB-340- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce Functional Consultant- You analyze business requirements and turn them into business solutions and processes using the commerce application.  You understand industry best practices and how it applies to ERP-related operations. You are capable with other finance and operations apps, but specialize in commerce solutions.  This is your explicit job.

MB-500- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Apps Developer- You implement business logic for finance and operations apps using pro-code solutions to extend these apps.  You need a solid understanding of out of the box configuration options so that you do not code things that are best as configured options.  This is your explicit job.

MB-700- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect- This is an advanced certification for architecting solutions with finance and operations applications.  You orchestrate and watch over all aspects of the implementation from planning to building to testing.  This is your explicit job.

MB-800- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant- You implement the core setup of Business Central.  You configure the application to meet the needs of the client.  You fully understand the business needs that are solved with the application. This is your explicit job.

MB-910- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (CRM)- Your job might be something with Dynamics 365, but not the technical aspects.  You support people who use these products or implement these products.  You need to understand the business reasons for implementing various customer relationship management software.

MB-920- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (ERP)- Your job might be something with Dynamics 365, but not the technical aspects.  You support people who use these products or implement these products.  You need to understand the business reasons for implementing various enterprise resource planning software.