The announcement of the new Azure exams at Inspire 2018 signalled the beginning of a complete overhaul of the Microsoft exam and certification structure. We have entered a world of role-based certs as opposed to product based certs – and the ones we worked so hard to get, such as Office 365, will be retired soon. Of course, there is still a little time left if you want to get these for posterity.
Moving to a role-based certification system – similar to Amazon – makes complete sense from the perspective of having qualifications reflective of the job you actually do as opposed to a set of knowledge on a particular product you may never actually use. Yet, with so many new exams and certs being released in such a short space of time, there are as many who don’t know where to start as there are those who are engaged in a mad dash to get re-certified before their existing certs run out. Some will see it as an opportunity to start their exam journey and others as a chance to better reflect their skills.
We ask a panel of IT Pro’s their opinions – what are their plans for Microsoft 365 certification in 2019?
All Microsoft 365 Exams: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/microsoft-365-exams.aspx
This Weeks Panel
Adam Deltinger (@Deltanr1): MCSE, Sweden
Chris Hoard (@Microsoft365Pro): MCT/MCSE UK
Veronique Lengelle (@Veronicageek): MVP, UK
Vesa Nopanen (@VesaNopanen): MVP, Finland
Rick Van Rousselt (@RickVanRousselt) MVP, Belgium
1/ Microsoft 365 certifications are now starting to come out of Beta. Do you think moving from product based certifications to role based certifications make them more valuable?
AD: I think this was the right choice moving forward! By making them more role based, they become more relevant for real life work scenarios!
CH: Overall, yes I do. It is important in terms of reflecting what people actually do on a day to day basis. You don’t, for example, qualify to drive based on your knowledge of an engine. I also think it’s important in terms of employment. However, there is a small part of me which thinks that there is a trade off or loss in terms of recognition for deep technical and holistic understanding of an actual solution. A good example is Intune, which is now spread out over several exams and certifications. If I reverse the analogy above, then whilst we can drive we may not actually fully understand that what it is we are driving.
VL: Yes, I think they are more valuable in that we are now qualified for what we do as opposed to being qualified for what we know.
VN: The Cloud is not about single products. It is the infusion of features and products that work together towards the same goal. So yes, I think role based certifications will have more real value.
RVR: Yes, People working in IT have always been more divided into the roles they do on a day-to-day basis then on the product they mainly use or work with. I think this is a more correct representation of the reality which will in turn can make the certifications more harder to get because instead of knowing a little bit of everything in a product you will need to have experience in executing that role.
2/ Is there a Microsoft 365 certification that you will plan to take this year?
AD: I’m planning taking them all, but have not yet set any timeline! I’ll probably start out with the MS-300 though (Teamwork)
CH: I’ve kind of launched into it this year, so took and passed MS-900 (Fundamentals) and the two Enterprise Exams (MS-100/101) to get Microsoft 365 Enterprise Administrator Expert. The next step will be the Associate exams. I’ll probably begin with either Security (MS-500) or Teamwork (MS-300/301). As I have 70-345 (Exchange 2016) I will probably go for the transition exam (MS-202) to get Messaging Associate
VL: I took and passed MS-100 this year so far. I will also take 70-339 for SharePoint 2016 and MS-101. The goal is Enterprise Administrator Expert.
VN: I have not decided my certification paths yet. There are lots of options, one of the most interesting ones is Deploying Microsoft 365 Teamwork (MS-300). Looking at spring schedules I will target my certifications to autumn and check out offering during the summer.
RVR: Maybe. As a developer the offer of certifications for Microsoft 365 is still not that much. But that’s normal in developer certifications.
3/ We have seen several workload examinations for Microsoft 365 come out in the last few months. Do you think there are any missing workloads, or would you like to see any other type of exams come out for Microsoft 365?
AD: I was really happy to see the Teamwork exam, because I was missing this one! I do believe Microsoft has come up with a great bunch of exams covering most workloads in Microsoft 365! Since I haven’t done them myself yet, it’s hard for me to tell if they left something out!
CH: Voice is the obvious missing workload at the moment but from what I understand this will come out at some point as MS-400. I also think that it is missing Developer and Solution Architect roles. If I were being really picky then I would love to something based upon Analytics.
VL: I didn’t particularly enjoy MS-100. Maybe more diversity in the exam questions than Exchange migration steps. Performing a role is not necessarily performing a narrow set of tasks.
RVR: More developer oriented certifications would be nice
4/ Even though Microsoft 365 Fundamentals is an optional exam, do you consider this to be optional – or a must for those on their Microsoft 365 certification journey
AD: No, I don’t consider this a must in any way! This one is suited for those who is starting out fresh in their Microsoft 365 journey and if you feel comfortable with it’s topics, you can probably skip it! But for those people who needs to collect all the Pokémon’s, it’s no harm taking it!
CH: I personally believe they are a must because, for me, I think it’s important to show that everyone has sat in that same seat and been through the same experience at a fundamental level. As an MCT, my students know I have done this and have been in their shoes. Some Pro’s do believe they are too good for such an MTA/Fundamental level – I wouldn’t hold myself as good enough to bypass anything. However, I respect others opinions on this – and if you have a limited budget as a Pro and you have to do a fundamentals exam, or a full MCP exam then it’s going to be the MCP every time.
VL: Totally optional
VN: I would not make it mandatory, since there are lots of really experienced professionals who would consider this annoying since they know all in and out. Optional is therefore good, but this should be highly recommended for many pros.
RVR: The fundamentals exam proves that you have a good overview of Microsoft 365. So if you have the chance it’s always good to have an exam like this on your list
5/ What advice would you give to those looking to start get certified in Microsoft 365 or have never considered doing a Microsoft exam before?
AD: Do the fundamentals exam first! Also make sure to read the Microsoft exam description and make sure you feel comfortable with the topics before taking the exam! The most important advice would be to do a lot of hands-on practice! It’s easy to set up a practice environment.
CH: For any certification understand your reasons for doing it. Is this something that will benefit you or your career? Will it help you get to your destination or the role you want to be in the long-term? Is it something you simply enjoy doing? – That is ok that’s a perfectly acceptable reason it doesn’t just have to be for business reasons. If you are going to do it commit to it do so fully – study the materials, spin up test tenants, read exam prep guides, understand what questions you may be asked. Failure too is a learning experience so if you fail? It’s like driving – saddle up and let’s go again.
VL: Certifications are a good way to show your potential to future employers. Not mandatory, but (highly) recommended in my opinion. It also validates your own skills or point weaknesses if you wish to improve them. Practice and experience are a MUST before sitting any Microsoft exams
VN: Learn the subjects and use practice materials. If possible, go through practice tests to get to know what kind of questions there are and what is usually expected on the answer. Read the question a few times to be sure that you know what is asked. Don’t rush it through and if you encounter a tough question: bookmark it and get back to it later when you have answered all those that are easier for you. And there are times when your mind has already worked out the tough question in the background.
RVR: Practice. You can learn the theory from online training courses or books but still using it on a regular base helps a lot more than just somebody telling you what the answers are.