Happy New Year! Resolve to learn in 2022.
Since Microsoft and computing, in general, have transformed into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model in the “cloud,” technology advances at a dizzying speed. It’s challenging to keep up with these changes while simultaneously managing work and personal responsibilities.
So, I challenge you in this new year to resolve to learn at least one new Power Platform, Dataverse, or Dynamics 365 technology or skill.
Try to incorporate this resolution into your stated developmental goals at work. By combining your resolution with your goals, you can often gain managerial support for using work time and resources or reimbursement for associated costs.
Ultimately, your key to success is starting small with just one target. Identify it, develop your attack plan, and then work it.
If you’re new to the Power Platform, Dataverse, and Dynamics 365 spaces, the sections below have some habits and resources to get you started. There are many more, but remember, you’re starting with a small, quickly attainable goal. We call it a SQAG at C5 Insight. It’s meant to get you jump-started and experiencing success to gain momentum for the next one.
Commit To These 5 Learning Habits
You’re ready to create a SQAG (Small Quickly Attainable Goal), but you don’t know where to start. How can you identify a new tool or technology? Internet searches are overwhelming and sometimes provide results with questionable reliability. Top search results are not always the best ones.
I have discovered that going directly to the source is the best course. Microsoft has dramatically improved its online documentation and expanded its community organization. Let’s look at five habits you can adopt immediately to find possible learning targets for your resolution and SQAG.
1. Join Your Microsoft Community and Local User Groups
Microsoft and other groups have organized virtual and in-person spaces for experts, Microsoft MVPs, and peers to discuss topics in forums, share ideas, ask questions, and learn. These spaces are judgment-free zones and provide the collegiality many users miss at smaller companies where they may be the sole D365 administrator.
If you haven’t already, join your Microsoft community. For the best experience across the Microsoft sites, consider creating a profile. You’ll use this to customize your notifications and experiences on sites, track learning paths (see below), and register for certification exams. Your profile is the perfect way to document all your accomplishments over time.
There’s a community for every flavor of Microsoft technology. Choose the ones that match your job function and responsibilities:
- Dynamics 365: https://community.dynamics.com (This site contains all the D365 applications in one place.)
- Power Apps: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/Power-Apps-Community/ct-p/PowerApps1
- Power Automate: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/Microsoft-Power-Automate/ct-p/MPACommunity
- Power BI: https://community.powerbi.com/
- Power Virtual Agents: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/Power-Virtual-Agents-Community/ct-p/PVACommunity
You can also join local user groups to meet peers in your area. Most UGs meet virtually for now. The advantage is you get to define your “local,” and all are welcome in any group. Each community site above contains a link to the associated user group, but I have included a couple below:
Power Platform: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/Power-Platform-User-Groups/ct-p/pp_usergroups
Dynamics 365: https://community.dynamics.com/usergroup
Our need to connect led other user-sponsored groups to form, for example, the Dynamics User Group (DUG): https://www.dynamicsuser.net. This group also encompasses Power Platform.
2. Complete a Learning Path on Microsoft Learn
Microsoft Learn is the platform you need to start your knowledge journey. Many other organizations provide training and events (see below), but this is the source material. All certifications and exams begin here. The “docs” are an invaluable resource for system administrators, and learning paths and modules make them approachable.
Before you begin, remember to create a Microsoft profile. This profile is different from the one you may have on your company’s system. I suggest you use a personal email address to create it so that the information is portable.
Check out the docs and learning for your preferred tools:
Dynamics 365: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/dynamics365
Power Platform: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/powerplatform
3. Follow a Blog, Subscribe to a YouTube Channel
Blogs and vlogs can help you digest complex topics or guide you on your learning journey. Hey, you found this one, so you’re already familiar with them. There are so many of us sharing ideas that it may feel overwhelming and leave you at a loss for where to begin.
I suggest the C5 Insight blog and C5 Insight YouTube channel. Naturally, I’m biased.
Our friend Kylie Kiser has a blog with great information, and maintains an active list of the best of the best. Check out her list to find writers who focus on topics interesting to you.
Once you’ve identified blog sites or YouTube channels you enjoy, bookmark them. If offered, you can add the RSS feed in your Outlook.
4. Attend a Community Event
Similar to the Community pages and user groups, events let you meet and mingle with peers and hear presentations from people just like you. I’ve learned so much through the years at events, and I can’t imagine my career without them.
Microsoft and other organizations have pivoted in the last couple of years to provide virtual events. We’re starting to see some in-person events return.
The good news for you is that you have options to meet your comfort level. Some events are free, others for a fee. I’ve listed a few below with the latest delivery mode and cost info.
Microsoft Ignite: https://myignite.microsoft.com/home (Virtual, No-fee)
DynamicsCon (DUG): https://dynamicscon.com (Virtual, No-fee)
Acceleration Economy (formerly CRMUG): https://www.summitna.com (In-person, Fee)
Collab365: https://events.collab365.com (Virtual, Fee)
5. Play in Sandboxes
In the end, the best way to learn is to do. Nothing replaces practical, hands-on experience for mastering a new skill or technology.
If your organization has migrated to the cloud, you have the option to create sandbox environments in your tenant as long as it has sufficient storage capacity.
If your organization remains on-premises, you have even greater flexibility for creating a sandbox environment. You can also spin up trial environments. Discuss with your IT department the best approach for your situation.
Whatever environment works best for you, get it. It’s the perfect accompaniment for your Microsoft Learning Path and YouTube video tutorials.
Block Your Calendar (Tentatively)
Remember SQAGs, so start small. Even this list can feel like too much on top of everything else you do. Before deciding which habit or resource to adopt or which new skill you want to learn, your next step is to block your calendar.
Add a recurring tentative appointment with yourself. Once a day, a week, a month, it doesn’t matter as long as the block is there.
The subject line? Professional Development. Because that’s what you are, a professional, and you’re dedicating time to develop yourself.
By creating the appointment, you keep others from taking over your time. Setting the appointment as tentative lets others know that you have something planned. Yet, you’re open to rescheduling for a higher priority need.
Honor this time, and over the year, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve accomplished and learned. If you want more ideas or have some to share, contact C5 Insight today!