CRM 2011 Training Options
October 24, 2011 1 Comment
There are loads of resources for official and unofficial CRM training available, so to try and make things easier, here’s a few starting points.
Official E-learning, classroom training and books
The easiest way to find all the official Microsoft options in one place is to start with the Microsoft Training Catalog for CRM.
This includes Online training courses and instructor-led classroom training which map to the exams, as well as some courses which are more general (such as 80442 Introduction to CRM 2011). The classroom training also provides links to search for training providers near you, although this simply lists partners that may or may not offer the specific courses you are looking for, so you will need to check their own websites to see if they have public scheduled courses to suit you.
You will also find links to the exams with full details of the objectives covered and their weightings. There are also links to “Learning Plans” which guide you to resources specifically aimed at gaining the skills to pass a particular exam, but it seems that all the plans available describe the CRM 4 tracks, not CRM 2011
Confusion over e-Learning course codes
I have seen various comments in blogs and forums about not being able to find the appropriate online training courses which match the available classroom training. it seems that Microsoft sometimes add an “e” on the end of the course code – for example if you look at the preparation materials page for exam MB2-866 CRM 2011 Customization it shows the classroom course 80294A and online training 80294AE.
However, if you visit the CRM training catalogue linked above and try searching for this code, you simply won’t find it. You need instead to search for the “regular” code and it will show the classroom and e-learning options.
As a further tip, I would generally drop the final letter which signifies the “revision” of the course (version number if you like). If you search for revision “A” after the “B” version has been released you may get no results, or worse may be guided to the old revision which has been superseded by an improved, error-corrected and refined version. You will see from the Customisation exam preparation materials page that a B revision is mentioned, but not linked, showing that this is planned and in progress, but not yet released.
Get Microsoft Official Courseware for free!
Yes, it’s true, you can get hold of the Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) documents for CRM entirely free and perfectly legitimately. All you need to do is become a Microsoft customer for CRM – which you can do simply by signing up for a free 30 day trial of CRM online. Once you are signed up you will get access to “Customer Source” – a portal with all kinds of useful information and resources, and access to download a pdf version of the training courses.
What’s the catch?
This is a great way to get hold of the training materials and at the same time sign up for a 30 day trial of a live CRM environment where you can try things out to hone your skills. However, the courses include various lab exercises to walk you through the skills being demonstrated, which depend on having the virtual machines installed and set up with this pre-prepared environment which is ready to use. The only way to get access to those is through an approved training provider, so you will have to figure out and work through your own examples to see the same functionality in action, and in some cases this can be a bit of a pain.
Also, if you prefer to read things on paper where you can also scribble and make notes it may cost you quite a lot in printing. Of course it is possible to just write separate notes, or to use software to annotate the downloaded files. Even Adobe’s own Acrobat Reader has a feature to add comments, I’m told, although personally I use Foxit Phantom to edit and comment pdfs. This can get clunky and awkward and works best if you have a dual monitor setup (or two machines).
The biggest downside is that you don’t get free access to a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) who is an expert in their subject to walk you through the course, answer specific questions you may have, help out with areas you are unsure about and add loads of value by incorporating their own real-world experience into their training. If you are trying to learn about CRM 2011 from scratch (ie you are not fully up to speed on CRM 4) then instructor-led training in a classroom environment with all the right virtual machines is definitely the best option. (Of course, I would say that, as an MCT myself.)
User and administrator guides
Microsoft have recently released some documentation which is intended to help users get the most out of their CRM solution. These are Word documents which are simply consolidated and reformatted information from the CRM 2011 Help provided with the on-premises version.
Personally I find these much more useful than the help system if you are trying to actually discover and learn new things about CRM. The online help is sometimes easier if you are simply trying to find an answer to a specific task.
One tip if you are using Word 2010 is to turn on the Navigation pane – go to the View tab of the Ribbon, and tick the box for this. You will now have the “contents” shown as a hierarchy of all the headings in the document and you can simply scroll and click to navigate, which is much easier than having to go back to the contents pages and click links from there. The Navigation pane also incorporates the search feature, so it appears if you press Ctrl+F as well.
Quick Start Guides
As well as these longer reference documents they have also produced a couple of “Quick start” guides. These are very thin on content and really only of use for people who have signed up for CRM online directly and not had the benefit of working with a Microsoft partner who would (I hope) provide at least this basic level of training as part of a system handover.
In a follow up post I’ll provide some links to other resources, including great blogs and online videos to help you get to grips with CRM for your own business or prepare for the exams. In the meantime, please feel free to add more in the comments (but note that my usual zero tolerance policy on “braindump” sites or places hosting illegal copies of copyright material applies).