I have been getting lots of questions about what is involved in becoming a Power Platform Functional Consultant. What skills are needed, and do the skills align with the skills used by Functional Consultants who have a history of working on Dynamics 365?
Like anything in life, the only thing you can be sure of is that the skills needed will always be changing, and the quicker one embraces that change the sooner one is off on the journey of a lifetime filled with new opportunities.
If you don’t understand what I mean check out this timeless classic that talks about dealing with change. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
What is a Functional Consultant?
First off let me define what I think a Functional Consultant is. A Functional Consultant is an agent of change; they have developed business skills and technical skills in their chosen field. When we consider a Functional Consultant in the area of the Power Platform, their technical skills will cover three core areas at a minimum with additional specialist skills added as desired.
The three core technical skills that every Functional Consultant in the Power Platform must have and continue to hone is:
- PowerApps Skills
- PowerAutomate (formerly known as Flow) Skills
- Power BI Skills
All good Functional Consultants will self-assess their proficiency in the above three technology areas and implement personal training programs to move to the point of documented ability. What I mean by documented proficiency is passing all current exams that cover these areas and being able to provide evidence of experience in these three areas.
The best way to document this experience is via a personal blog, where you share your learning plans, experience, and lessons learned. The other part of the Functional Consultant role is made up of the skills of a Business Analyst (BA). There are formal programs and qualifications available to learn traditional Business Analyst skills.
When it comes to qualifications, this area is changing. I wrote a post at the start of the year with various training resources provided by Microsoft and the appropriate certifications. Note these only deals with the technology side of this role. You also need to get used to get in the habit of trying new features to extend your skills.
Any great Functional Consultant will have their own Power Platform environment that they can try anything at any time without it impacting other environments. I wrote a post about setting up a trial and extending it. If you extended your trial for a total of 90 days, you would only need to create four trials per year to get 12 months of trial access to use as a playground for developing your skills.
When it comes to certification and training for BA skills you should consider the following search for the best option for where you are located and what is expected in your market. The capabilities you get by training in this area will be precious in your career.
The above is what I consider to be a baseline for an average Functional Consultant. But if you want to lift your game to the next level it is time to learn a new set of skills. You need to add to your skills the following expertise, including gaining certifications and experience.
A good Functional Consultant will have intermediate-level skills, if not expert skills, in Project Management. This is a well-defined area in IT these days, and there is a range of methodologies that you can consider studying for. The three main once are:
- PMI – PMBOK
Note: people can get very passionate about what methodology to use, sometimes defending their methodology with religious fervor. Research the three above and then decide what will work best for you.
Change Management is another skill that all outstanding Functional Consultants will want to add to their skill set. If you want to make sure ALL your projects are successful, learn about change management so that you can work it into everything you do, and deliver successful outcomes for all stakeholders. Personally, I have found the best training and certification program available in market is provided by Prosci.
The final thing to consider is to get trained in Design Thinking. There is a reason that Microsoft has launched Microsoft Catalyst in the Business Application space. It creates massive positive outcomes. As Microsoft is ramping up in this space only Global SIs have access to highly specialized training on Catalyst. But do not let that hold you back. You can start a self-study group to get you started for free.
Some years ago the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded this free training program with IDEO called Design Kit. I have had multiple teams go through this training with excellent results. It’s a great way to start learning Design Thinking skills. The way it works is you get 4-6 people together and work through the hands-on training, submit labs and assignments over a few months. It’s practical and insightful.
However, it is only a starting point. I have many friends that are now full time just running design thinking projects for customers and stakeholders. The value of this training is that it provides tools and skills to engage with stakeholders across domains and job roles, from executives to the least valued role in the organization.
You need experience, either on a live project for the company you work with, or you needed to join communities that can give you access to gain experience or create your own projects to learn on.
Study Resources for Designing Thinking
Here is a list of resources that I recommend you look at to start training on Designing Thinking, it will create the most significant transformation in your Functional Consultant career if you learn them.
Feel free to ask any questions or comment below.