Friday, March 1, 2013

Review of “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization & Configuration (MB2-866) Certification Guide” by Neil Benson

“Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization & Configuration (MB2-866) Certification Guide” is a book meant for preparation to the MB2-866 exam. While the book covers the skills measured in the exam in great detail, it is not one of those books you can simply read and then expect to pass. As the title portrays, the book covers configuration and customization of a CRM system which means that in order to fully understand what is going on, you need to try it out for yourself.

If you don’t have access to a CRM installation or you don’t have System Administrator privileges, the preface of the book will give you the necessary information in order to obtain this. As large parts of the book require you to try out the customizations and configurations yourself, it’s not your typical “read on a bus” book. A good example is the “How to create a user” section which outlines step by step where you need to click and what information is required in order to create a user. Because of these sections, I spent most parts of my time with the book next to a computer so I could click wherever the author wanted me to click.

After finishing the book I went through the list of skills measured by Microsoft to see if I thought all them were covered in the book. In my opinion the book covers these very well, but I found the order of the chapters in the book to be a bit confusing while reading it. A lot of the concepts that were explained at the end of the book were referred to in the earlier chapters, causing trouble for those who are not familiar with the concepts. This means that the book shouldn’t necessarily be read from front to back, you might have to jump between chapters if a topic you are not familiar with is mentioned but not explained. That being said, flipping through the book is not as easy as it should be. There’s something about the size of the headings that makes it difficult to see if a section is the child or the sibling of the previous section, making the table of contents the only logical way to navigate through the book.

The one thing I absolutely love about this book is that each chapter contains a “Test your knowledge” section with multiple choice questions similar to the questions you can expect to find on the exam. The answers to these questions can be found in Appendix B, but unfortunately the number of answers for a chapter does not always match the number of questions. This means that you might have to dig up the correct answer yourself in some cases. In addition to the “Test your knowledge” sections, the book ends with a “Sample Certification Exam Questions” chapter containing 75 sample questions with answers and explanations to these answers. Luckily, all the answers for this chapter are not only present, but they are also explained in case you chose the wrong answer.

There are some annoyances while reading this book, spelling mistakes for example. First edition books often contain spelling mistakes and we simply have to tolerate that, but this book contains too many of them. An example is a complete diagram explaining the components of a form, where ‘form’ is spelled ‘from’ a large number of times. This can create some confusion as parts on the form are marked "from header” and “from body”. Another annoyance is the author supplying us with incredibly bad mnemonics in order to help us remember the concepts. I appreciate all help I can get in order to remember, but in this case the mnemonics were not helpful at all (at least not to me). In my opinion, a mnemonic is something you have to be able to relate to, and therefore should create for yourself.

Ok, I’m done complaining now. All in all, this book is great when it comes to explaining the concepts of customizing and configuring Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and I would recommend the book to anyone taking the MB2-866 exam. However, I do not think that only reading this book is enough to make you pass, at least not for me. You will need to have tried out the customizations and configurations in real-life scenarios in order to fully get the hang of it.

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