Another Sure Step course is over, this time in Århus, Denmark. I love and hate teaching this course, because it always makes me wonder why I need this, and why in the Earth I am doing this trainer’s job. And then makes me happy that I do and eager to do it again as soon as possible. It also teaches me something, every time, and here are my lessons learned.
This time, it’s about the exam. At the beginning of the training, I usually ask people about their goals: why are they there, what is the primary objective why they are sitting there and listening to me babble for two days? With Sure Step, the answer is an invariable: to pass the exam.
So people go there because they were sent by their employers to pass the exam, because having professionals certified in Sure Step on team is now a requirement for being a Microsoft Certified Partner for Dynamics.
So, here is my shot at how to prepare for, and pass the exam.
Do you know how? Simply: learn. There is no better advice then to just take your time, and learn.
But since I am a nice guy, I’m going to give you some hints about how to learn.
First step, take the course.
If you get a knowledgeable and experienced instructor—me for example (excuse my modesty)—you get to hear a lot of things about Sure Step that you can’t read in the course materials. You also learn about what’s the most important thing in Sure Step, where to look for information and how, and certain traits of Sure Step logic and principles which are nowhere expressly written in Sure Step itself or in the course, but which are consistently applied.
A friendly warning: the course itself is NOT enough to pass the exam. If you had no experience in Sure Step before, just taking the course and trying your luck will probably just bring frustration, and frowns from your boss. After the course, take at least a week to do the next four steps.
Second step, learn the document flow.
Start reading Sure Step methodology guidance with Additional Resources / Information Flow – Key Documents. If there is one thing that is worth memorizing in Sure Step, then it’s the diagram you see in this page. It lists all the main activities in Sure Step, together with the main output documents from those activities, and the flow of the activities and the documents.
Nothing in Sure Step is self-sufficient, so every output is an input to something else, so you can easily trace the flow of documents. This is important, because by knowing those documents and activities they belong to, you can easily know in which project phase you are, and which activities precede, and which follow the one you actually in.
Third step, read the guidance.
Guidance is full of helpful information, but it’s a jungle. Reading everything and focusing on everything, if you have no experience in Sure Step, won’t be too productive. The parts of the guidance you need to focus on are pretty well explained in the official description of the Sure Step exam at Microsoft Learning portal.
47% of the exam is mostly about Diagnostic. And Diagnostic is just the first phase of the six phases in Sure Step. It means that Diagnostic must be important. On the other hand, 11% is about Operation. I’m not telling you not to know and learn your Operation phase, but I am telling you that if you focus on Diagnostic, and don’t learn anything about Operation, you still stand pretty good chances of passing the exam.
Diagnostic is all about decision accelerators, so learn the seven decision accelerators: what are they, why are they used, when they work best, which need they are addressing. You can find this in the delivery guide for each of them. Open the delivery guide, read the Executive Summary, and you get a good understanding of them.
Learn your project types. Be sure you can tell Agile from Enterprise from Standard from Rapid. Learn the specifics. Play around with filters in Sure Step to learn which project types include or skip which activities. Try to answer the question “why”.
Learn the project management library. Focus on those disciplines you learned in the course. Communication management. Issue management. Risk management. Sales management.
Knowing PMBOK helps a lot. Project management library is aligned to PMBOK, and any knowledge of PMBOK, or any experience in managing projects with PMBOK principles, will surely help you.
Be on friendly terms with terminology. Terminology is important. Know the official Sure Step names for documents, phases, activities, tasks, decision accelerators, optimization offerings, etc.
Fourth step, take the assessment.
Go to this page: Sure Step Proficiency Assessment. Take the assessment. It’s going to take about forty minutes. And it simulates the exam. If you are absolutely sure about the answer, answer it and move on. If you are unsure, take a note about the question, answer the question to the best of your knowledge, then move on. DON’T use Sure Step guidance or courseware to help you “pass” on the first go. There is not much point in that. Just answer, and simulate the test.
When you are done, you see your score. If you “passed”, then you are probably good enough to try the real exam.
The assessment won’t tell you where you were wrong, just how well you did.
Fifth step, read some more guidance.
Repetitio est mater studiorum. Take your notes, and check about the concepts where you were not sure about the answer. Read the guidance for those topics, read the documentation, especially the delivery guides if they exist (they always exist for Decision Accelerators and Optimization Offerings).
Make sure you understand why you missed the correct answer.
Sixth step, retake the assessment.
Repeat the step four. Just retake the assessment. If you are sure about the answer, just answer and go on. If not, try answering to your best, then go on. In the end, if you “passed”, you are ready to take the exam, otherwise, repeat step five and step six until you “pass”.
If you are continually flunking—then you must be missing the point big time. If so, try doing the assessment with the guidance open, then check every question, and find the answer. Use the assessment as a learning tool. It was prepared by Microsoft precisely so that you can use it and abuse it in preparation of the exam.
Seventh step, take the exam.
By this point, you should be totally capable of passing it blindfolded and backwards.
When in the exam, a couple of hints:
- If the question is long, read it from the last sentence, not from the first
- Try answering the question without looking at answers
- Be Sherlock Holmes: eliminate impossible, what remains is true (however improbable)
- Score yourself as you go; make sure you are not flunking before clicking Finish
When you are done with the exam, come and let me know if this helped. Or if it didn’t.
And last, but not least, here are some useful links, some of them mentioned above, some of them not:
- Exam MB5-858 Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations (official Microsoft Learning page)
- Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations Certification FAQ (on PartnerSource)
- Sure Step landing page (on PartnerSource)
- Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step for an Agile World (e-learning)
- Using Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step on demand training (on PartnerSource)
- Using Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step training materials (on PartnerSource)
(Some of these require access to PartnerSource, PartnerPortal, or enrollment in a Partner Service Plan)
In the end, to my twelve students over the past two days, if the training was useful, please leave a comment, let me know how you went in the exam. Farvel, Århus! Looking forward to seeing you again.
This Post Has 29 Comments
Great and useful post, Vjekoslav. Thanks.
@Sergio: thanks. I hope it helps you pass the exam.
As Microsoft has said many time, “the exam is not Sure Step Specific”. It certainly sounds specific!
I certainly sounds like a lot of wasted time for something we will never use. (We have been doing Navision for 10 years and have never had an unhappy customer or failed project!)
@EId: of course it is specific, you need to know Sure Step content. However, if you have working project management knowledge and experience, especially PMBOK, then most of it is straightforward and common sense and you should be able to pass. About “waste of time”, I must respectfully disagree with you here. The room for improvement is the biggest room in the world, and I wouldn’t close my eyes and just disregard Sure Step because I always and only had successful projects and happy customers – there certainly are things in Sure Step that your successful practice can learn from and adopt. IMHO, project success and customer satisfaction aren’t binary – projects can always be more successful, and customers happier, and if I were you, I’d least give Sure Step an open-minded read.
I just took the exam and passed. I didn’t take a class, I mean who has time for that. I thought that the elearning was very good, especially the 2 hour course ( i think there were roughly three out there to take). They really become familiar with the application and how to use it. I also used an on-line test preparation service that give you sample questions, which helped as well. I really feel like I understand it well. The questions are actually pretty straight forward if you read them very very carefully. good luck.
@Linda: thanks for the feedback, and congratulations. Would you say this was all worth you time, and do you see value in Sure Step beyond Microsoft Partner Program requirements?
Please share me the link for e learning for MB5 858,
Sorry, Harsha – I don’t have the link to any e-learning for Sure Step. The link for the proficiency assessment is included in this post.
I am about to take the Sure Step exam and was wondering if I “have to” take a course, and even though it seems to be doable without the course, this blog entry helped clarify a few things.
Thank you very much Vjekoslav !:-)
@Søren: I’m glad that it helped. Good luck at the exam, and please let me know how it went.
I am preping for the Sure Step exam and appreicate the tips/notes provided here. One question, you reference “Sure Step methodology guidance with Additional Resources / Information Flow – Key Documents” several times as being important. Where exactly can I find this material? Is this the user guide or some other document as I cannot seem to find a document(s) with this name. I appreciate the answer.
@Ronnie: Click on Sure Step Methodology, make sure you are in Reference, in the tree view on the left side, click on Additional Resources, and first item below is Information Flow – Key Documents.
many thanks for your post – extremely helpful! I passed the exam on friday! Astrid
@Astrid: I’m glad this info helped you pass the exam. Congratulations!
As one of the students at the above mentioned course in Aarhus I just wanted to give you feedback as you requested: I just passed the exam last week:) This post was very helpful in the preparation process – especially because it is now a few months since the course, so I used it as a reminder.
Soren, congratulations for passing the exam, and thanks for the comments. I hope the knowledge you gained helps you in your business.
Hi Vjeko! Just wanted to let u know that both Ilone and I passed the Sure Step exam today 🙂 And it´s all thanks to u -ur an excellent teatcher!! BIG THANKS!! /Susanne Max
Susanne, congratulations to both of you! I’m glad to know that the training was good, and I hope you now get a chance to put Sure Step to use 😉 Good luck!
So finaly home again, from Sweden. Thanks for a great boot Camp.
I cant say that is was a walkover but in the end the result was great.
3 of us passed the test. unfortunely its All the C5 guys who passed. morten must try again, which came as a big surprise. So your story about WHO passes the test and who fails is now out of date 🙂
Just want you to know that you did a great job as instrutor af the course.
So even IF the surestep is out of range regarding dynamics C5, i belive that we Can use a light version to our projects.
Hi Cean – and congratulations for your score! I’m really glad you guys passed, and I’m sorry that Morten didn’t make it – but I am sure he will pass next time. I’m also truly glad that you are setting the bar high for future C5 candidates – there are no more excuses for them 😉 Enjoy the fruit of your work, and drop by. Good luck!
Did you provide the Student training manuals and the SSZIP files to your students during your “Project Management using Sure Step” courses?
Sheri: Yes, I did provide the student training manuals, and the SSPZIP file you ask about is a part of those manuals (they are present on the accompanying CD).
Do you deliver your courses online and if so can I attend one of your courses?
Sheri: no, I personally do not deliver these courses. Please check http://www.plataan.be/ if you want to learn more about the courses for Dynamics. I am partnering with those guys for any course deliveries I do.
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I wanted take up the MB5 858 course, how can i contact you. I am in india, is it possible? and if yes how much does it cost.
You can always contact me through this blog. But I don’t know what kind of help you are expecting. A training? A consultation? Please let me know.
Hi Vjeko. thanks for your post here. I am just wondering if you know anything about TailSpinToys_CRM.SSPZIP ?? It is in the SureStep course work but I cant work out how to open the files, any ideas?
You can open it with the Sure Step application. I am not sure, though, if it is still supported or even downloadable from PartnerSource.