I’ve been working as a Microsoft Dynamics consultant for a number of years now, and I love my job. But back when I first started out, I remember feeling a bit unsure about how to classify myself. Was I a big picture person, or a tech expert? I even remember my supervisor asking me early on what sort of resource I would be for the company. Did I provide functional or technical expertise?
At the time, it felt like there was an expectation for me to choose one or the other. But over the past few years, I’ve opted to toe the line in between the two -- and I believe the combination of functional and technical skills have made me a major asset.
Here’s the thing when it comes to being a Microsoft Dynamics consultant: no two days are ever the same. One day, you’re going over reports and charts with a client. The next, you’re doing database work and updating product data. Few careers offer so much variety, which is all the more reason to draw on both functional and technical skill sets as part of your career development. And while I’ve mostly worked with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the same is true for other Dynamics applications, including Dynamics ERP.
What do I mean by “functional consulting,” exactly? It’s difficult to sum up in a few words, but suffice it to say that this area is all about the big picture. A functional consultant interacts with clients, attends meetings, gives presentations, and collaborates with teams in order to enhance current business processes. Rather than just working under the hood at the technical level, you develop a broad understanding over how a client’s organization works. You can then utilize that understanding in developing custom solutions for that client.
How exactly is functional consulting different from technical work, though? Don’t you still need the technical in order to implement the functional? Yes, you absolutely do. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
An example will help illustrate what I mean here. Consider the following CRM scenario. A client wants to make a change to their existing CRM system. Their current system only allows for country-level details for contacts, and they want to add further functionality. For example, they want to replace the option “England” on a contact drop-down menu with multiple choices -- let’s say “London” and “Manchester.”
From a functional standpoint, there’s one thing going on here:
Pretty simple, right? But the technical team has more to consider. They have to:
From the functional perspective, this change is quite small. You’re just replacing an item in a drop-down menu, right? But on the back-end, there are a lot of moving parts to consider. People with functional skills have a lot to offer, but often overlook the complexity of these types of requests. That’s why it’s so useful to have both functional and technical skills.
Like functional consultants, technical experts bring their own range of expertise to the table: they understand data, development, integrations, cloud deployment principles, and more. There are lots of technical details to manage, which means it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae and forget about the big picture.
Someone with functional capabilities in addition to technical knowledge can find a balance between these two arenas. They can bring technical skills to the table while still understanding the end goals that an organization might have.
Think for a moment about all of the different roles you might need to play as a consultant on any given day. The client will lean on you in all sorts of ways: they may want you to be a project manager or business analyst one day, only to ask you development and data migration questions the next. But what do all of these tasks have in common? At the end of the day, they’re all necessary if you want to help the client achieve their goals.
By understanding both the functional and technical aspects of Microsoft Dynamics 365, I’ve been able to offer my clients both back-end expertise as well as big picture strategic assistance. The more you manage to diversify your own skill set, the more of an asset you’ll be to your own clients.
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