‘Choose curiosity, embrace challenges’: A learning culture prepares Unit4 for the future

By sandeepbhanot

Sandeep Bhanot – Vice President, Global Learning at Microsoft

As we resume our “Exploring Learning Journeys” series, we continue to highlight the learning journeys of our customers, partners, employees, and future generations. In today’s post, we showcase the culture of continuous learning at Unit4 and how the organization’s creative approach to learning motivates its teams to skill up for the future. Plus, we learn how that culture benefits not only the organization’s workforce but also its customers.

For 40 years, Unit4 has created software that delivers a better “People Experience” for services organizations whose purpose is to help others. As the company transformed its business by moving its offerings to the cloud, it was its own workforce that needed help learning the skills required to be successful in a new, agile business model.

The global company provides a suite of enterprise software for people-centric organizations, focusing on the professional services, public sector, nonprofit, and higher education industries. With this cloud-first company that follows a cloud services model, Unit4 customers benefit from the latest technologies and solutions and from continuous improvement and responsiveness.

But supporting that business means upskilling its people, and change takes time, notes Helen Aivazian, Global People Development Manager at Unit4. “We promote a culture of continuous learning, but we’ve been on a really quick journey to the cloud,” she explains. “Everything that we’re doing is about becoming a more agile organization and delivering excellence in every interaction with our customers.”

Unit4 has worked closely with cloud partner Microsoft to support the company’s skilling efforts. “Becoming a true cloud organization is a big mindset shift, and we needed to prepare our teams,” Helen adds.

Helping people shift gears and embrace challenges
Helen’s group developed new role-based and level-based learning paths, using in-house training materials and Microsoft Learn resources. “We found that people are more proactive about learning when they know they have a path to follow,” she observes.

The learning paths help individuals find the right type and level of training to meet their new job demands. For technical staff, that might mean a focus on advancing to a role like Azure administrator, DevOps engineer, or solutions architect. Or it can mean learning about new technologies for security, data engineering, or AI.

“The great thing is that all the Microsoft resources slotted into our learning paths,” Helen says. Before long, people were posting newly minted Microsoft Certification badges on their LinkedIn profiles.

The company doesn’t require certification, but “it gives us some quality assurance,” notes Ebba Ekstrand, Unit4 Global Learning & Development Officer based in Stockholm.

Helen agrees. “Certifications tell us that people have done the training, they do have the knowledge, and they’re working with the product in the best way that’s been taught to them.”

That knowledge is transforming the way Unit4 does business, as teams apply the latest learnings to their projects. According to Helen, “The business areas that work with the Microsoft stack have definitely benefited from having access to the learning materials provided through our partnership with Microsoft.”

Advancing a career: Amine’s story
No one represents the learning culture at Unit4 better than Amine Sahal, whose ambitious learning journey helps him meet job demands and advance his career. Six months ago, he was promoted from DevOps Lead to Cloud DevOps Manager, with responsibility for a team of 10 operations engineers and developers around the world. The role comes with a new level of decision-making responsibilities, and that means staying on top of Azure. He attends webinars, workshops, and Microsoft instructor-led training (ILT).

The Microsoft ILT is a favorite “because there’s interaction,” he points out. “You can talk to the instructor in chats or on team calls with all the other people in the class.”

The hands-on labs are “the best part,” he observes. “I could start implementing new things like automation using Azure Functions.” As a developer, he appreciates how easy it is to incorporate code from the labs, which is made available on GitHub. “It facilitates the work and makes the task simpler and faster to achieve.”

“I learned so many things that help me do my work and perform better on a daily basis,” Amine reports. “After finishing a [Microsoft] course and setting up things myself during the labs, I knew how to make the technical decisions required in my role as a manager.”

What he learned also fueled some creative brainstorming sessions with colleagues. “We came up with a lot of brilliant ideas after the course!” His team found new ways to take advantage of Azure services while developing the next generation of the company’s flagship product, ERPx.

Amine is focused on the next set of skills he wants to learn and on the certification exams that will help him achieve his goal. “I learned something about myself,” he observes. “Certification for me is more than a badge or the proof of knowledge for your career. It’s very important for forcing me to learn, especially when you don’t have a lot of time.”

The learning paths developed by Unit4 in partnership with Microsoft have made his journey straightforward. “Microsoft has a solution for everything!” he concludes. “The courses organized internally by Unit4 in partnership with Microsoft for the management and engineering teams really helped us to be successful in our new roles.”

A challenge with prizes
To support employees in their ongoing training, Helen’s group developed new learning paths in partnership with Microsoft. This year, the company also hosted a spring and a fall Learning Festival based on those paths. Each festival included around 70 sessions of in-house classes, alongside training based on Microsoft Learn materials—a new addition for 2021. “It was a big success!” Helen remembers, noting that participation grew nearly 20 percent compared to last year.

A popular item on the agenda was the Cloud Skills Challenge, a gamified experience where participants use Microsoft Learn guided, hands-on, and interactive content to gain skills in Microsoft cloud technologies. One challenge focused on mastering Azure skills and the other on Microsoft 365.

“We saw people who don’t necessarily work in technical roles sign up for the Azure challenge,” Helen recalls. “They were curious about it, and that really created momentum for our learning paths based on the Microsoft Learn content.”

A learning culture can help future-proof a people-first company
Helen reports that the company is on track with its learning and development plans. As the teams at Unit4 deepen their understanding of Azure and other Microsoft technologies, they find new ways to improve products—just as Amine and his team have done—and to keep Unit4 competitive in a tough market.

It makes sense at a company for which “Choose curiosity, embrace challenges” is a core value.

“It’s empowering for our employees to get the benefit of Microsoft courseware and certifications within the organization for their own future growth and personal development,” Ebba says. “We want to create more of that for our other learning paths.”

As people gain skills, they “connect the dots,” as Helen puts it. “People really take the time to focus on their daily learning and to embed that in their work. And that’s what we want to encourage. It’s making us a more agile organization and giving us better answers for our customers.”

Explore more learning journeys
How Accenture set a new world record in partner skilling
EY’s learning journey
Skilling future generations: A tale of two universities

New certification for Customer Data Platform Specialists

By Liberty Munson

Do you implement solutions that provide insights into customer profiles and that track engagement activities to help improve customer experiences and increase customer retention? Do you have firsthand experience with Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and one or more additional Dynamics 365 apps, Power Query, Microsoft Dataverse, Common Data Model, and Microsoft Power Platform? Do you have direct experience with practices related to privacy, compliance, consent, security, responsible AI, and data retention policy?

If this is your skill set, we have a new certification for you. The Microsoft Certified: Customer Data Platform Specialty certification validates your expertise in this area and offers you the opportunity to prove your skills. To earn this certification, pass MB-260: Microsoft Customer Data Platform Specialist, currently in beta.

Is this the right certification for you?
This certification could be a great fit if you have significant experience with processes related to KPIs, data retention, validation, visualization, preparation, matching, fragmentation, segmentation, and enhancement. You should have a general understanding of Azure Machine Learning, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Azure Data Factory.

Ready to prove your skills?
Take advantage of the discounted beta exam offer. The first 300 people who take Exam MB-260 (beta) on or before February 2, 2022, can get 80 percent off market price!

To receive the discount, when you register for the exam and are prompted for payment, use code MB260SWIM. This is not a private access code. The seats are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. As noted, you must take the exam on or before February 2, 2022. Please note that this beta exam is not available in Turkey, Pakistan, India, or China.

Get ready to take Exam MB-260 (beta):

 
Did you know that you can take any role-based exam online? Online delivered exams—taken from your home or office—can be less hassle, less stress, and even less worry than traveling to a test center—especially if you’re adequately prepared for what to expect. To find out more, check out my blog post Online proctored exams: What to expect and how to prepare.

The rescore process starts on the day an exam goes live, and final scores for beta exams are released approximately 10 days after that. For details on the timing of beta exam rescoring and results, read my post Creating high-quality exams: The path from beta to live. For more information, follow me on Twitter (@libertymunson).

Ready to get started?
Remember, the number of spots is limited to the first 300 candidates taking Exam MB-260 (beta) on or before February 2, 2022.
 
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Announcing the new certification for Microsoft Teams voice engineers

By GitaSharma

We’re happy to announce that the new Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Voice Engineer Expert certification is now in general availability. To earn this certification, you must pass Exam MS-720: Microsoft Teams Voice Engineer and also earn the Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate certification.

This certification is a much-anticipated addition to our Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 skilling offerings as it addresses integral customer and partner needs. If you’re a telecommunications professional that knows how to plan, design, configure, maintain, and troubleshoot an integrated communications solution using Microsoft Teams, this expert certification can help you validate your technical skills and move your career forward.

Celebrate with the world: Post badges on LinkedIn
Once you earn this certification, be sure to post your badge on LinkedIn, and celebrate your accomplishments with your team and network. It often takes less than a minute to update your LinkedIn profile and share how you are delivering superior service across your organization.

It’s easy to renew a Microsoft Certification
If you have a Microsoft Certification that expires this month—or any time within the next six months—you’re eligible to take a renewal assessment on Microsoft Learn for free today. Get more details in our blog post Prove your skills. Protect your investment.

New certification for Microsoft Teams Voice Engineers

Two words: free renewals

By GitaSharma

Last updated on January 24, 2022

What does it take to earn a Microsoft Certification? Time, energy, commitment, and—of course—passing a certification exam to prove your knowledge and experience. What does it take to renew a Microsoft Certification? A free online renewal assessment that you can complete without having to pass any exams!

Get started. Three steps to renew your certification.

Go to Microsoft Learn to connect your learn profile with your certification profile. 
Prepare with the free content on Microsoft Learn. 
Take the free online assessment before your certification expires.  

Microsoft Certifications available for renewal
See below for the complete list of certifications that are currently available for renewal.

Azure

Business Applications

Microsoft 365

Security, Compliance, and Identity

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Prove your skills. Protect your investment.
Is your certification expiring soon? Renew it for free today!