I’ve spent the last three days on a Microsoft Official Curriculum training course at QA – Course 10968B: Designing for Office 365 Infrastructure. Like many Microsoft courses, this is badly named (it won’t teach you how to design for Office 365) but I really did find it useful because it focuses very heavily on Microsoft’s FastTrack deployment methodology for Office 365. Stepping through each of the stages of pilot (although it’s questionable whether enterprises will do this), deploy and enhance, the course reminds us of the key points to consider at each stage with labs to work through with a fictitious company (for once, it’s not Contoso). Then, the final module is a full case study (using Trey Research of course) where the class divides into groups and works with the instructor (as a customer) to walk through a series of meetings to understand the environment and make the appropriate decisions for use of the Office 365 services.
I found it really beneficial – particularly the final exercise – as I’m doing this with customers all the time and it’s good to compare the approach I take with the Microsoft recommendations. I was fortunate as well that we had a very knowledgeable instructor, Dan Lewis, and that led to some really good classroom conversations (in contrast to an Exchange course I attended at the same venue last year, where the instructor was limited in her knowledge) – and the range of roles in the room (midsize company infrastructure manager; large enterprise employees; specialist service provider; systems integrator) also added to the depth of discussion.
The one negative – and it’s a huge one – was the courseware. Microsoft has moved from printed materials to online content and I can understand the reasons (both financial and environmental) but the system used is awful. Microsoft Learning have partnered with Skillpipe, who have a content platform using a proprietary document format (presumably for reasons of digital rights management – although why they can’t use Microsoft’s own DRM is beyond me) and the content is only available in browser, or in a reader app for Windows (Vista/7 or 8/RT). No mobile devices – not even Windows Phone! Added to which I find it really difficult to absorb information on screen (e.g. reading a scenario) and it really damages the learning experience.
Incidentally, if you want to learn about the detail of Office 365, this course is not for you – there’s a 5 day hands on course (Course 20346B: Managing Office 365 Identities and Services or you can access the same content, minus the hands-on elements, in the Microsoft Virtual Academy). And, if you really think that’s all a bit too much fuss and you would like to engage a Microsoft Partner instead… then you could always contact me at work!