The idea that Microsoft would be a corporation that’s at the top of the game when it comes to wider career transition innovation could perhaps been a surprising concept a couple of decades ago.
However, the latest figures from the company show some dizzying levels of growth, particularly in the business applications side. Microsoft Dynamics 365 revenue increased by 38 percent in the last quarter: and this at a time when industry is depressed by the Covid pandemic.
Where Microsoft has really scored highly is in the successful integration of a whole range of products: software like Microsoft Dynamics 365 is very much part of the same family as Office 365, which is clearly part of the same family as Azure. And with the company looking to move into areas such as telecoms and mobility, there’s definitely a holistic approach.
All of this is a sign that technical teams aren’t working in isolation. The days when someone was an expert in one aspect of IT are disappearing: the rise of the DevOps movement has shown that some of the lines of demarcation have become blurred.
We’ve seen a similar pattern in the way that companies operate: business departments have become more involved in decisions that once were the preserve solely of the computing teams.
This is a process that has been exacerbated by the drive to cloud and the prevalence of so-called shadow IT. We're seeing that business executives are beginning to develop some sort of understanding of software issues and, correspondingly, developers are starting to appreciate the issues underpinning commercial decisions.
This is something that the best consultancies understand: computing decisions can't be treated in isolation, there's a need for a holistic approach so that those making software selection decisions understand the business rationale, while those making financial judgments have a comprehension of some technological background behind the choices. Certainly, the better run businesses will take this approach, one where everyone is working together to drive the company forward.
It helps too when companies have solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 to call on: one that, as we’ve seen is experiencing real levels of growth as businesses look to adapt to the changing business landscape.
However, there’s a need for more skilled people to help transform that landscape. While there’s a growing demand for Microsoft Dynamics 365, there’s also a shortage of skilled staff. What’s needed, in this case are consultants who not only understand the technical issues - how to use Dynamics and how best to implement it - but also have a thorough knowledge of the business processes and the accountancy knowledge to comprehend the financial issues. The question is: how to find or create these skills?
It’s an issue that QUANTIQ is addressing with its CROSSTEQ programme - a way to create a new generation of consultants with expertise in financial issues and an in-depth knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.
The idea is to take accountants - either fully or part-qualified - and put them through an intensive course so that they can be highly skilled consultants. These people could be relatively experienced and already have senior roles but are interested in a new rewarding career challenge.
That’s only part of the story, however. It won’t be enough to have financial knowledge, the candidates would need to have an interest in technology as well and have excellent soft skills. This is about interacting with clients as well as assimilating technical know-how.
This is the second year that QUANTIQ has run a course to find Microsoft Dynamics consultants. The first year’s version was slightly different as that was aimed at attracting consultants with knowledge of non-Microsoft software products: it was a great success; all the participants have gone on to work on some exciting projects with QUANTIQ.
The company is looking to repeat this. QUANTIQ is looking between five and ten applicants for a course that begins in January and lasts six to nine months - all candidates will be full-time employees from the outset, while working to build up their skills. There are two elements of the course: presentation and technical skills and there’s a place waiting for all successful candidates. The course will be free of charge.
The presentation element is crucial. Students on the course will focus very heavily on interactive skills and how to deal with clients. Participants will learn how QUANTIQ run their workshops and methodologies with a range of internal communication tools used by the company.
The course itself, which is part-funded by Microsoft, is accredited and the candidates will find themselves working towards a Microsoft MB300 qualification. Following completion of this element, the new CROSSTEQ consultants will find themselves working in the wild, being mentored by an experienced Dynamics practitioner.
According to a recent survey by McKinsey, there will need to be a new approach to tackle skills shortages in the UK. The consulting firm predicts that about a third of the UK’s employees will need to retrain and develop new skill-sets. But that’s underestimating the problem, the shortage is particularly acute when it comes to senior management roles - and, of course, any area that involves software expertise is always going to be struggling to find the right staff.
The CROSSTEQ initiative offers a way for employees to gain a new set of skills and participate in a fast growing area. Microsoft Dynamics consultants can earn healthy salaries - on average they earn about £60,000 per year, with most experienced practitioners earning more than £80,000. That compares favourably with the accounting profession for example where average salaries are around £46,000.
But it’s not just about the salary: many organisations are turning to Microsoft Dynamics 365 as part of their general digital transformation priorities and it’s a chance for people to get in at the ground level to be part of this process and help transform the way we all live and work.
By combining and using three sets of skills - accountancy, software and presentation - participants who have been through the course will be able to bring fresh insight to QUANTIQ customers. And that insight will benefit us all in the long run.