Is the PL-100 Worth It?
Enterprises collect masses of data on all of their interactions with clients, prospects, suppliers and partners. Every time a web page is accessed, a price quoted, an order placed, or inventory depleted, data is collected. But data is useless unless it can be retrieved and browsed and analyzed.
That's why there's so much emphasis placed on rapid app development and business intelligence (BI) tools that help IT professionals, as well as white-collar business types to access data and display it as usable, actionable information.
There are numerous products available that allow users to develop apps quickly and deploy them to a range of user devices like browsers, smart-phones, and tablets. These so-called low-code application platforms (LCAP) allow apps to be built with little or no coding required. Microsoft's Power Platform is one of the leading LCAPs and it includes Power Apps, as well as BI, Automation, and Virtual Agent capabilities.
What is Power Apps?
Power Apps is Microsoft's rapid application development environment that customers use to build custom apps for their business needs. Because of its ease-of-use, Power Apps can be used both by business analysts and finance professionals, as well as by developers. Power Apps lets developers access and manipulate data and metadata, insert complex business logic, set up and use custom connectors, and work with the underlying Microsoft Dataverse data platform, as well as external data sources, such as Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Dynamics 365, SQL Server, and such.
If an organization is using or plans to use Power Apps, how do they hire or develop their own competent professionals with the relevant expertise? The answer lies in the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate (PL-100) certification.
What is the PL-100?
The PL-100 Microsoft Power Platform App Maker Associate certification is for app developers and technically-minded business professionals who use Power Apps. Microsoft has coined the term "App Maker" for these people. The App Maker cert validates that the holder has the skills and expertise to design, build, and deploy multi-device applications using the Power Apps platform and tools.
The PL-100 certification exam tests the skills and knowledge that an App Maker needs in order to create apps that help simplify and automate processes that occur in their business domain.
Candidates must be able to design a Power App solution. This entails selecting the appropriate Power Platform components, designing data models, user interface and outputs. They must also demonstrate their ability to use the Power Platform development environment, configure data stores, create model-driven and canvas apps with controls, business logic, and Power Automate flows. App Maker candidates must be able to analyze and visualize data, creating Power BI reports, and AI Builder models. Finally they must show that they can implement and manage Power App solutions, configuring Common Data Service security, testing the apps and flows, and then deploying the solution.
What Does the PL-100 Exam Test?
The 2-hour exam tests a range of technical tasks that a Power Platform App Maker Associate would be expected to handle. The tasks are grouped in the following four domains:
Design solutions (10-15%)
Create solutions (55-60%)
Analyze and visualize data (5-10%)
Implement and manage solutions (15-20%)
For a more detailed view of the PL-100 exam topics, download the Microsoft Power Platform App Maker – Skills Measured document.
How Much Does the Pl-100 Exam Cost?
The PL-100 exam costs $165. Note, however, that for PL-100 certification candidates who are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it costs an additional $15 to take the exam remotely.
What Experience Do You Need for the PL-100 Certification?
As mentioned earlier, the Power Apps platform is designed to be used by both IT and business professionals. While the business types are not expected to be tech-heads and may not have formal IT training, they should be comfortable with technology. It's important that they are solution-focused and have a deep understanding of the operational needs of their business environment.
The PL-100 certification builds upon the fundamentals covered by the Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals (PL-900) exam. The PL-900 exam validates the candidate's basic ability to use Power Platform to automate business processes, analyze data, and to create simple applications. PL-100 further expects candidates to have actual experience using the Power Platform to build advanced solutions.
All candidates should have aptitude and/or experience in business analyst tasks such as data modeling, requirements and process analysis, and basic UX design. In addition, they should be conversant with Excel pivot tables, Microsoft Teams, and other tools. For technical candidates, experience with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) would be an advantage.
Who Should Take the PL-100?
The Power Platform App Maker Associate (PL-100) certification can be valuable to application development professionals, systems analysts, business analysts, and others who are involved in using Microsoft Power Platform solutions to automate, transform, and simplify business tasks and processes. Power Platform is frequently used in agile development environments.
Organizations that are building business process improvement teams will look to the PL-100 certification as a means to validate the expertise of current and prospective team members. Positions for these roles can be found in end-user organizations, as well as within consulting services firms. Let's take a look at some of these jobs:
PL-100 for App Developers
This job title covers a wide range of positions in development teams that are using the Power Apps platform. Power App developers design, build, test, and maintain easy-to-use applications with intuitive user interfaces. These apps automate and simplify business processes and can be rapidly deployed to support business users. The developers set up connectors that allow them to manipulate data and metadata from the underlying Power Platform data engine, as well as from sources such as SQL Server, SharePoint, etc.
For these roles, the Power Platform App Maker Associate (PL-100) certification provides validation of the holder's technical skills and thus helps assure their ability to contribute to achieving the organization's business improvement goals.
PL-100 for Business Systems Analysts
Microsoft calls these types of App Makers “citizen developers“, as opposed to professional developers. These roles can be found in end-user organizations, as well as business and IT consulting organizations. Business systems analysts will often be part of a business improvement team that is reviewing and redesigning processes to improve business productivity and organizational effectiveness. They will be involved with the creation of functional designs, user interfaces, and reports. As certified App Makers, they will then actually develop, test, and modify the applications to ensure that projected business process improvements are achieved.
The PL-100 certification provides assurance to management and project teams that the App Maker is fully-conversant with Power Apps development and will contribute to achieving desired business process improvements. For consulting services firms, PL-100 certification is a badge of proficiency to assure customers that their business analysts (and technical app developers) are skilled and knowledgeable App Maker professionals.
Is the PL-100 Worth It?
The PL-100 Power Platform certification is a new role-based certification announced by Microsoft at Inspire 2020. As such, the cert is still gaining recognition with customers and Microsoft channel partners. There are two reasons that professional and citizen developers should consider trying for the Power Platform App Maker Associate (PL-100) certification. They are to learn new App Maker skills, or to validate the Power App skills they already possess.
Using PL-100 to Validate Skills
For developers or business analysts who are already working with Power Apps, the PL-100 certification is an ideal way to put Microsoft's stamp-of-approval on your capabilities. You'll be able to validate to your management and business process team members that you have the in-depth expertise necessary to build effective Power Platform apps. This should help lead to better project opportunities and open the doors to future advancement.
Using PL-100 to Learn Skills
For those who would like to find a position in a process improvement team using Power Apps, studying for the PL-100 certification would be a good way to learn the skills and prove your skills as an App Maker.
If your organization already uses Power Apps, then your initiative in studying for the PL-100 cert might convince management to slot you into a process development team. And once you've certified as a Power Platform App Maker Associate, you can also look beyond your organization for a position in another Power Platform use organization.