No matter what uncertainties 2020 has brought to our lives, we can be sure of two things. The first is that remote work and the technologies that enable it are here to stay. Among these tools, Microsoft Teams is quickly emerging as the premier platform for enabling efficient remote collaboration for enterprises at all scales.
The second certainty is that it is not enough to deploy and operate a solution like Teams straight out of the box. Not only is it possible to unknowingly make administrative choices at the beginning that can create inefficiencies later, but it will also be impossible to fully realize the true value of the platform for your users without a conscious effort to configure it for the way those users need to get work done. To do that, you need to become proficient in the platform itself. It is not enough to just get Teams, you also must take the time to really get Teams.
Given these two certainties, experienced Microsoft cloud professionals looking to demonstrate that proficiency and round out their Teams administration knowledge should start by looking at Microsoft’s MS-700: Managing Microsoft Teams exam. Upon passing this associate-level exam, individuals will gain the Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate certification, itself one of the prerequisites for taking the two exams for the Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert certification. I took and passed the MS-700 in August 2020, and it is the aim of this blog post to relate my experience preparing, studying, and sitting for the test.
A Bit of Background
As with Teams itself, foundational to the MS-700 and the concept that should inform your strategy for study is that Teams sits at an intersection of a variety of MS cloud products and unifies them all. Going further, it is almost inaccurate to say that anything happens “within” Teams- rather, you are using Teams to view data in the other M365 services in a convenient and integrated way. Some examples:
- Teams chat and channel messages are stored in Exchange, in a hidden folder within users’ mailboxes. This affects message retention as well as eDiscovery practices
- Files in Teams are stored in SharePoint online, either within the user’s OneDrive folder (for individual files) or within the SharePoint site for the 365 group associated with the Team (for Team files)
- Restrictions on access to files or services (in the OneDrive admin center or in Azure AD) manifest in Teams. For example, an IP location conditional access policy for a given SharePoint site will affect any Team associated with the site
- Public channel messages are stored in a group mailbox (Exchange Online again) associated with the Team, whereas Private channel messages only exist within the mailboxes of the users on the Private channel
It’s easy to see how having a solid foundation of these other services is essential to understanding how they come together in a platform like Teams, and the same holds true for passing the MS-700. Ideally, you should have some experience with all of them.
I took the test after having what I would call moderate M365 experience – a good deal of Exchange/Exchange Online experience including a few hybrid migrations, experience setting up and managing Azure AD sync, one OneDrive migration via the SPMT, some experience with conditional access policies in AAD, a Teams voice migration and configuration for our company, as well as a good deal of experience configuring Teams policies and settings within the admin portal.
All of this is to say that while the Teams-centered experiences were themselves useful, they were by no means sufficient. Many questions on the test covered the effect in Teams of settings only configurable via the admin center for the specific service (Exchange online, Azure AD, etc) so some familiarity with these services is crucial. It is my opinion that this aspect of the exam is not sufficiently transmitted in Microsoft’s breakdown of test topics:
- Plan and Configure a Microsoft Teams Environment (45-50%)
- Manage Chat, Calling, and Meetings (30-35%)
- Manage Teams and App Policies (20-25%)
Let’s talk about studying and the test itself. In the past I’ve had success using practice tests that mimic as closely as possible the test environment as well as the test questions. For my purposes, the practice test available through MeasureUp was extremely helpful and I recommend regularly retesting yourself using it over the entire time you study, as it will highlight those areas of your knowledge which need improvement.
When taking the test, be ready for a variety of question formats. Many are simple multiple-choice or matching, but others require some logical analysis of data that the question provides, requiring not only Teams knowledge but critical thinking. Often you will be asked for the “best” answer among multiple correct answers, and those of you familiar with standardized testing will understand how loaded that term can be. In addition, there are a number of “lab” type questions, which in this case really means using data provided in multiple formats (spreadsheets, requirement lists, user reports) based around the business processes of a fictional company to answer multiple questions about how a Teams environment should be configured for that company. It’s easy to find these questions daunting when looking at all of these sources at once, so I find its best to start by looking at the questions individually and concentrating on only those data sources immediately relevant to the question. By the time you’ve gone through all of the questions in this manner, you’ll have a decent enough understanding of the overall picture to fill in any gaps in your knowledge that you started with, allowing you to check your answers to the earlier questions in the lab with confidence.
I hope this post has given you some useful background information about the MS-700, as well as some helpful advice for how to approach studying for and passing the exam.