I’m not even qualified to talk about the MCM/MCSM/MCA program itself, or what may have lead to the death of it. What I can do is talk about is the direction Microsoft wants us to go in, and what I see around the community.
Devices, Services, and Clouds Oh My!
Microsoft has been told by its board to become a “Devices and Services” company. I use devices, absolutely. Services? Sure! I’ve been using Exchange Online since the BPOS days. And this blog runs on Azure. Do I use either Microsoft “devices” or “services” at my place of employment? No. We have numerous farm solutions, admin-approved InfoPath forms, and do all sorts of interesting things with SharePoint that prevents a move to SharePoint Online.
At the last SharePoint Conference and elsewhere, it was “cloud” this and “cloud that”. But Microsoft cannot forget it’s on-prem customers. Quoting from Microsoft, there is about a 70% on-prem deployment of SharePoint today and SharePoint is over a $1 billion USD application. We’re the customers that made Microsoft into the software giant it is today, and continue to pump billions of dollars into Microsoft on an annual basis. I don’t want a subscription to be provided the opportunity to return to the glory days of SharePoint as a file server. I want to continue with the evolution of SharePoint as a Platform (SaaP!).
TechNet Time Bomb
First, we have the loss of TechNet. I’ve personally had a long standing MSDN subscription through my employer, so this doesn’t directly impact me. The alternative Microsoft wants people to use in place of a TechNet subscription is the 180 day time bombs or Azure trials. What about environments that must mirror production for solution deployment? Those can’t be rebuilt every 180 days. I have maintained such an environment which works through the entire lifecycle of the software as it exists in production.
MSDN subscriptions are the obvious replacement, but when you go from a ~$300/year subscription to a minimum of $6,119, that just isn’t acceptable. Lower subscription levels of the MSDN subscription don’t offer equivalent software, such as Dynamics CRM, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server. But even then, the minimum subscription level is $699 for MSDN which only provides you with Operating Systems.
I get that TechNet has been fraught with abuse, from people using it for personal installations, to selling the keys. MSDN, being more expensive, is less likely to have that happen. But you’re taking a highly valuable IT Pro resource and telling them to buy a much more expensive Dev resource or use time bomb/trial software. Or get on the “cloud” bandwagon, where none of this software is required. Then again, much of the time the “cloud” isn’t applicable to the IT Pro who needed the TechNet subscription.
Now, we have the death of the MCM/MCSM/MCA programs with a poorly timed, poorly worded email. While Microsoft certifications of any sort are great, I knew my fair share of “paper” MCSEs that earned them in the NT4 days, and to be honest, the MCITP for SharePoint Administration wasn’t all that difficult (went in without studying, and passed both in the same week). However, I do believe the MCM program has offered value. They have a very deep understanding of the product, one that can’t just be had by walking into Prometric and sitting down for 30 minutes to pass a test. With weeks of in-person training (only near the end of the program dropping that requirement) and grueling labs, you must know the product inside and out to have a chance to pass the MCM program.
I hope Microsoft Learning, and Microsoft as a whole understands that on-prem still has a long life to live. There is value in Microsoft’s MCM/MCA program, through reducing cost to Microsoft for support (PSS) as well as increased sales of the product.
Microsoft, MCMs and MCAs are to your benefit. Bring them back or show us the path forward to a replacement program that pulls the current MCMs and MCAs into it. As much as I respect people who take the time to pass “standard” certifications, there are simply too many brain dumps out there which generates useless paper certifications. The MCM program provided us with specific individuals who know the product, and who we can get very accurate and detailed information from.
With all of these types of changes, Microsoft needs to have a clear, unmuddied message of what they expect from us, the community, moving forward. We also need to hear that clear message in order to understand what lies ahead. Instead, in many cases we’ve been getting silence, the “marketing pitch” (Yammer), or poorly worded, easily disputed communications.
Microsoft, help us to help understand you.