The death of the MCM Program

Sep 4, 2013 / By Chris Presley

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In case you’re unaware, Microsoft sent a late night email on Friday August 30th announcing it would kill off the MCM, MCSM and MCA certifications as of October 1, 2013. These are top level certifications, requiring candidates to do more than answer multiple-guess questions, and that, when achieved, really separate the experts from the rest of the pack. Microsoft does hint that there will be a replacement program.

The announcement caused a flurry of blog posts, tweets, voting up a Connect item and at Pythian, an internal (sometimes heated) discussion among our SQL Server consulting teams. I’ve read a lot of great commentary (linked to later) by the usual suspects. Regarding my feelings, shared among the DBAs at Pythian and the discussion, I can easily summarize it with this one short sentence.

We, the “right clickers,” at Pythian are disappointed.

I am disappointed not so much that the program is terminated (we’re still disappointed it will be terminated) and will be replaced (my speculation) but in how the termination/communication was handled, for individuals who have made such a large investment. We have built our careers around Microsoft’s offerings, and understand that technology and corporate direction will change – no one expects that it won’t. What disappoints us most is how it was handled.

Microsoft could have handled it completely differently. They could have announced the termination with some notice – say 3-12 months and at the same time announced the replacement certification road map with at least a little detail (promising more to come) as well as (hopefully) an upgrade path to the new certification for the folks who already held the affected certifications.

Instead Microsoft did the equivalent of a sending a text message to break up with a long time partner. It showed a lack of respect.

Oddly enough this article popped up on my Zite yesterday. http://windowsitpro.com/cloud/does-microsoft-hate-it-pros It’s a good read and maybe only semi related but a few points that the author makes have me wondering…

I sincerely hope that the program will be replaced with a program that is every bit as challenging, requiring demonstration of problem solving skills and knowledge. This class of IT Pro is the class that we hire in, it is the level of expertise we offer our customers.
I still think it is beneficial to having an MCSE but the MCM (which I planned to get) meant so much more about the person’s knowledge and ability. I’ve seen numbers around the web indicating that < 1% of folks had it which made it that much more valuable.

I realize that number and part of the reason for the axe may be tied to profit, and that Microsoft is accountable to it’s shareholders as well as it’s user community, but I think since they are responsible for the certifications in their products (rather than partnering) that they take on some level of obligation to the community and user base to offer (or facilitate) this level of certification, even if it’s not a money maker.

In fact, if it were up to me I would change the certification paths completely, moving away from multiple choice questions with answers that experienced DBAs could sometimes argue with, or perhaps keeping that only for the lowest level, and requiring more Labs for the higher levels. I realize that these are expensive. They must be time consuming to review and grade but hopefully the program can break even rather than be required to turn a profit.

As far as I’m concerned, from a software producers viewpoint, the more experts and evangelists you have out there, the better for you.

On the flip side of things, this has brought so much attention to this certification level, that existing folks holding them may have become even more valuable, I just hope for them that Microsoft maintains the site to verify credentials until the replacement program is widely available.

I’m going to take a cautiously optimistic path as I often do. I certainly hope whatever Microsoft Learning is planning will be announced soon and is on par with the skills required to obtain the MCM/MCSM/MCA certifications. I will be meeting with Microsoft Learning in the coming weeks and ensuring that this is expressed.

In the meantime I rushed out and downloaded all of the great training material that sqlskills created found here http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/ff977043 in case it gets removed. You might want to do the same.

Stay tuned for some blogs from the rest of the Pythian team on the subject.

What do you think about the issue?

Here are some more blogs on the topic with great commentary and links to far more content.

http://jasonbrimhall.info/2013/09/02/rare-species-extinction-and-the-mcm/

http://sqlblog.com/blogs/marco_russo/archive/2013/09/03/microsoft-shut-down-mcm-mcsm-mca-programs-my-recap-msmcm.aspx

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/31/microsoft_cans_three_pinnacle_certifications_sparking_user_fury/

http://ozar.me/2013/09/the-sqlmcm-is-dead-experiments-go-on/

One Response to “The death of the MCM Program”

  • Jason Brimhall says:

    Thanks Chris for the writeup and shoutout. Here’s to hoping that Microsoft creates a replacement cert sooner rather than later.

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