Friday, September 6, 2013

Goodbye to MCM/MCSM Certifications

Originally I had planned to blog on my path to the Microsoft Certified Master certification but given Microsoft's recent decision to cancel the certification my plans changed. At 1AM last Friday, the start to Labor Day weekend, Microsoft sent an email to the MCM/MCA community alerting us to the fact that effective October 1st, the advanced certifications will be no more. This abrupt decision coupled with the timing of the announcement, 10PM PST at the start to Labor Day weekend, raises many questions. The fact that this announcement comes almost two weeks after Microsoft announced plans to expand the testing for the program makes this announcement even more surprising.

Tim Sneath from Microsoft Learning responding to comments on a Microsoft Connect item points out:
The truth is, for as successful as the program is for those who are in it, it reaches only a tiny proportion of the overall community. Only a few hundred people have attained the certification in the last few years, far fewer than we would have hoped. We wanted to create a certification that many would aspire to and that would be the ultimate peak of the Microsoft Certified program, but with only ~0.08% of all MCSE-certified individuals being in the program across all programs, it just hasn't gained the traction we hoped for.

I certainly understand Microsoft's point here but it seems this could have been handled better. My journey to MCM status took a little over a year once I had decided to go for it. A long the way there were costs for exams, books, and online studying materials. I can only imagine that there are many people who have started their journey and are now told that they have until October 1st to complete it. It seems Microsoft could given more notice to those people who are in the process of trying to achieve MCM or MCSM status. Paul Randal has a survey on his blog asking Survey: SQL Server MCM cancellation – does it affect you?. From a PR standpoint it seems Microsoft certainly could have handled this better.

I had hoped to eventually recoup my investment in getting the MCM certification over time but now I wonder will anyone recognize or respect the MCM title once the program is cancelled. I also wonder if everyone will understand what it takes to become a SQL MCM and the depth of knowledge it requires. Only time will tell as far as that goes but so far it doesn't look good.

Even with that being said my path to MCM was a good one. The knowledge I gained made me a better DBA long before I gained the MCM title. I understand not everyone is able to afford the costs associated with the MCM program but I would certainly recommend that everyone take a look at the free MCM readiness videos on the Microsoft website. These videos along with blogs and books were the study material that I used.

According to Time Sneath Microsoft is looking to modify or create a new advanced certification with the hopes of reaching more people. I certainly welcome this and encourage them to do so but I hope that it will still require some sort of hands-on testing, which validates a user's knowledge and understanding, as opposed to just multiple choice questions. As others have stated we don't want to see a "Masters Lite" certification. The Masters certification gives people something to strive towards and allows them to differentiate themselves from their peers hopefully whatever Microsoft comes up will still allow this.

I certainly hope Microsoft reconsiders cancelling the advanced certifications.