Would a boycott influence Microsoft Learning?

Microsoft Learning’s (MSL) recent decision to cancel the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) programs has spawned a fair amount of commentary and debate. Regretfully, in some cases the discussion barely scratches the surface, probably due to the unfamiliarity of the writer with the details of these high-level technical certifications. As evident in the recent UC Architects podcast on the demise of MCM (in particular), the closer you are, the more searing the pain.

To be fair to MSL, their decision might very well have been taken on excellent financial grounds. Excel is such a comforting tool when these kind of decisions need to be made. Input some data, do some calculations, and out pops a black and white answer. It might be that some people need to lose their jobs, that investment should be increased to drive sales in a particular area, or that programs are cut. The conclusions reached in a spreadsheet are never wrong. At least, not when dealing with hard data.

The problem, however, is that available data often does not provide a complete picture. You cannot capture all of the issues that swirl around complex problems in a form that spreadsheets can consume. The decision reached by MSL might well save Microsoft a few million dollars and look good from that perspective. But that sum is peanuts in the context of Microsoft’s profitability and it has consequences that will persist long after the managers who made the decision have moved on in their careers.

Take trust, for instance. People have to trust a learning organization before they use that organization to support their career. MSL can be trusted to pump out exams that lead to mass-market certifications such as MCSE, for this is what they have done in a highly successful manner for many years. On the other hand, if MSL was to ask you to invest multiple tens of thousands of dollars into attaining a new top-end certification, would you trust MSL to persist that certification for long enough for you to extract a return on your investment?

MCM is a good example here. Its headline cost is an $18,500 fee but its overall cost is far higher – some estimate $65K or higher – because you have to factor in time, travel and living expenses for the three-week training rotation, and impact on family while your attention is distracted by the certification process. You might pay $65K for an MBA or similarly advanced business degree, but at least you’d know that the university will stand over that degree for the extent of your career and that the long-term impact of gaining the degree will be positive on your career. I doubt that many of the MCMs feel quite so pleased by the outcome of their investment following the MSL decision.

So MSL has affected its credibility by the decision to cancel its top-end accreditations, or as it calls them, the pinnacle. Those who remember (and decisions like this have a habit of being forgotten) will not trust MSL as readily when it brings new certification programs forward.

Some protests are happening. MVP Jen Stirrup created a request on Microsoft Connect to ask for the programs to be reinstated. The page was closed due to “troll activity” after nearly a thousand people protested there. However heartfelt such a protest is, my feeling is that it will be brushed aside by MSL because it has no impact on their business. It might be better if subject matter experts (including MCMs, MCAs, and MVPs) declined to help MSL with their programs by refusing to participate in any opportunity extended by MSL to blueprint or otherwise assist in the development of exams or certifications for Microsoft technology. Ignore any invitation from MSL to take surveys, don’t help in the development of test questions, and basically don’t assist in any MSL project until they do something to offset the damage caused by their recent decisions. This might just get their attention and encourage the decision to be revisited.

I plan to make my own small protest in this way. It might be like a pinprick to an elephant but at least I will be happy that I have protested a decision that has impacted people, companies, and partners in ways that I sincerely doubt were anticipated by MSL.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna


About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
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38 Responses to Would a boycott influence Microsoft Learning?

  1. Jeremy L says:

    After the last several years of Microsoft telling people what they need and not listening to feedback, I’ve decided to jump ship. I’ve been a Microsoft professional for 12 years, and hobbyist for even longer. I am not going to lose my career because they continue to make these blunders and are rapidly losing relevance in new application development.

  2. PMP says:

    I can see bigger picture here. When all mailboxes have moved into the cloud, where does Microsoft need Exchange MCMs or ITPros anymore? They are forcing customers little by little to O365. It’s interesting to hear when and how Microsoft will announce that Exchange 201x is the last version for on-promises installations. Then it’s game over for me.

    • Jack says:

      @ PMP
      I disagree completely.
      We have today 75% of all Exchange systems world-wide are Exchange On-Premises 2003/2007/2010/2013.
      So Microsoft will be the dumbest company on the planet to kill a business like that. I think it was all about $$ and MSL think few will pay $70K for MCM.

      • PMP says:

        This all does not happen overnight but in the long run I thing it’s inevitably we forced to move to the cloud one way or another. I really hope I’m wrong but just can’t help thinking that. Does Google provide any on-premises installations? No. I believe Microsoft is following Google’s model to provide services. But who says we have to use Microsoft’s products in the future? 🙂

      • Jack
        There will be no Exchange 2016 on prem … keep in mind that MS gets $0 in revenue from 2003 and 2007 Exchange users …
        The dumbest the users the easier is to push the cloud.

    • Joe says:

      Let’s not forget NSA PRISM has put a stop to move to Public Cloud / Office 365.

      • Sorry Joe … with all revelations lately Cloud/Back Doors/Broken Encryption … I don’t think Office 365 is any different than on prem. PCI3.0 will become a joke.

      • John says:

        I agree with Joe 100% but Not with “Zumarek”.
        No Back-door access on my On-Premises servers, but who knows what is going on with the data on the Public Cloud / Office 365.

  3. PMP says:

    Correct if I’m wrong but was it some time ago when Microsoft’s had to publish where does the revenue come from. Office and Windows were crown jewellery but Exchange, SQL and many others were unprofitable.

  4. zumarek says:


    I presume tha you have ActiveSync devices … shall I say more about back doors ?
    Given that you cannot protect yourself against government like entity I coukd argue that your data is actually more secure in the cloud.
    Last fairly secure email system on prem or cloud (Domino) is dying together with BlackBerry.

    • John says:

      Nope we got BES, and no way Public Cloud is more secure then On-Premises LOL you dreaming. Again who knows what is going on with the data on the Public Cloud / Office 365. BTW which Cloud company you working for 😉

  5. Andy I says:

    Hi Tony,

    In my opinion the only way to get Microsoft’s attention these days will be to impact 365 or mobile take-up. Perhaps by techies not recommending it or using it just because it is good value? (I know, not an easy ask) How many people though are asking the question – Is Microsoft removing support for non-Microsoft technical specialists to undermine on-premise deployments and sell more 365 seats?

    Consider the following; Home users, small businesses, SMEs and even corporates have relied on a core of techies who have the ability to support Microsoft technologies that Microsoft gave up on. This allowed people to avoid upgrading each time Microsoft wished, thus costing Microsoft revenue. So, entire operating systems and versions of Office/SQL/Exchange etc. could be avoided, as there were adequate numbers of skilled resources on the market to support what Microsoft would not. Microsoft may not have sold as many product licenses but their presence and software upgrade path was protected by these techies.

    The argument is still valid – Why change a version of Office (or any other piece of software) just to be ‘supported’ when you’re existing version does all you want it to?

    Hmm, now, how to get around that repeating dilemma?

    If the majority of those above have a 365 subscription then Microsoft doesn’t need to worry about whether their next release is purchased as you’re already paying a monthly fee and will automatically upgrade. In that case, the demand for Wintel techies will dramatically diminish…outside of Microsoft. Corporate level skills will remain in demand but the change will result in a lot smaller job market than historically and such work demands true skills, not ‘paper’ MCSEs.

    So, even if you err on the side of believing that the increasing instability of Windows Update is more due to a growing gap in Microsoft technology stream integration rather than a means of destabilising confidence in on-premises infrastructure, the ‘retirement’ of Technet, MCA and MCM all do smack of pulling the rug out from under the people that helped Microsoft still have a platform to upgrade from and continue to support customers who are tied to legacy ‘unsupported’ systems for one bespoke reason or another.


    • zumarek says:


      let us start with trying to defend Microsoft Professionals and the way they are treated by the company they helped succeed despite inferior technology. As a side note BlackBerry is Canadian they vwill never do anything wrong. Oh well with one exception of CEO going after hockey team in Phoenix and not paying attention to changing market 🙂

  6. vitruviusmedia says:

    Reblogged this on Direct Cloud.

  7. Dustin
    Not sure what RIM’s situation has to do with this blog ?

    • Dustin says:

      Folks were discussing RIM/Backberry & BES, including your statement that “BES is the only one that we can trust (for now),” which I was specifically addressing. Their financial viability [should] directly impact their dealings, as with any company. If their platform had not been the standard used by the US Federal Government and the DoD, RIM would have failed by now. It is still the standard in this arena, for now. And certainly, based on their infrastructure model, I would assume trust that the requisite traffic is “secure” from prying eyes… the traffic passes through their infrastructure by design. I am sure that encrypted sessions are terminated within their infrastructure and re-established to the on-premise BES servers… an opportunity for reading the traffic. The statement seemed rather obvious, so I am not sure why you are asking the relevance to this blog…

  8. zumarek says:

    To all IT Pros/Education Masters and Architects that helped Microsoft on the way up this is from SB:

    “I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.”

    Yes this is what you get in return for your support.
    Unfounded negative opinion on Microsoft … well when you trade passion for profit.

    • John says:

      What we get in return for support:
      “Allow NSA PRSIM backdoor access to Public Cloud servers / Office 365 servers”.

      • zumarek says:

        I am sure that MVP are concerned about this, unfortunately this has nothing to do with the way Microsoft bis treating their core supporters, people that help their technology to penetrate the market. Maybe they have plans for a Superman Cloud Architect or similar certification maybe they see qualified and knowledgeable IT professionals as an obstacle in their strategy. Early warning signs about on prem products as “secondary” seem to pop up …

  9. PMP says:


    Microsoft is already announcing their new products as “Cloud First”. Later perhaps “Cloud Only”…

    • John says:

      I Disagree with you, MS will give customers options I.E. Cloud & On-Premises. Especially after the NSA PRISM news and revelation of Backdoor Access to Public Cloud servers.

  10. Simple math tells me that having two lines of “on prem” and “cloud” is more expensive to develop than having one … plus to the Cloud is perpetual subscription and infinite “lock in”.
    And to boot no need for partners/certifications and other obstacles (like people with knowledge and common sense). So Cloud it is.

    • John says:

      You are Wrong 🙂
      Simple math tell us that having 2 lines of “On-Premises” & “Cloud” will give MS more $$ I.E. they will cover themselves all the corners by selling to more customers $$.
      After the NSA PRISM news and revelation of Backdoor Access to Public Cloud servers, companies will stay “On-Premises”.

  11. Markus (MCM, MCT) says:

    Hi Tony
    I completly agree with you. Even if the protest shouldn’t help in making MSL reversing the decision – at least I won’t support an organisation that acts in such unprofessional way. I’ve been MCT for 14 years and really don’t have the motivation anymore to support and/or defend MSL. I was registered for a Directory Services rotation in October that has been cancelled. I wrote a letter to Tim Sneath about it but never got an answer and was also not able to attend the community call because of the seat limit. At least I would have expected a recording or minutes. MSL’s communication in the whole matter was a complete disaster.
    In addition to my urge to boycott MSL I came to the conclusion that I can’t recommend any of Microsoft’s services (O365, Azure, InTune) to a customer, knowing that they can and will cancel a product on short notice and won’t care about the extreme inconvenience they cause for all who invested in it.
    Thanks, Markus

    • Jim says:

      Many companies have stop thinking about Public Cloud such as Office 365 after the NSA PRISM news and Backdoor Access to public cloud servers.

  12. John S. says:

    I see an honest need for some type of differentiation between the pack (MCITP/MCSE) and specialists (MCM/MCSM/MCA), but I am not entirely sure how much of this was driven by what has been publicly said by MSL and how much of it has to do with what has been said and presented by Microsoft’s executives.

    MSL is apparently standing by the “the demand was not there” argument, although by the way it was defined and implemented, it was never a case where the masses could become a member. With the MCA program, the selection process was intentially made to be exclusionary with a limited number of accepted applicants. The MCM/MCSM program required a substantial investment on the part of the participant in fees and time (2-3 weeks of uninterrupted and unbillable time), thusly it firmly placed itself outside of the realm of the majority of interested parties who would have otherwise attended. If it was a case where the concern was for sewing the seeds to the masses, MSL would have provided another means for students to attend the sessions online, either live or recorded.

    With Microsoft, there has been a push to go “cloud first” for years and a willingness to “cannibalize” their business to accomplish this. See Mary Jo Foley’s article from July 2010: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-if-we-dont-cannibalize-our-existing-business-others-will/6841 and Jeff Schwartz’s more recent article http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2013/09/microsoft-plans-to-grow.aspx for examples. To further illustrate how much things have move to cloud first, look at items such as Mobile OWA (for Office 365 only), App-V packages for Office 2013 (again, Office 365 only), patch testing (Office 365 gets a different type of build than On-Premises, much to the regret of Exchange admins) and SIP standard compliancy for Lync (not applicable to Office 365, as the clients have exclusions built in to bypass compliance).

    Microsoft has also stated for well over a year that they intend to become a devices and services company. Where this ultimately leaves on-premises customers, who are unwilling or able to go into a cloud based solution along with the technicians and specialists that support it is, at best ambiguous. Anyone considering a five year plan of where things will be, has to take into account the possibility that Microsoft might not have a product available to replace it. Unless you go to the cloud.

    • Once you are “devices and services company + CloudOnly” you don’t need anyone with any significant certification/knowledge. We could argue that knowledge could be an obstacle … MCSE (I used to hold this certification – in the last century) is so watered down that it is not of any real value.

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