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