Institutions are increasingly turning to the cloud to improve productivity, cut costs and fuel business growth. By 2015 IT innovation produced by the cloud could create US$1.1 trillion a year in new business revenues according to a recent IDC study (1). As a result, top of mind for organisations today is making sure they have the right skills and people in place to help them fully realize the benefits the cloud has to offer.
With this in mind, Microsoft has reinvented its certification program to directly address technology’s evolution to the cloud.
“The changes we’re making will help technology professionals gain the skills they need to plan, design, implement and operate cloud and hybrid solutions today and into the future,” says Don Field, senior director of product management for Microsoft. “And it will help hiring managers find people who have the skills they expect in their IT environments moving forward.”
Cushing Anderson, program vice president of the Consulting, HR and Learning practices at IDC, agrees. “Overall the changes to Microsoft’s certification program are an appropriate evolution toward greater industry relevance and business value.”
A New Approach
The revamped program is a wholesale new approach to ensure certified individuals have the skills required to steward an organization’s journey to the cloud.
The new certifications align to real-world solutions rather than specific products and validate a broader and deeper set of knowledge and skills. Because many organizations will continue to have a mix of both cloud and on-premise technologies, the new solutions-based approach helps ensure technologists can work with a range of products and services and manage a mixed environment in a way that is seamless for users within and outside their organization.
The new certification framework has also been streamlined to three skill levels to make it easier to navigate:
- The Associate Level comprises the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification, which provides a clear starting point for job seekers early in their technology career. Candidates must prove they have the required skills to hit the ground running. This level represents a foundation and is the prerequisite certification necessary to earn an MCSE.
- The Expert Level comprises the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or its developer equivalent, Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), and is Microsoft’s flagship certification for individuals who want to lead their organization’s transition to the cloud. These certifications recognize IT professionals and developers with broad and deep skill sets across Microsoft solutions.
- The Master Level is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) certification that differentiates the select few from their peers and represents the highest bar of knowledge and skills validation.
Microsoft is calling MCSE its flagship credential because it is the level that most people will aspire to, says Field. It validates an individual’s ability to design and build solutions that may integrate multiple technologies, versions and products. These are the new kinds of skills that are needed for the cloud.
“Microsoft offerings, from on-premise to private cloud and public cloud, are very broad, and we are reflecting the breadth and depth of those offerings in the ways that we train and certify developers and IT professionals,” says Field. “With its rigor and completeness, the new MCSE is the embodiment of the solutions that Microsoft is bringing forward.”
Anderson from IDC says the new MCSE acknowledges the evolution of the role of the IT professional. “The heterogeneous skills that this new approach will engender in both individuals and the certified community in general represent what it really takes to be successful.”
The MCSE certification — or its developer equivalent, MCSD — also demonstrates an individual’s commitment to staying up to date on cutting-edge technologies because it requires recertification.
For hiring managers and employers, recertification provides assurance that certified individuals have current competencies even amid a rapidly changing technology environment of service packs, revisions and new product version releases. In other words, it means the certification will hold its value over time, which is also crucial to the person who earned it.
Raising the Bar
The value of Microsoft certifications is something Microsoft takes very seriously. “We know that what we’re building is something that is really important to hiring managers, helping them to ensure that they have the right skills in their organization. Part of our motivation in the changes we’re making was to make sure we continue to do a better and better job of that.”
“The bar is higher,” adds Field. “For an individual to successfully earn these new certifications, they’ll have to demonstrate real-world, hands-on experience — not because we want exams to be harder in their own right, but because that’s the skill level that’s needed in the marketplace to be consistent with the requirements the cloud is placing on IT professionals and developers.”
For a full overview of the Microsoft certification process, check out our video below. Alternatively, to learn how to attain Microsoft certifications, visit the Microsoft Learning site.
(1) “Cloud Computing’s Role in Job Creation,” IDC, March 2012