Microsoft Advanced Certification (MCA, MCSM, MCM) - the end of an era

Tags: MCSM, SharePoint, MCM, MCA

This is a sad and dark day for the Microsoft community, especially for us who love products such as SQL Server, Exchange, Lync and SharePoint. Microsoft Learning (MSL) has decided till kill their advanced certifications; Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) formerly known as Microsoft Certified Master (MCM). This is also a post I hoped not to write, as the matter of fact I started drafting a post a couple of weeks back that should recommend these certifications to the community out there, that post will never see the light now.

Breaking up with an e-mail!

This morning I and the whole MCA/MCSM/MCM community got an e-mail from Microsoft Learning stating that “we [MSL] are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program” but “[MSL] will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013”. This e-mail came as a shock to me, and as it seems to all involved, including instructors. All already certified will retain their certification status and can still use the logo (well, thank you very much), and those in rotation or with scheduled exams have barely one month to get it or get just a small amount of refund! This is truly a slap in the face for everyone! Also sending this e-mail out on a weekend with a US holiday coming up, just to try to get under the radar is a cowardice action – and just shows how not thought through and quick the decision has been made.

Why are MSL retiring the advanced certifications?

imageWell, that is one question that I would like to have answered. In the rather offensive e-mail sent the following was stated: “The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry…”. Doh! We know it is changing, but that definitely doesn’t mean there is less requirement on training and certifications, especially these advanced certifications! About one year ago the MCM certification was changed into MCSM that took this new “era” of cloud into the curriculum. For those who have attended the last updated training know this. We’re talking a lot about Office 365, Azure etc. during the training and exams.

I think Microsoft has to much belief in the cloud – that it will change over night – it won’t. The vast majority of SharePoint installations are on-premises today. Even if we/you see a cloud only future, there is a long way to go, and that road required skilled professionals staking out the route. And just because Office 365 satisfies the most common scenarios it will never be in parity with the requirement of Enterprise solutions. And Lync, SharePoint, Exchange and SQL are each on its own still a billion+ dollar segment for Microsoft.

Today I’ve seen a couple of blog posts and tweetface posts from people who hasn’t attended any of the rotations. These persons claim to know why MSL is retiring the certifications with reasons such as 1) we’re on a way to a cloud-only world, 2) the program costs Microsoft to much money, 3) there’s no demand for these certified masters etc. Oh boy, they have no clue! One thing I can agree upon is that MSL have done a really bad job in marketing the advanced certifications – most of the marketing has been done by the attendees! Another reason stated is that it was written in the stars – well, all parties will eventually end, but this is not how to end it, punching their most dedicated fans in the balls!

I’m still waiting for a decent reason from MSL…

Why do I think the MCA/MCSM should remain?

Noone except those who actually attended the rotations (which is what we call the training, which was required to get certified) really knows how valuable the certification is. Or to be more precise the certification in itself doesn’t mean that much – the training and the community is what matters. The Master certification has increased the SharePoint knowledge and expertise since the dawn of the certification, in the whole community. The blog posts, conference sessions, webcasts, books etc written by Masters would not have been as good if they didn’t attend the training, and eventually achieved the certification. This is a big loss for all of us, with no new training and no new fresh blood in this group we’re looking into a darker future.

Ok, what about the MVP’s then you think! Well, an MVP is award, not a certification. I have been awarded the MVP award, but not for my knowledge – it’s all about visibility and connections. I’m still proud of being awarded and thankful for what it gives me. But the MCA, MCSM and MCM means much more to me (even though the benefits are way less than for an MVP and you have to pay big bucks for it). You can ask any of my customers and my employer and they will tell you how much I and they have benefited from these certifications. But the “new Microsoft” doesn’t care about its customers as I see it…


I’m very proud and thankful to have learned as much from the amazing instructors and my fellow masters. There will be no more Certified Masters or Certified Architects or recertified Certified Solution Masters…

I could have written a way longer post on this subject, but this is the end of this road. What it actually means in a bigger perspective is another question for another day – but I do know that it will influence my future considerations and investments in certifications and the products that I used to love.


I’ll try to share some updates on the matter here…

[2013-09-01] A fellow MVP from the SQL charter, Jen Stirrup, has created a plea on the Microsoft Connect site (currently 213 upvotes!). The one who claims to be responsible for the decision, Tim Sneath, has answered. His answer contains some of what should originally been communicated. But, stating this has been in the plans for months – I don’t believe it, why would MSL then have spent all the time on making the certifications available on Prometric centers, B**sh!t

No Comments

  • Dan Usher said

    Well said Wictor. Reading through the MSL blog entry left me wondering what they're thinking as well.

    Thanks to you and all the other MCM/MCSMs that have contributed to the community!

  • Miguel Wood said

    Great post. I'm still too emotionally charged to reply in any fashion. The MCM and MCSM are arguably my proudest professional achievements. At the very least, we deserve a decent explanation, since we weren't bothered with a notice of this bomb.

  • Johan said

    "Ok, what about the MVP’s then you think! Well, an MVP is award, not a certification. I have been awarded the MVP award, but not for my knowledge" This is one of the greatest insights I've seen from an MVP despite the fact that it's on the topic of certifications. From my point of view a certification is something that you shouldn't be aloud to take before doing any SharePoint work (but you can today even it's not a master). However being MVP has nothing to with your knowledge ( even if it could be) but customers get these mixed up all the time. Compare a certification to a drivers license. You can't even get the chance to take one before doing any practice but a certification can be taken by simply studying some technical writing. (ok that's with lower level certs but now there are just these on take into account I guess)

  • Rogier Duurkoop said

    Thanks Wictor for sharing the pain. I was preparing for a year now to attend the rotation of october. With high expectations and hope to achieve the Master title. And dumped by Microsoft one month before the start. Leaving me and other attendees with a lousy ticket to Seatlle. There is no room for decent people in the cloud....

  • Wictor said

    Thanks everyone for your support! This is a bad decision and for the products, especially SharePoint, it is really a bitchslap to all not embarking the journey to the cloud... Any Oracle gigs out there?

  • Bob Kaucher said

    They just changed the requirements that opened the door to the MCSM to people who do not work for large consulting firms in July. I had just sat down this week and begun to work out a training plan for the SharePoint MCSM. I even purchased 2 books from Microsoft Press to start myself on the path. I really feel like the only thing MS can do right now is alienate the people who are the most passionate about their products. The amount of disappointment that I feel is on the scale of a good friend betraying me.

  • nelson said

    After the last SharePoint conference, which I felt was sub par, and this announcement, I should quickly start looking at other platforms that I feel are more in line with their community. What do other people think? Sitecore? Huddle? What else it out there?

  • Jussi Roine said

    Truly disappointed with this decision from Microsoft. Having spent the better half of 2013 attending and studying for MCSM: SharePoint 2013, I feel that maybe that time could have been spent more wisely doing something else. Then again, studying is never futile, so there's at least the decks I can now read as a bedtime story to my children in the future.

    Not sure how serious some people are thinking of changing technologies totally from, say, SharePoint to Oracle's offerings, since effectively that would take years to master. I'm too old for that :)

    The best I can think of, while waiting for all this to blow over, is to catch up on those random MCSE, MCSA and MCSD exams and crank through them like there's no tomorrow, and then see what (or if) something will replace or continue the legacy of the advanced certs.

  • Thomy said

    The one thing that makes me really sad is that guys like you will maybe be less into the products in the future ... but you guys out there are the only one with real experience and a mindset of sharing, never got real good technical information but form the SP community, and the real cutting edge blogs are mainly from MCMs ... sad day for all of us ....

  • Jeremy Taylor said

    I attended the most recent MCSM SharePoint rotation R-15 and it was a rude shock to receive an email 2 days after I attempted the SharePoint Knowledge exam. I have tracked this program for years and respected all MCMs and MCAs (you, Spence) for the commitment, knowledge and helping IT professionals fix the numerous issues in SharePoint to make it a successful deployment.

    Never once were we given any indication of a possible closure of the program!
    MS has hurt the community that truely works hard to make it look good. Maybe they might turn 180 degrees to another product/vendor that is more accommodating and friendlier.

    Jeremy Taylor
    MCSM R-15 attendee.

  • Andrew Connell said

    I feel for all you people who've invested so much personal time, money and your employers / clients who invested as well... only to see it all taken away. It isn't like the awards were taken from you, but their value has now dramatically diminished in the eyes of MSFT. It really is a short sighted decision.

    I saw in the Connect feedback loop that the guy responsible for making the decision alluded to something different in the future. If that's the case, you don't just throw in the towel on today & figure it out later. You figure out vNext and provide a transition or something of the sort.

    Your point about MVPs is a good one. I've always explained it as "it's what you do above and beyond your day job to better a community around a specific product." While my perspective around the MVP program is limited to SharePoint, the value of this program has also dramatically diminished in the last 4+ years. I'm a 9 time awardee and frankly, I'm hard pressed to explain the value of it to someone who asks beyond the free MSDN subscription and a few free 3rd party offers. Microsoft product groups. certainly doesn't value the award like they used to. From what I understand, other MVPs in other groups feel the same way.

    As I said on Twitter yesterday upon learning this news, this is just yet another bit of evidence that Microsoft is becoming even more disconnected with their customers, proponents, evangelizers and influencers. It's much less of a feedback loop these days and so much more of being talked to or told how it works... marketing. :-/

  • Bil Simser said

    As a SharePoint MVP for 10 years this is an insulting slap in the face to the hard working professionals that are in the program and a disappointing de-evolution for those (like me) that were positioned to pursue this. I agree with Andrew, if there are plans to replace this with something different then do so and transition it. Why replace something that's so important? Apparently Microsoft doesn't seem to think it's that important according to Mr. Sneath. Ultimately this hurts the customer of tomorrow who won't have a fantastic pool of resources to draw from and instead stuck with consultants that zip through online exams pretending to be knowledgeable about their work. This program, the MVP program, and many others continue to get gutted and chopped at the expense of the community and there's no slowing down of this behavior.

  • Mohamed Derhalli said

    The weird thing is that their excuse is they are moving to the cloud..? OK? Isn't that also a technology that requires people who are masters. The thing is that Microsoft stopped putting its own standards and its focusing on imitating others and following others.

    Consider a faculty of Engineering in a university, have we heard about a universtiy that closes its Engineering faculty because Engineering has "changed"? NO!, it goes with the change the alter its certificate content to match these changes, but it doesn't just close the faculty because engineering has changed!

    These SP MCM and MCA professionals are needed and must be recognized by the community for their level of knowledge, instead of making some kind of appreciation to them like university graduates, they just ignore the whole certificate. The funny thing is that the way Microsoft handles "changes" became "boring", they flip everything upside down to be considered that they are up to date with everything.

  • Marek said

    This is a very bad decision made by Microsoft. It makes me feel that promotion and support to MS technologies should be canceled by a community as we are not sure what MS will change in the future. It seems there is a better to invest into Linux, Android and other open source platforms and technologies where no manager can change life of so many people just with a simple notice.
    Sorry Microsoft, I spent 10 years with your technologies but I quit now as you are not a trustful company anymore.

  • Wictor said

    @Jan - Microsoft did not take down the Connect article. The article was removed by Jen (who initially created the article) since the comments became very "unfriendly" and unprofessional.

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About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is the Nordic Digital Workplace Lead working at Avanade. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for seven consecutive years.

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