July, 2009

  • |

    UPDATED 7/15/09

    We’re pleased to announce our partnership with (HDI) Help Desk Institute to deliver MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7, in preparation for the availability of Windows 7.

    MCITP:EST7 is designed to identify quality help desk support professionals with deep technical expertise (validated by Microsoft) and strong customer service skills (validated by HDI, an industry-recognized standards body that promotes best practices).

    MCITP: EST7 is available to new candidates and candidates who are upgrading from MCITP:EST or MCDST.

    MCPs who earn the credential will have full access to MCP benefits and resources. Want more info? Check out the complete certification path, requirements and benefits is available here.

    Along with the MCITP: EDST7 certification, Microsoft will also be offering an MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7 certification designed to validate your ability to deploy operating systems and desktop applications, and to manage the client lifecycle in the enterprise.

    So, whether you’re working behind the scenes deploying desktop operating system and applications to the desktop, or on the front lines in the help center working with customers to solve problems, Microsoft has a certification to help you stand out from the crowd.

  • |

    Got quite a few reactions from you guys about our MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7 announcement yesterday: it seems many of you are concerned and about the requirement to acquire an HDI certification in order to achieve this credential.

    Please note that this is not the only MCITP credential for Windows 7—there’s also an MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7, which does not include customer service skills in among the skills it validates (and therefore does not have an HDI component).

    So for those of you who want a well-rounded technology+soft skills credential, there’s MCITP: EDST7, and for those of you just want the Win7 piece, there’s MCITP: EDA7

    Hope that helps allay your concerns!

  • |

    Starting next week, if you’d rather not print your own certificates or have a local print shop do it, you can order a paper certificate from our fulfillment vendor.

    We’ll post instructions and a link next week both here and on the MCP Member site, but since many of you have been asking “how much is this going to cost,” we can share that information now:

    The base shipping and handling cost for a paper certificate is $9.95 USD—to anywhere in the world. One price, worldwide.

    Additional information:

    You can add additional certificates to your order (maximum of 6) for $0.99 each… so an order for 3 certificates would cost $9.95 + $0.99 + $0.99 = $11.93

    There will be an “express shipping” option for faster delivery, at an additional fee of course. Don’t have the details on that yet.

    Some U.S. residents will be charged sales tax (if you live in a state where our fulfillment vendor has facilities—I have no idea why, but it’s a legal requirement).

    No sales tax or VAT outside of the U.S.

    Only Visa, MasterCard, and American Express payments are accepted—no other payments of any type.

    More details next week.

  • |

    Andreas H. asked for it: “Hmm… Only for US Residents? Why do we have such a tour only in the US, what’s about Europe?”

    Arnaud asked for it: “Hey, very good proposition but only for Us guys !!! I can’t believe it, I’m from Paris and hope you will change your mind and invite me for this tour (free of charge for a little french man of course).”

    Chris asked for it: “We should do something like this in EMEA”

    …and my team *really* asked for it! So for our European readers, contributors, customers, trainers, and partners, there’s really only one thing to say:

    image

     

     

    The Career Express - Hitting the streets of Europe with Windows 7

    Watch this page for updates, and find out how you can join us on the bus
    for a free trip to TechEd Europe!

  • |

    I promised I’d follow up on the “white border issue” some of you raised regarding our new digital certificates, and even though several of you responded to my last post on the topic requesting a full-bleed version, we’re still a bit gun-shy about doing so.

    Here’s why: any time we make a change to one of our programs or offerings, we have to think about the impact on customer experience at a broad level. We know that there will always be some percentage of the community dissatisfied by any change we make, but we place our bets on satisfying the broad majority.

    I just came out of a meeting where we discussed the digital certificates and looked at several examples of the printed ones, and there was a consensus in the room that:

    1) Switching from the white-border version to a full-bleed version would create more dissatisfaction than it solves, because we believe relatively few people would have both the proper hardware and the knowledge to print edge-to-edge correctly. (We could provide printing instructions, but not everyone would read them—or could read them, since the site isn’t fully localized.)

    2) Adding a full-bleed version in addition to the white border version might cause confusion among users who don’t understand the difference between the files—and those users might exceed in number the users who are capable and knowledgeable enough to print the full-bleed versions.

    On the first point, I fully agree. I don’t think switching files is a good option for us to pursue.

    But—on the second point, I’m unsure. We know that edge-to-edge photo printers are becoming much more prevalent, but we don’t know what percentage of our community has ready access to them—and our thinking would certainly be influenced by that knowledge.

    So—even though I asked a similar question earlier, let me ask again, more specifically:

    Thanks for your feedback! Still following up on the charter issue, btw—and the shipping costs for printed certificates should be available shortly too.

  • Exam SMEs = nice folks

    As a Content Development Manager for exams, I meet a lot of very nice folks who are technical experts on a wide variety of Microsoft technologies. We call them Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs (rhymes with “sneeze”) for short. SMEs are involved in every phase of our development process. We depend on their expertise to ensure that our exams are as real-world and relevant as possible. Strangely enough, sometimes it’s hard to find enough SMEs with expertise on the right products at the right time.

    Shiny new MSL SME site

    We’re rolling out a new system that will help us keep track of potential SMEs. Anyone who wants to be a subject matter expert (SME) for exams can go to a site on Microsoft Connect and fill out a survey about their skills and experience. The survey responses will be stored in a secure database, which our content development vendors will search to identify qualified SMEs for specific opportunities. MSL will also use this database to contact SMEs directly about other opportunities such as blueprinting. (Right now we’re planning to use this system only for exam development, but we’re leaving the door open for other MSL content development opportunities, as you’ll see in the wording of the survey.)

    Other SMES will not be able to see your survey responses. However, by checking the box at the end of the survey, you give us permission to share your contact information with MSL content development vendors.

    Just the first step

    Your responses are only the first step in the screening process. If your responses indicate that you might have the right skills and experience for a particular exam development project, the vendor will contact you for additional information and may interview you to determine whether you are a fit for the project.

    Exam design = fun

    Being a SME isn’t for everyone. It’s hard work. But it really is fun, and gives you a great opportunity to hang out with other folks who know the same stuff you do. Some of our SMEs become rather addicted to exam dev, and keep coming back for more. (OK SME friends, here’s where you jump into the comments and tell the world how fun it is to design an exam!)

    Sign me up!

    Here’s how to get to the SME Profile survey:

    Step 1

    Go to http://connect.microsoft.com/.

    Step 2

    Click the Sign In button in the upper right-hand corner of the Connect home page.

    • Don’t have a Windows Live ID? That’s OK, just click the Sign Up Now button and follow the instructions. Start at Step 1 again after you get your Windows Live ID.
    • Already have a Windows Live ID? Great! Just enter your credentials. If you have previously registered on Connect, you’ll be presented with the Your Dashboard page after you sign in. If you’re new to Connect, you’ll need to complete the registration process--see the P.S. at the bottom of this post for instructions.

    Step 3

    In the upper left corner of the Your Dashboard page, click the Home button to get back to the Connect home page. In the right-hand column of the home page, you’ll see the question “Were you invited to join Connect?” Put this invitation ID in the box: SME2-JC3G-DKDY and click Go.

    You should now be on the home page for the MSL Subject Matter Experts site! Click any of the Microsoft Learning SME Profile links on the home page to get to the survey.

    Questions, comments, feedback?

    Send your thoughts to mslcd@microsoft.com. Obviously, we’re doing something new here and would love to hear your opinions and your suggestions for improvement.

    *******************************************************************************************

    P.S. Microsoft Connect registration process**

    a. Click the Continue button on the Enter Registration Information page.

    b. Review the Terms of Use and click the I Agree button at the bottom of the page.

    c. Enter your registration information and click the Continue button.

    d. On the Verify Ownership of your E-mail Address page, click Continue.

    e. Go to the mail for the account that you designated in step 6, and open the Verification E-Mail.

    f. On the E-Mail Verification Confirmation page, click the Continue button.

    g. On the Welcome to Connect page, enter your handle and click the Continue button.

    h. If you encounter the Complete Required Registration Information page, click Continue, and then Continue again.

    i. Now (finally!) you should be on the Your Dashboard page. Go back to Step 3, above.

    **The Connect signup process can be a little rocky, so if you’re having trouble getting to the survey, e-mail mslcd@microsoft.com and I’ll send you some more troubleshooting info.

  • A few weeks ago, I asked Born to Learn readers if they would like to see a notice about each new exam release. The feedback was unanimous: Yes. So here’s the first one—and a momentous one it is!

    At long last, Exam 70-680 is available in Prometric testing centers. This is a Technical Specialist exam designed to assess candidates’ hands-on skills configuring Windows 7.

    Candidates for this exam operate in computing environments that use Microsoft Windows 7 as a desktop operating system in an enterprise environment. Candidates should have at least one year of experience in the IT field, as well as experience implementing and administering any Windows client operating system in a networked environment.

    Candidates should be able to install, deploy, and upgrade to Windows 7, including ensuring hardware and software compatibility. Additionally, candidates should be able to configure pre-installation and post-installation system settings, Windows security features, network connectivity applications included with Windows 7, and mobile computing. Candidates should also be able to maintain systems, including monitoring for and resolving performance and reliability issues. Candidates should have a basic understanding of  Windows PowerShell syntax.

    When you pass Exam 70-680: TS: Windows 7, Configuring, you complete the requirements for the following certification(s):

    • MCTS: Windows 7, Configuration

    Exam 70-680: TS: Windows 7, Configuring: counts as credit toward the following certification(s):

    • MCITP: Enterprise Administrator
    • MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7
    • MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7

    For a list of the skills measured on this exam, check out the prep guide. To schedule your exam, visit Prometric’s Web site.

  • |

    A few weeks ago, I made a side reference to the first MCP exam I ever took (and that Microsoft ever offered!): 70-001.

    Eagle-eyed reader Matt caught it and replied, “So I have to ask… what is 70-001?”

    Just for you, Matt: I dug out my old certificate to find the name of the exam, and when I looked at it, I knew I had to share it…

    image

    My favorite flourish has to be the little crown in the logo. (Can’t you just imagine a Microsoftie looking at the logo and thinking, “Hmmm… it’s just not quite right yet. Needs something… I know: a crown!”)

    Oh, and my middle initial isn’t D. It took me years to get Microsoft to change that.

    Quite a journey from the above to the below, eh?

    image

    Now if only I could get our database team to fix my “certified since 2005 ” to read  “certified since 1993” like it’s supposed to…

    Sigh. The more things change…

  • Exam 70-658 is now available in Prometric testing centers. This is a Technical Specialist exam designed to assess candidates’ hands-on skills configuring System Center Data Protection Manager 2007.

    Candidates for this exam should have the following:

    • Operating experience with System Center Data Protection Manager 2007
    • At least one year of experience with data and system recoverability and data protection
    • At least one year of experience with Windows Server administration and network infrastructure
    • Production experience with at least one protected workload, plus working knowledge of the other protected workloads

    For a list of the skills measured on this exam, check out the prep guide. To schedule your exam, visit Prometric’s Web site.

  • |

    Well, not really. More like ALMOST PASS! but I kind of wanted to see what it felt like to say that.

    So I took 70-680 the other day, and came this close to passing… scored 677, which I thought was pretty darn respectable considering:

    a) I haven’t been near an IT shop in years,

    b) my experience with Windows 7 is based on installing and using it on a single home PC and work PC, and

    c) I didn’t even look to see what topics were covered on the exam (was sort of an impulse decision). (Full disclosure: Microsoft employees take exams for free. I don’t recommend that you make this kind of impulse decision without at least looking at the prep guide when you’re paying for the exam!)

    Should I have passed? Of course not, since I don’t have enough experience in all of the objectives.

    Should I have come this close? I think so—I have a lot of experience supporting Windows clients over the years, and I’m certified in every previous version of Windows.

    Will I take it again? Heck yeah, I’m not gonna let an exam beat me now after 16 years. Added to my to-do list while on vacation in August.

    So before I head out on vacation, a few words of advice for those of you planning to take 70-680: make sure you know Direct Access and BranchCache. :-)

  • |

    We love hearing from you guys—really love it. Hearing your thoughts, questions, suggestions and even complaints is the absolute best part of blogging here.

    When we first started Born to Learn last fall, it felt very much like we were talking into the ether, but now it feels much more like an ongoing dialogue.

    That said—we hear from you guys a lot… we have 2,288 comments just since we launched this new site in May—not even three months ago! (and another 1500+ comments on our old Technet blog).

    So I thought it might be helpful—to both you and us—to give some useful info and suggestions on how to ensure your comment gets read and responded to.

     

    Why Your Comment May Not Get Noticed

    Because we have so many authors here, and because we get so many comments, each author only gets notified of comments left on articles he or she posted. So if you ask a question directed at me in a comment attached to a post of Sarah’s, odds are I may not notice it. If you leave a comment for me on one of my own threads, however, I have no one to hide behind. :-)

    Exception/Full Disclosure: there are a few of us who do receive every comment left on the blog (Dana, Joanne, myself, and a few others), but mostly that’s so we can ensure that no inappropriate comments are getting by. We tend to focus on our own articles when it comes to substantive review.

     

    …which leads me to:

     

    Why Your Comment May Not Show Up… or Why It May Quickly Disappear

    We have a pretty strong spam filter—very little gets by it. (So far today, I can see it’s caught a couple of offers for payday loan advances, Viagra, “gay movies,” and something called Lortab, which I assume is some kind of pharmaceutical, and we’re inclined to spare you from those rather off-topic subjects.)  Sometimes, however, our spam filter catches legitimate comments, and since we don’t make the software ourselves (we run on WordPress), I really can’t tell you why that happens. What I can tell you is that we don’t censor comments unless one of three conditions are true:

    1) Your comment includes an obscenity, even if disguised with strategically placed asterisks. And yes, I know standards of acceptability vary wildly around the world, but that’s precisely the issue: we have a global readership. I don’t pretend for a minute to have some kind of objective table of forbidden words or phrases. We use our own judgment here, so my best advice is to simply steer clear of using words that you think might offend someone somewhere.

    2) Your comment includes confidential information, copyrighted material, or references to illegal sites (for example, braindump sites), for rather obvious reasons.

    3) Your comment includes personal attacks against someone—doesn’t matter if that person is another reader/commenter, one of our authors, one of our executives, or even (and I’ve had to delete a few of these) the President of the United States. There’s simply no call to impugn someone’s character—we certainly give you guys plenty of ammunition for intellectual debates without any of us needing to go down that road. :-)

    …but we never, ever, ever, ever delete a comment just because it’s negative or critical, if it doesn’t also meet one of the above criteria.

     

    Why Your Comment May Not Get Answered

    So if you leave a comment for the right person on the right thread, and it’s not in the least bit naughty or disrespectful, why might you still not get an answer?

    1) We might have already answered that question earlier in the thread (or in a previous article, if this was a follow-up article). Do a search through the comments, and you might find your answer. To manage our workloads (we all have day jobs other than posting here), we tend not to respond to repeated questions but rather assume that you’ll find the answer elsewhere in the thread (or that another reader will point out the answer to you).

    2) We might be waiting on a reply to an expert to whom we forwarded the question. Give us a couple of business days from the time you posted before asking again.

    3) We might have exhausted what we can contribute to the conversation. Sometimes, you may not be satisfied with the answer we give, but it’s the only one we have. In such cases, we state specifically that it’s time to move on, and if you continue to pursue the conversation… well, we’ve moved on.

    4) We might be deliberately ignoring you. Hopefully, this will never happen to you—so far, there’s only one reader who we’ve decided to simply ignore all comments from, and only because he has flat out told us that he wouldn’t believe us and doesn’t trust us anyway, so why bother? We have a baseline expectation here that we all treat each other with respect and assume honesty and positive intent. If you go so far as to tell us that you think we’re bad, dishonest people and rate every single post on the blog with one star, there’s really no reason or incentive for us to talk to you anymore—you wouldn’t believe or appreciate any information we provided.

    (BTW, I’m not mentioning this reader by name, and I’d appreciate you not cluing him into this, because our success here is measured in some part by the amount of traffic we get, and every time he posts a comment, we get eyeballs. In other words, he’s actually helping us, and I think it might cause him emotional distress if he knew that. Shh!)

    Finally, if none of the above applies, and you still haven’t got an answer, we might be on vacation, in training, sick (this is especially likely if you haven’t seen a post from that author since) or I guess we just screwed up and missed it. It happens. Feel free to ask again, we don’t mind. :-)

  • |

    Something magical happens around our halls the week after our annual Worldwide Partner Conference: everyone breathes again.

    I mean really breathes: all the fiscal year-end stuff is closed, and all the fiscal year kick-off stuff is, well, kicked off. Not that things are slow—just calm. Our plans for the next twelve months are locked and loaded, and now we start to execute against them.

    My team has new budgets, new commitments, and even a couple of new people: each year we tweak our roles and responsibilities to align to our major commitments, and this year’s no exception.

    Joining my team are Erwin Chan and Deanna Sterns. Erwin’s been around B2L for a while, managing our RSS feeds, adding stuff like Class Locator and our podcast section, and managing our team’s twitter account with CoTweet. (He’s our tinkerer.) Erwin will be focusing on our social media presence, and there will certainly be much more info and news in this regard coming over the coming months.

    Deanna manages our Flash newsletters that most of you receive each month—you know, those very nice looking e-mails with news that’s typically old by the time you get it. :-)  We know we can make a lot of improvements here, giving you guys control over how often you get news from us, how you get it, and what type of information you want… so look for some changes here soon.

    On a sad note (for me, anyway), Sarah Grant is moving to a new team, but she’ll stay pretty close to B2L, since her new job is managing the CPLS and MCT programs for Microsoft Learning!

    Tjeerd still leads our MCT community (he just no longer is responsible for the certification requirements and benefits, which lets him focus more on community development), and he’ll be embracing the MCP community now as well.

    Meanwhile, Dana is stepping into a big role as our event strategist and will shortly be very busy with our next bus tour and a very, very big TechEd announcement coming soon; Joanne turns her attention to evangelizing learning and certification with students and academic faculty; and Bill focuses on readying our legion of MCTs for some very big product releases.

    As for me: I’m going on vacation. :-)

    I’ll be gone for the month of August (although I suspect I’ll still be checking in here from time to time, ‘cause I’ll miss you guys), and I’ll probably be using the next week or so to catch up on a lot of news and posts that have been queuing up.

    So enjoy your summer--we’ve got some big, big plans for this next year, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you over the coming months!

  • |

    This may not be the first story I’ve read about young MCPs, but it’s definitely the most dramatically written.

    Congratulations to Miss Chiamaka, Miss Somtochukwu, Miss Victoria, and Mr. Tochukwu—and thanks to New Horizons Nigeria and Queensland Academy for bringing them the opportunity!

    Truly an impressive and inspiring achievement!

    mcp

  • |

    Server virtualization is one of the hottest technologies today, despite a very tough economy. According to a recent IDC study, spending on virtualization is expected to approach $15 billion worldwide this year. The study estimates that over three-quarters of all companies with more than 500 employees are deploying virtual servers.

    A strong growth in virtualization means more and better IT jobs for those skilled in the technology. And getting certified is a great way to validate those skills to your current and prospective employers.

    To help you on the path to certification, we’re introducing the newest Microsoft Press Training Kit: MCTS Study Guide (Exam 70-652): Configuring Windows Server Virtualization (Microsoft Press, 2009; ISBN: 9780735626799; 656 pages), authored by Nelson Ruest and Danielle Ruest.

    Danielle and Nelson were kind enough to send a few words on the book and their thoughts on Virtualization. Merci beaucoup, mes amis!

     

    9780735626799f

     

    From Danielle and Nelson Ruest:

    Over the course of 2007 and 2008, we toured the U.S. to deliver a series of presentations on virtualization and its impact in the modern datacenter, as well as its impact on server sprawl. We visited over 30 cities and talked to thousands of people in all stages of implementation.

    One thing we discovered was that in each and every case, people wanted to know how to move to virtualization—what to do first, how to prepare their infrastructure, how to migrate their physical machines, how to administer hosts and virtual machines, and how to make the most of virtualization in general. This is what we wrote about in the 70-652 Training Kit, beyond providing solid support for passing the exam.

    From our discussions with conference attendees, we knew that there are three starting points for organizations moving to Hyper-V virtual infrastructures:

    • Organizations that are not using virtualization at all
    • Organizations that are using software virtualization tools such as Microsoft Virtual Server
    • Organizations that are using a hypervisor other than Microsoft Windows Server with Hyper-V

    The book begins by outlining each of these three potential positions and then moves on to provide a structured step-by-step approach to implementing Hyper-V based on your own starting point. It covers the creation of the host server infrastructure, the preparation of your administrative framework for the infrastructure, the migration of server operating systems—whether physical or virtual—to Hyper-V virtual machines, the implementation of high availability strategies for your VMs, the automation of Hyper-V operations through Windows PowerShell, the implementation of a secure Hyper-V infrastructure and more.

    Like all of our other books, this guide takes you through the various stages of deployment and then provides guidance on how to administer the infrastructure once it is in place. This is also the approach we used in MCITP Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-238): Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007. In both cases, the guides let you learn all you need to know to pass the exam, but also provide everyday guidance on how to use the product.

    In addition, the 70-652 Training Kit provides deep content for studying and passing exam 70-403, Configuring System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 as well as providing updates on Hyper-V R2 features and functionalities. Two chapters have been made available for free: Chapter 6, Migrate to Hyper-V and Chapter 8, Securing Hosts and Virtual Machines. Find them here and get your first taste of what a Hyper-V deployment can and should be like. Good luck with the exam!
    Danielle and Nelson

    Note: You can view Danielle and Nelson Ruest’s Virtualization presentation here.

  • |

    Heads-up on a good article by MCT Bryan Sullins over at Network World—good reading for those of you working towards your MCITP:EA certification.

    (Although for the record, I didn’t find MCITP:EA to be any more or less difficult than MCSE, especially if you’re upgrading. But as they say: mileage may vary. :-))

  • |

    Yeah we heard it... :-)  So, Class Locator is now on Born to Learn~~ (Thanks Erwin! :))

    You can find it on the right navigation panel just above the traffic map. Picture1

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Let us know how it works!

    Joanne

  • Yesterday we presented Office 2010, the Technical Preview version, at the Worldwide Partner Conference. You will likely have seen or heard bits and pieces on that by now.

    I just spent an hour reading up on Office 2010 and watched some videos. Exciting stuff, it is going to be so easy to create documents that are both beautiful and smart. And we can work on these together, at the same time, from different locations.

    If you would like to see the new features and capabilities, this is the place I recommend right now; it has short but very exciting videos that show what office life will look like in just a few months from now. Team up with colleagues and work simultaneously in Word, analyze data in Excel with Slicers or ask Excel for quick (visual) trends. PowerPoint now edits and runs video and allows you to broadcast your presentation to someone’s browser. Check out Outlook’s new Quick Steps or the way it organizes and manages your inbox. Last but not least, the announcement that we’ll offer free Office Web Applications received a lot of coverage, have a look at the video to see what these will look like.

  • |

    Early information but at this point, it looks as though there will be two new exams for SharePoint developers coming.  An MCTS and an MCPD for Office SharePoint Server.  Some of you asked for the MCPD at PDC and I indicated at the time that it would require audience research.  The SharePoint folks have provided that and as a result, there will be new exams forthcoming.

    Unfortunately, it appears as though there always has to be a negative side as well.  At this point, unless we can turn it around, the will be no certification exams for Expression Web or Expression Blend.  Kind of a shame as I was looking forward to having certifications on these.  Well, Expression Blend mostly for my preferences, but both would have been nice.

    That’s all for now.

     

    Gerry

  • |

    In the August issue of TechNet Magazine, Greg Shields, MVP and partner at Concentrated Technology, gives a great overview of the different levels of Microsoft certifications based on an interview he conducted with Microsoft Learning’s Senior Certification Manager, Jim Clark. In a quick read, Shields gives the reader program structure, new expiration policies and the value of getting certified. Take a look and let us know what you think.

    Microsoft s New Certifications: What They Are, Why They Matter

  • |

    Hello FY10! Hello new budget!

    If you’re on the same fiscal calendar as Microsoft, and even if you’re not, it’s time to think about how you’re going to invest your training budget. Whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager with a team reporting to you, you’ve got an opportunity here.

    Our organization, like many others, has seen training budgets slashed over the past few years. That’s sad. But here’s the real tragedy: before the budgets got cut, they often went unspent. And strangely, after the cuts, the money still often isn’t spent. With many years of managing budgets at MS, I have a theory about why this is the case. It isn’t because people don’t want to learn new things and it isn’t because they don’t have time. It’s because the training budgets are too small to spread out equally among everyone on a team and send them all to classes. So, in the interest of fairness, nobody gets what they need. Gee, that doesn’t sound so fair. What’s a manager to do? What’s an individual contributor to do?

    You’ve heard the term, “divide and conquer,” right? What I’m proposing is just the opposite. This is combine and prosper. Find other groups or people within your organization or even team up with the people in a local user group who have similar training needs and combine your spending power. If you can approach a Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions (CPLS) with a full or nearly-full class, you’ve got bargaining power. In this economy, you might be able to work a deal with the CPLS. Also, if your organization can sell out two classes (they don’t even have to be related, say one on Windows Server 2008 and one on SharePoint), you have an even more compelling proposition to take the the training provider.

    Don’t forget about independent Microsoft Certified Trainers. These folks have to think about filling their calendars while spending the majority of their time in the classroom. If you can fill a week or two for them, they might give you a special rate. And, they usually do the training onsite, so you don’t even have to worry about traveling to another location.

    If you’ve got new training money to spend, this is the way to do it. If you’re heading into the second half of your fiscal year, plan now for how you’re going to spend those training allocations. If the money goes unspent and your team remains untrained, is that good management?

    “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” – Derek Bok

  • |

    Microsoft training and certification help organization realize immediate productivity gains

    By Chris Pirie

    image

    The economic climate is dramatically different than it was a few months ago and there’s no doubt that businesses in every industry are being challenged. It’s clear that this is a time when organizations must carefully assess how to best utilize their resources to weather the uncertainty that lies ahead.

    Because information technology can help companies reduce costs and operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness by automating processes to do more with fewer resources, the responsibility for achieving new efficiencies often falls on IT departments at just the time when they’re facing a skills shortage.

    There are several studies that suggest there will be a significant gap in the next five to ten years between the demand for and supply of IT professionals with the right technical skills. IDC places that gap at 40 percent in some IT disciplines.[1] The availability of trained, qualified IT professionals is also dropping and the number of undergraduates interested in pursuing computer science degrees has declined by 70 percent.[2]

    Improving the skills of workers is one area where companies can realize immediate productivity gains without incurring additional costs, because companies don’t need to add headcount, they just need to provide training so they can be more efficient. An IDC Performance Impact Study[3] found that the most important factor in determining the success of IT solutions is the skill of the team managing the technology. Teams that met most or all of their objectives had twice the amount of training as teams that achieved only partial success.

     

    People who have fully developed their skills through certification are more productive and motivated than their non-certified counterparts. In a customer satisfaction survey conducted for Microsoft, 63 percent of hiring managers felt certified professional were more productive than their non-certified peers.

    When all factors that impact team performance—like turnover, motivation, and experience—are considered, training and team skill have the most significant impact. According to IDC, “well-trained teams draw more benefits from their technology investments than undertrained teams and their functional performance is dramatically better.”[4]

    Getting “people ready”

    Microsoft has always supported the concept of “people ready”—having people trained to implement technology as soon as it’s available. To this end, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that its training and certifications are relevant, immediately applicable and provide validation of an individual’s skills and ability. Further, certification leads a professional through a progression of increasing competency, reflecting that professional growth is a journey, not a destination.

    As a leader in the certification industry, Microsoft has spent considerable time and effort listening to the needs to IT professionals, hiring managers and industry experts, and incorporating this feedback into significant improvements in its certification programs that better address the needs of professionals at a time when the IT industry is facing significant challenges.

    The value of certification

    Recently, we went on a worldwide listening tour to gauge how IT pros, hiring managers, college students and industry workers value the work Microsoft is doing and get their thoughts on how we can improve. Three common themes emerged: industry veterans and newcomers alike want training and certifications that address three needs: relevance, career path and community.

    Individuals at all career levels need to see a connection between their education and their job situation or pay scale, which is often related. As professionals grow within their organizations, as they evolve their roles, they need to learn new technologies or abilities to progress. Finally, successful completion of the certification process opens the door to community for networking and further professional growth.

    Research confirms that the value of certification extends beyond the certification process itself, and spans the entire process of learning, validation and involvement in a vibrant IT community.

    Relevance: validation of real world skills

    While some industry critics suggest that certification tests are static in nature, Microsoft is raising the bar to a whole new level using lab-based testing system leveraging Microsoft’s virtualization technologies.

    Lab-based testing exams  place testers into fully functioning hosted environments, complete with error messages and dialog boxes. They analyze an individual’s behavior while solving the issues, so they test and validate that individual’s real-world skills. By connecting exams to a real-world experience, certification allows professionals an opportunity to gain hands-on experience that is even more relevant to IT professionals and hiring managers. Certification on Microsoft’s virtualization solutions is a good example.

    Microsoft virtualization is a key part of Dynamic IT, an environment that helps organizations respond to business challenges. Microsoft now offers coursework for people to earn certification on virtualization and show they have trained on and demonstrated real-world skills using Microsoft virtualization technologies.

    Journey: adding value across all stages of career path

    At Microsoft, we want to provide shorter, more direct certification pathways to help IT professionals excel in their specific job roles and on Microsoft technologies. We are looking to reduce the worldwide skills gap through a series of credentials that allow clarity and choice for candidates and help hiring managers clearly distinguish the qualifications of a technical specialist or professional. These credential pathways are:

    • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
    • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
    • Microsoft Certified Master (MCM)
    • Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA)

    While the MCTS and MCITP/ MCPD certifications validate “nuts and bolts” skills for Microsoft technologies —specifically “how to” and “why”—the MCM and MCA programs distinguish candidates with deep technical expertise and proven experience. Since introduced earlier this year, more than 320 MCM’s have earned certification, and since the inception of the MCA program, more than 900 candidates worldwide have applied and nearly 200 have earned the Microsoft Certified Architect credential.

    Microsoft certifications reflect and validate real-world skills and experiences while improving the performance of IT professionals, developers and information workers. They add value across all stages of an individual’s career path; valuable for job seekers, new and advanced skill building, and upward career growth.

    Community: 2.5 million peers

    One of the key benefits of certification is affiliation with Microsoft and access to a professional community of peers. Certification draws individuals into the larger community of 2.5 million certified professionals, giving them instant access to a variety of unique resources, like professional tools and opportunities such as resume posting, job searches; professional networking through MCP-specific groups and tools (FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.); special recognition at Microsoft events and eligibility for “ambassador” status (representing Microsoft at local events and user groups); and early access to upcoming Microsoft Press titles through book review club.

    Another benefit of the community is in the development of the certification itself. The role of the community in certification is not well known in some areas for example, many don’t realize that as a Microsoft Certified Professional you can participate in the process of building new certifications. Microsoft routinely seeks the advice and expertise from its MCP community in the development and creation of new certifications. . MCPs can also partner with Microsoft professionals and other technical experts in beta exams.

    A close affiliation with Microsoft and access to the professional community that surrounds it is the sense of community that is important to certified professionals.

    Now is the time to think about skills development

    If you are an employer, invest in your people. If you are an employee, invest in your career. Investing in skills development should be a long term commitment, especially if you are an employer trying to do more than make short-term decisions based on the economy, and look at long-term solutions to bridge the IT skills gap. Investing in maximizing skills is critical to maintain an efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Do more with less. The process of training and certification is a proven way to immediately maximize the effectiveness of IT professionals and delivers immediate productivity gains to IT organizations and their employees.

    # # #

    Chris Pirie is General Manager of Sales and Marketing for Microsoft Learning.

    Sources:

    [1] Matt Walker, “Certification at the Entry Level,” Certification Magazine, July 2008

    [2] Cushing Anderson, “Worldwide and U.S. IT Certification Training and Testing, 2008-2012 Forecast,” IDC, August 2008, IDC #213828, Volume: 1

    [3] ibid

    [4] Cushing Anderson, “Worldwide and U.S. IT Education and Training 2008-2012 Forecast: Growth Though Situation Tenuous,” IDC #211332, Volume: 1, March 2008

  • |

    Title says it all, except:

    Doing the happy dance, doing the happy dance… my home PC can’t wait!

    Details here!

  • |

    15:35  Morgan and Dan are just getting underway…

    15:39  Reviewing feedback from CPLSes over the years: “expensive to expand,” “program not flexible enough", “customer needs are changing,” “need to adjust my business model to meet your program requirements.” We wanted to address these pain points.

    15:41  Announcing location flexibility: open enrollment anywhere! No longer just at CPLS locations. Requirement: MSPP CPLS Partner ID in the country of your delivery, content needs to be purchases in country of delivery.

    15:44  More feedback: “you only care about MVR,” “I do so much more than just MOC,” “align us,” “no differentiation,” “push me harder, reward me more.”  MPN addresses some of this, CPLS 2.0 goes further: Announcing Learning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): quality, consumption, contribution

    15:49  Quality: NSAT is important—but so is your MTM-to-Courseware Ratio: here’s how we calculate your quality KPI:

    If you have less than 5% MTM-to-courseware ratio, your quality KPI will be zero.
    If between 5% and 25%, Quality KPI = NSAT x 80%
    Between 25-50%, Quality KPI = NSAT x 90%
    Greater than 50%, Quality KPI = NSAT

    15:51  Consumption KPI: It’s about revenue—what you purchase, but not just MOC: also Courseware Library, Exams delivered, e-learning vouchers, and e-learning reselling. Each product type has a consumption KPI value:

    MOC: 1 day = 1 KPI
    CWL: 1 day = 1 KPI
    Exams: 1 exam = 3 KPI
    e-learning: 3 vouchers = 1 KPI
    e-learning reselling: 3 IT courses = 1 KPI

    15:54  Contribution KPI: it’s about how you contribute to Microsoft ecosystem: Courseware Library reviews, ratings, delivering free content, authoring courses…

    CWL Reviews: 5 reviews = 1 KPI
    Ratings: 10 ratings = 1 KPI
    Free Content: 1 day = 1 KPI
    Authoring Courses: 1 course = 50 (!) KPI

    15:55  Annual KPI Targets—will vary by scenario (e.g. high consumption/med quality or med consumption/high quality) and tier (standard/advanced) and are published in program guide available now. Learning KPIs take effect in January 2010, but tiering won’t take effect until FY11—so one year’s notice, folks!

    15:59 CPLS Scorecards (handed out today) show projected tiers based on last year’s data… although actual tiering will be based on this next year’s data instead. For those of you not here with us in New Orleans, you can view your Learning KPIs on Campaign Factory today.

    16:02 mslkpi@microsoft.com reaches full-time support specialist who can help you understand, troubleshoot KPI reports.

    16:03  Not changing: Must use MOC; must meet minimum hardware reqs; must continue to use MCTs; must guarantee satisfaction to customers; must always use MCTs

    16:04  Consistent benefits:  PAM support, RSCs, exclusive offers, expanded Sales Academy, Campaign Factory, Class Locator, Live Meetings, Software Assurance redemption

    16:06  Announcing: New tele-sales and tele-marketing from MSL, driving training leads to your door!

    16:08 Announcing new CPLS program guide: from 66 pages down to six pages only! (partner.microsoft.com, also on USB stick provided at show)

    16:10  Revisiting roll-out timeline: Today—new program guide, flexible location requirements, Learning KPI reports on Campaign Factory; January 2010—Learning KPIs replace MVR, new rebate program aligned to KPIs; July 2010 and beyond—MPN transition, tiering, more.

    16:13 Wrapping up: be sure to review the new program guide and KPIs!, time for Q&A

    16:15  Question from audience: Will we include Certiport exams? Answer: that’s our goal

    16:16  Question from audience: Some partners heavily invest in their staff MCTs. Why no KPI for that? Answer: we’re looking at things like teaching TTTs or early content—no decisions on exact KPI yet, but we’re considering it. Question around SATV usage: we’re considering it.

    16:17  Question: will KPIs be identical within a country? Answer: yes.

    16:18  Question is an MCT required per location? Yes. May be additional requirement for Advanced CPLSes to have additional CPLSes.

    16:19  Question around Courseware Library evolution. Answer: session on that tomorrow.

    Question: how will Class Locator work with flexible location requirements? Answer: we’re working on how to address location-less orgs.

    16:20  Question: What’s the deal with customer references? Answer: In order to stay a gold partner, you need a customer reference using the MPN quality metrics. As long as you are using MTM and have at least 10 evals per year, then you are meeting minimum reqs for MPN.

    16:21  Wrapped—back again at 17:00

     

    Stay tuned for news and announcements throughout the show!

  • |

    17:02  Dale and Phil kicking off their session…

    Dale is our director of product planning; Phil is our channel marketing team manager.

    17:05  Where do our sales volumes come from? Asia 25%; EMEA 40%; LATAM 10%; North America 25%

    17:09  Courseware we’re releasing this year will generate $900 million in revenue for CPLS over the next three years!

    North America: $244M
    EMEA: $425M
    LATAM: $38M
    Asia $183M

    17:12  IDC: E-learning will grow 7% over 3 years; ILT flat over 3 years

    17:15  Early content coming on Win7, Exchange, SharePoint, VS, Office, WS2008 R2, SQL 2008 R2 – 27 MOC titles (131 new days); 31 certs; 66 books; 30 snacks; 51 learning plans… plus community authored courses.

    17:18  Already available: First looks for Win7 (6289, 6290), Win 7 developer courses (50218, 59219), Update course (6291); TS course for Win7 (6292). July through Sept: Enterprise Desktop Admin (6294), EDST7 (6293), Deployment (6288)

    17:19  Just for Win7 - $212M in revenue opportunity for CPLS over next three years (NA $59M, EMEA $100M, LATAM $9M, Asia $44M)

    17:20 Upgrade market: 500K MCPs in WinXP, over 109K certified in Vista

    17:21  Exchange: First Looks available now (10133, 10134), with five-day courses coming soon: TS course 10135, Design and Deployment 10233. We will not build courses on Exchange Online migration, security and compliance, or high availability and recovery—these are community authoring (CWL) opportunities!  Means $60M in revenue over next 3 years; 190K people certified on Exchange 2003/2007; 180K students took Exchange 2003/2007 courses

    17:24  SharePoint:  First Looks and HOLs for both IT Pros and Developers out before Dec. 2009; Then full IT Pro and developer track by June 2010 (ten days for IT Pros, ten days for developers). $90M revenue opportunity for CPLS over next 3 years; 40K IT Pros certified today, 60K students taught.

    17:27 MS courseware by volume:

    Windows Server: 33%
    Windows Client 12%
    SQL Server 12%
    Visual Studio 11%
    Exchange 9%
    SharePoint 2%
    Office 1%
    Other 20%

    17:31  Course details—names, numbers, dates, length, etc.—on http://www.mslcampaignfactory.com today!

    17:34  Phil’s turn now…

    17:36  MCT Virtual Summit in June—58 sessions over 48 hours, 1,000 attendees, six languages. We will do it again next spring!

    17:39  MSL Sales 210 “Selling Training on Windows 7” coming August 18, 2009; also 10 additional sales academy sessions plus podcasts

    17:43  Announcing a new credential for CPLS salespeople – details coming soon!

    17:46  Announcing Event Connect – new event series, engine/tool for CPLSes holding marketing events

    17:48  Announcing “Get on the Bus – Season 2” – crossing Europe in October/November 2009 – details on how to participate soon!

    17:50  Other events through Event Connect: product launches, career development, STEP events for Windows 7, user group collaboration

    17:54  Event Connect launches on August 15th at http://www.MicrosoftTrainingEvents.com (nothing there yet). will drive event leads to CPLS!

    17:58  Intregrated, synchronized sales/marketing calendar

    17:59  Announcing: 25,000 copies of Windows 7 Ultimate – free in our courseware, from October 2009 through June 2010. $8.75M in free software!

    18:00  Announcing: Free WS2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2 NFR in select courses - $68M total investment, 85,000 units!

    18:06  Show over for the day… off to the CPLS party tonight… join us tomorrow for more!

    Stay tuned for news and announcements throughout the show!

  • |

    13:40  Ryan and Ian kicking it off—Ryan is our Field Marketing Manager for North America; Ian is one of our Audience Marketing Managers. One of them screams so loud into the mike that it shorts out my speaker backstage. :-)

    13:42 Ryan welcomes 367 new partner locations to the CPLS program, but also takes a moment to notice all the missing faces from last year. Challenges we face: 75% of It organizations restricting travel; 50% freezing IT capital spending; 40% reducing staff; 57% cutting IT training spend. IDC says ILT spending will be flat for next several years.

    13:47 I’m laughing backstage… Ryan and Ian are leading the audience through mental math exercises about growing your share of the market; lots of “ka-chings!,” “boo-yahs!” and sound effects.

    13:50  Heart of the session: why focus your marketing and business on career development? More than 65% of students (according to MTM) take training for self-improvement, not because their companies told them to. More than 83% of students say they pay for training themselves or influence it significantly. More than 80% said given the right offering they would take additional training with six months! More than 90% of your students are ready and willing to endorse your training.

    13:51 IT Managers say 40% or more of their training budgets went unspent last year.

    13:52  “The Individual is your greatest advocate.” Probably the thesis statement of this session.

    13:53  What motivates individual customers? Getting a head start; landing a great job; building focus; expanding expertise; being a leader.  Ultimately: becoming indispensible, so valuable to their company that there’s no way they’d be laid off.

    13:55  Announcing Career Campaign—all about certification. (pin drops.)  Not really—all about training and certification. (applause)

    13:56  Focus on employed; unemployed; underemployed… acknowledging the partners in the room who have already successfully served all of these audiences.

    13:57  Attendees shouting out unemployment rates in their countries (prompted by Ryan). Sounds like an auction…  Ryan: don’t forget to focus on the vast employed majority—help them become indispensible so won’t join the ranks of the un- or under-employed.

    13:59  What is Career Campaign? will guide customers through the learning track that will enhance their employability, advance career, and boost efficiency. Will include a combination of special offers, career paths, and clear guidance. Will be embedded in other product campaigns throughout Microsoft.

    14:04  Ian showing an old Adidas ad from 1974, focused on a product, then a current one focused on outcomes. We’re doing same thing: Second Shot was very product-focused (Ian accepts responsibility, it was his campaign :-)), but Career Campaign is outcome focused—all about becoming indispensible rather than buying a product or service. Pretty cool ad, you’d have to see it to appreciate.

    14:05  We will provide guidance in the form of learning plans, “career arcs” and soft skills. Simple, direct one-to-one mapping of learning plans to job roles. Career Arcs are org charts of all possible job roles in IT. Customers can look at arcs and determine which roles are right for them, and which skills are needed. Career Arcs will be targeted at small, medium, and large orgs. We will partner internally and externally to provide “soft skills” content like resume building, interview skills, etc. True focus on helping individuals further their careers. (Personal comment: I love this)

    14:07  Preview of Career Ascent tool that shows customers individualized career paths complete with job descriptions, salary info, and lead generation for CPLS

    14:09 Win7 Offers by job role: bundled MOC course + free Win7 Ultimate (!) + exam for MCTS: Win7 Configuration and another one for MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7

    14:11 Timing for bundled NFR/ILT/exam offers: Q1: SQL Server 2008; Q2: Windows 7 and Windows Sever 2008 R2; Q3: SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio

    14:13  We’ll provide you with Career “event-in-a-box” with presentation decks, whitepapers, proof points, testimonials, and hand-outs; role-based flyers; career-based roadmap; and new: individual influencer kits that your students can use to help spread the word and value of the CPLS within their organization.

    14:15  18% of CPLSes already have a “soft” career message on their web site, focused mostly on value of investing in skills in a tough economy. You can do more: resume writing assistance, career guidance, counseling, interview coaching, job placement assistance and more.

    14:16  Ryan recognizing partners doing great work in this area already: Directions Training, New Horizons Orlando, Netcom, CTU Solutions

    14:20  We will also market to hiring managers this year—we’ll make sure they know why they should hire certified, certify their people, and send their people to CPLS. Will also have a “time to upgrade” campaign to encourage them to upgrade their teams’ skillsets.

    14:24  Wrapping up presentation—give us feedback! MSL Unplugged coming up next at 15:00

     

    Stay tuned for news and announcements throughout the show!