Microsoft Certified Systems Master certification now dead

I received a very unwelcome e-mail late last night:

Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there’s a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.

This is terrible news, both for the community of existing MCM/MCSM holders but also for the broader Exchange community. It is a clear sign of how Microsoft values the skills of on-premises administrators of all its products (because all the MCSM certifications are going away, not just the one for Exchange). If all your messaging, directory, communications, and database services come from the cloud (or so I imagine the thinking goes), you don’t need to spend money on advanced certifications for your administrators who work on those technologies.

This is also an unfair punishment for candidates who attended the training rotation but have yet to take the exam, or those who were signed up for the already-scheduled upgrade rotations, and those who were signed up for future rotations. Now they’re stuck unless they can take, and pass, the certification exams before October 1… which is pretty much impossible. It greatly devalues the certification, of course, for those who already have it. Employers and potential clients can look at “MCM” on a resume and form their own value judgement about its worth given that Microsoft has dropped it. I’m not quite ready to consign MCM status to the same pile as CNE, but it’s pretty close.

The manner of the announcement was exceptionally poor in my opinion, too: a mass e-mail sent out just after midnight Central time last night. Who announces news late on Friday nights? People who are trying to minimize it, that’s who. Predictably, and with justification, the MCM community lists are blowing up with angry reaction, but, completely unsurprisingly, no one from Microsoft is taking part, or defending their position, in these discussions.

As a longtime MCM/MCSM instructor, I have seen firsthand the incredible growth and learning that takes place during the MCM rotations. Perhaps more importantly, the community of architects, support experts, and engineers who earned the MCM has been a terrific resource for learning and sharing throughout their respective product spaces; MCMs have been an extremely valuable connection between the real world of large-scale enterprise deployments and the product group.

In my opinion, this move is a poorly-advised and ill-timed slap in the face from Microsoft, and I believe it will work to their detriment.


Filed under FAIL, UC&C

18 responses to “Microsoft Certified Systems Master certification now dead

  1. Will/Can it be revived – that’s the topic am interested more in…?

    • Alin

      Revived what / who ? MIcrosoft ? I doubt it…

    • I doubt it, largely because of the way Microsoft communicated this out and then left it with now discussion. I wouldn’t trust another program from MS like this. I would never spend the 25,000 it cost in hotel, course fees, airfare, and lost wages to go through it again(I was not able to get company sponsorship, and self-funded), that’s for sure.

  2. Nathan O'Bryan


    I feel like I’ve just been told I am the world’s last phone booth repairman.

    MCSM Knowledge exam – passed.
    MCSM Lab Exam – scheduled for 9/19.

  3. A couple of thoughts on the issue itself (never mind the way and time it was communicated.)

    1. I’m not a MCM or MCSM
    2. In my sense the MCM/MCSM community is a great globally functional and active network of highly skilled professionals including softskills. The first thing I thought when reading this was: “Guys develop and start your own program.”
    The second thought was: “Don’t give up so easily, but try to come up with new concepts for the hybrid, private and public cloud world out there, because there are great opportunities out there and a massive need for experts in that area. Even MS doesn’t always have the necessary staff for every aspect of the cloud buisness.

    Keep it up!

  4. …and once again, Mickeysoft is abandoning the very people that support nd promote their programs and products. Red Hat Linux is looking better daily.

  5. Holger Bunkradt

    True post, honestly agree to your post.
    Let’s see what the next step from Microsoft is. Close the MVP program for all infrastructure, which is available through the cloud?

  6. Kirk

    M$ is on a round of implosion again. They have decided that their developers shouldn’t be able to test with the final bits of Windows 8.1 before the general public. I suppose because everyone knows that the final bits are just like the beta (or not).

    So now they are screwing the admin side of the eco-system. Not a real shocker to me. Until the new CEO lets a number of high ranking people go expect such from the company.

  7. bwana

    We, as a company, have never put much faith in Microsoft training and won’t be impacted by this move even a little bit!!

  8. Greg Coopman


    1. Microsoft advertised this program as being renewed in the near future
    2. We made great investments, based on their advertisement
    3. They did not fulfill their advertisement
    5. …Class Action Lawsuit

  9. Alice

    In my non-Master opinion, this is an escalation of the cuts to the certification program that started several years ago. First the Welcome Kits lost the lapel pins, then were killed entirely, then taking ages longer than ‘planned’ to roll out the mediocre Virtual Business Card ‘substitute’. And then completely restructuring the certification program *again* just a few years after starting the MCTS/MCITP structure, with much fewer options available in the new structure since Microsoft decided they don’t care about certifying certain types of un-trendy skills anymore. Obviously this new development is even worse, given the much greater investment involved in earning these (I’m amazed to see Chris Webb above mention self-funding his), but Microsoft’s dismissive, fickle, devaluing attitude toward pros has been growing for far too long already.

    • Alice

      Oh, and here’s another couple of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ incidents I forgot about: rollout of the mediocre MCP directory search feature, then killing it instead of improving it; and then killing the longstanding certification statistics page, which had provided vital information on how rare certain certifications were, and could’ve been improved (perhaps in conjunction with the killed directory search, which could’ve easily generated realtime country-filtered multi-cert stats, if they’d cared).

  10. swampwiz

    I had tightly bound my programming career to Micro$oft back in the pre-.NET Visual C++ days. I now sit here typing this posting as an early middle-aged, “obsolete”. “unemployable” American programmer.

  11. When I heard that MSL was discontinuing the program I have to say that I was happy about that. I was happy and decided that to show my support I would re-join the Ranger DG after a very vocal departure last year brought about by slipping standards, and I have since rejoined.

    Why am I happy about this? I have worked, over the last several years (and in the last few months), with the new “Rangers” (yes, most called themselves that) and I have not had a single good experience. From poorly-written statements of work that completely excluded storage and AD from an Exchange design, to bad recommendations on Exchange itself and lack of knowledge of the dependencies for Exchange (especially networking, AD and DNS), I have found the ones I worked with to be lacking technically and in soft skills.

    That said, I haven’t worked with all of them and I have no doubt that some are excellent and deserve to be recognized as a higher level of Exchange expert than others. So there’s my hat tip to you folks that I know are out there. I understand that there are folks that have a lot invested in this program personally and professionally, as I have. I continue to fight this fight for the ones that deserve better.

    The monetization of the program was the fatal error. The barrier to entry was already high with the four week, then three week program timeframe and the associated travel, lodging and meal expenses. Adding another layer of prohibitive barriers, while at the same time having a restructured (read PG-orphaned) program resulted in it collapsing under its own weight. How many Rangers/Architects are there for 2003? 2007? 2010? 2013?

    I qualified nearly 50 Rangers that were, almost all, very high quality in the three years I ran the program (the first two at 25% of my time with a budget of $500 and hardware contributions from Partners and time from MCS’ EC3 team under Bill Skilton and Greg Dodge ). MS Learning has never been able to achieve those numbers nor that quality level with many more heads and much higher budgets. I’ve never been one to be shy about saying “I told you so” and I won’t be shy about it here. I told Per Farny when he moved the program under Microsoft Learning that they would try to monetize it, make it politically correct, over-do the legal bullet-proofing and, in short, destroy it.

    And they have. There is a reason Larry LeSueur and I chose to create a “Qualification” rather than work through the $1 billion dollar/year MS Learning boondoggle to create a “Certification”.

    And there is a reason we succeeded despite some very prominent, very vocal opposition.

    Filing a class action lawsuit would justify one of the very things that have killed Ranger.

    The program should be taken out of Microsoft Learning and run in a “cost-recovery” model. Monetization should remain with the product and not extend to the training. The interaction with the product groups should be around 40-50% of the program (called round tables). The politicization of the Architect cert by adding the “Review Board” should be eliminated and the program should be returned to its original objectives (I have a copy if anyone needs them). It should also return to being a Qualification rather than a Certification.

    Microsoft certifications are too badly damaged in the industry to be able to be repaired without significant investment and a house cleaning in MS Learning.

    This is yet another of the bad decisions under the current leadership along the same lines as the transformation of MCS into for-profit consulting. Microsoft has an obligation to its customers to provide mechanisms to give their customers the best support and design services available. They have retreated from that with MCS (around the year 2000) and now they are determined to wipe out the last of the program that extended that capability to Partners.

    I am glad this has happened because it is the only way the Qualification can be reborn and returned to its rightful path. Otherwise it will just be put out of its misery once and for all, leaving the path open for external entities to take up the slack and create a new “Ranger”-like Qualification.

  12. Wow, I get it how tech is changing so fast and IT is moving in different directions. But this one hurts. What are we to do for those who have existing training?

  13. I was the first person to complete a certificate (not certification) program from UCI ext on .NET It was before there were MS certs for .NET. I believe it was the first program of it’s type. I spent 1 1/2 years going to night school to finish a two year program, doubling up on classes at the end to beat my classmates. My employer Sprint paid the tuition and upon completion of the program I was hopeful of transferring to a new position in the IT dept. A week after graduating Sprint announced it was off shoring 90% of it’s development. At that moment I realized following up with .NET certifications would be a time waster. I looked at open source and thought how is Microsoft ever going to compete with open source? Over a decade later I am developing Microsoft Store apps for the desktop (not for the Windows phone at this time) in open source using free Microsoft tools. Exchange messaging will likely be around for another decade, but how long till Microsoft pulls the plug on it? The answer will be written on the same wall as Microsoft Office’s fate. As long as MS Office reigns supreme Exchange will exist, except it will be owned by Oracle.

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