Recently, Microsoft decided to retire some expert-level certifications. Among them, the highest SQL Server certification: the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM).
There are several good posts on the topic, most notably:
Most indications point to economic drivers for the decision. The number of people who had achieved this level of certification was lower than anticipated.
I don’t think Microsoft counted the total cost of this decision (if economics was the true driver for the decision). In fact, I think they got the economics wrong. Why? Having a difficult-to-achieve certification increases the value of the certification by simple supply and demand. The existence of MCM’s was therefore valuable – if only as a goal to achieve. Scarcity was part of the value.
What value do MCM’s bring to Microsoft? They bring assurance to the customer base that there are skilled folks in the marketplace – professionals that can solve the problems they may encounter as their data scales and their needs evolve. More than certified individuals. Certified Masters. Does one have to be an MCM to solve customer issues? No. But there was that extra measure of assurance informed by the fact that some had achieved success on that lab portion of the exam; that they had successfully worked out enough tricky SQL Server issues – in a controlled test environment – that they could be awarded the title MCM.
If Microsoft was expecting to make money off of administering exams or training or anything (other than selling software or software services) then this goal was misplaced, in my opinion.
Certification is not a profit center. Certification is insurance.
One doesn’t purchase insurance to earn money; the primary driver for purchasing insurance is “in case something bad happens.” For a large sector of technology purchasers, I believe no new MCMs means less insurance. Microsoft claims they are going to replace the MCM with something “better” – does this mean something that more adequately meets their economic goals? What about the goals of the customers?
Finally, killing the MCM program has created justified fear in the SQL Server Community. If Microsoft will kill the flagship certification, are any certifications safe from future elimination?