Microsoft Adds New Certification for Project Managers
New track features two TS-level exams, one Professional level exam, all aimed squarely at Microsoft Office Project 2007 implementers.
Even though Office 2007 isn't expected to ship into the mainstream until January 2007 (along with Windows Vista), the Microsoft Learning Group expects to make a big certification-related announcement around Office 2007 next week, but it has nothing to do with its Microsoft Office Specialist program. Instead, the company will now be going after professional project managers with a new line of Microsoft Office Project 2007 certifications that build upon the Project Management Institute's vendor-neutral framework. Microsoft Learning Group General Manager Lutz Ziob will officially announce the track next week, to coincide with the Project Management Institute Global Congress meeting taking place in Seattle.
The newly developed track is so new that neither the exams nor the tracks have names yet, according to Microsoft Learning Group Program Manager Rob Linsky. "We have yet to decide on official [exam] titles," he said. "What we know so far is that there will be three exams and three credentials." Two of the exams will be on the Technology Specialist level, or what Linsky called "technology/product focused."
Linksy takes great pains to differentiate this new track from the Project exam that was under the auspices of the end user-targeted Microsoft Office Specialist track. "We're trying to be very cautious with how we position this exam," Linksy said, explaining that these exams "won't have anything to do with the current Office program at all." He said their approach to the development of these exams was more in line with the methods used for the new-generation MCP program.
"This is not the same audience we built the old MOS exams for four or five years ago," he added. "This is our first real attempt to try to build a certification program for professional project managers ... and there's still some things to be decided, as far as how we name the certification to best address the needs and the demands of the customers."
One challenge the group had was to make a direct connection between the new track and the role of project managers. Based on numerous discussions with the Project development group and the Project Management Institute and its community, Linsky said the group carved out a strategy based on the PMI's body of knowledge, or what's known as the "PMBOK Guide." From there, "we will carry forward their framework as it relates to tools," he said. "They have a very narrowly defined tools competency that we will plug into and apply their framework to Microsoft Office Project 2007, and as such will validate technical skills [on Project and Project Server]."
The other struggle, Linsky readily pointed out, was in making this certification not overlap with the PMP certification. "At this point, our discussions with PMI have not involved them or us 'grandfathering' or opening up our programs automatically to the other. Our programs are designed to be complementary, and you'll see us strongly encouraging people to take the PMP before attempting our certification."
The new track, in a nutshell, will consist of two exams at the Technology Specialist level -- one measuring Project desktop skills, the other measuring Project Server implementation capabilities -- and one exam at the Professional series level, which will be used to measure skills developing multiple, large-scale, Project-related systems. Linsky pointed out that while the exams will fit within the established framework of the new-generation certifications, for the time being "the exams might not have the TS or Professional series name at all."
Linsky carefully danced around the naming issue a bit, but conceded that the Professional series would be "named along the lines of the PMI's Project Management Professional.... What's holding us back is how we refer to the technology- or product-focused certifications." He points to the issues of entering a new market and trying to immediately gain some brand recognition with the target group. "What they like to be called, what they prefer to be associated with or what they don't prefer to be associated with -- we're still working through some of [those issues]."
Exams are slated for delivery some time in the next six months, with one in beta by the end of 2006 and the other in the first quarter of 2007. The Professional series exam is expected no sooner than July 2007. Exam pricing will remain the same.
Noteworthy: The Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional certification came out on top in MCPmag.com's 2006 Salary Survey, with respondents to this year's survey claiming a mean salary of $87,917. See this year's results at mcpmag.com/salarysurvey.
The PMP also ranks 4th in CertCities.com's most recent list of "hot certifications" (it also made the list in 2004 and 2005); see "10 Hottest Certifications for 2006."
Michael Domingo is executive editor of MCPmag.com and hosts the Redmond Radio podcasts.