Tag Archives: MCM

This morning I had a cup of coffee and MCSM: SharePoint

Not a bad way to start the day.

We’re using the Paulig Cupsolo –coffee maker at our training facilities in Helsinki, and even though I don’t normally like super industrial coffee, I’d say this little machine outputs pretty decent java. While sipping my first (huge) cup of coffee I also learned that all existing Microsoft Certified Masters on SharePoint 2010 can now start using the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Master: SharePoint branding. I knew about the grandfathering policy for MCM, but I’m very happy to be able to use and share the branding of future SharePoint certifications. If you’re interested in my experiences on achieving MCM, or ramping up for MCSM: SharePoint 2013 (for which I’ll need to upgrade), stay tuned – I’ll be posting thoughts and tips on those in the near future.


Also worth noting is the fact that the following exams are now visible on Microsoft Learning, but the actual exams are still dated for early February 2013:

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  • Exam 70-331: Core Solutions for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Exam 70-332: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013

Anyone can do the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 Upgrade exam today. It’s available at Prometric – go take a look. We’re running a Prometric certification day once a week on Thursdays in Helsinki, Finland – see details (in Finnish, sorry) here.

I’m now a Microsoft Certified Master on SharePoint Server 2010

I’ve just received the official confirmation from Microsoft that I’ve passed all the requirements and I’m now a Microsoft Certified Master: SharePoint Server 2010!


I started preparations (and saving money) for MCM (R11) in November 2011, so it took a little over 8 months to complete from reading the pre-reading content to passing both the knowledge and lab exams in July 2012.

Why bother with MCM?

For two years I contemplated if I should apply for the MCM training. The cost (more on that in a bit) seemed a bit steep and most people in the Nordic countries, where I mostly work, didn’t seem all that impressed with yet another acronym. It sometimes felt as if the really old MCSE-style certifications (from 1995, not the recent upgrades) were all that recruiters, IT managers and business decision-makers wanted to talk to.

I’ve been pretty serious about SharePoint for quite some time now. Having written a book in my native Finnish language on MOSS 2007 in early 2007, I’ve had a blast working with SharePoint Server 2010. About a year ago I had a chance to work with some of my old colleagues from Microsoft (I left in early 2009), a few of them having attained the holy MCM grail. They were still the same guys so nothing magical about becoming a certified Master. I still felt, though, that advancing my career, gaining more experience and doing something that not everybody is capable of doing was still on my bucket list. From there I made the decision to apply for the MCM rotation pretty quickly.

And I reasoned that if I just stop eating for the duration of the training I’d save enough to pay my way through the training..

The cost


It’s not cheap, that’s for sure.

I ended up paying the regular $18,500 (about 15 000 euro) program fee. In addition there’s a $125 entrance fee for applying. Since my rotation (R11) was a hybrid one I needed to travel to Redmond for 8 days. Add in plane tickets and hotels (about $1000 for plane tickets and $1000 for hotel), and we’re looking at a pretty considerable sum of $20,650 (16 700 euro).

I also needed to retake both of my failed exams, which added an additional $2750 on top of this.

Yes, it’s a lot of money. Was the training worth the investment?

It’s too early to say, having just received the certification. If I consider the amount of training I was given, I don’t consider the amount of money too outrageous:

  • 60+ hours of onsite training given by the very best of the best – people like Vesa Juvonen, Spencer Harbar, Kimmo Forss, Todd Carter, Bill Baer, to name a few
  • 2000+ slides of deep technical content
  • 100+ hours of remotely delivered training, twice a week for 3 months
  • Access to top of the line lab servers remotely
  • + stuff that’s under NDA for MCM candidates

If you simply divide the program fee ($18,500) with the hours of training you’ll receive (about 160 hours), a single hour costs you $115 and some. Where else can you ask an MCA or SharePoint Product Manager a technical question in real-time and actually receive very good answers for that kind of price?

The challenges and some advice

As a father of two small children I felt the hybrid rotation of MCM is amazingly challenging. Reflecting back to January of this year I think it would have been easier to stay in Redmond for 3 weeks and try to complete the certification in one go. I chose the hybrid approach due to family reasons and because I also felt staying in Redmond for 3 weeks would drive me crazy.

Throughout January, February and March there were (live) online trainings for 4-5 hours at a time. My two sons often wake up very early (think 5:40 am) and after dropping them to kindergarten I’d often do 9 hours at the office. After that I’d still have 4-5 hours of level 400 content to listen to. Plus the hands-on labs, pre-reading, additional reading and running my own SharePoint consulting and training company at the same time.

I think it’s fair to say the first half of 2012 was the most taxing for me in my 35 years of existence.

For anyone hoping to attend an MCM training, I’d like to give a simple advice: Clear up your schedule before starting the training and not while you are doing it. I was constantly reorganizing my calendar to cram as much customer projects to offset the costs and time spent on my MCM training.

About knowledge

Do I know everything about SharePoint now? No, and I never will. I know what I’m good at and I know where my weaknesses lie. I’ve learned so much in the past 6 months that it’s hard to fully understand all the topics, techniques and insights I’ve had the opportunity to learn.

The key is not about knowing some trivial technical tidbit for a very special scenario, but rather to understand the overall landscape and being confident and capable of doing deep-dives with comfort to new topics and challenges.

It was eye-opening for me to be able to reflect my existing skill set with others and especially to learn how others have achieved certain solutions and results. I also knew what my strengths were when starting the MCM rotation but I also learned a lot about my weaknesses and false assumptions on certain topics.

What now?

Now, it’s time to put the newly-acquired skills and certification to a good use by delivering world-class SharePoint solutions, training and troubleshooting! :)

Microsoft certification reboot–what changed and what do I do now?

On April 11th, Microsoft announced that the current stack of certification programs will be rebooted (or reinvented). Say welcome to your new certification overlords – the MCSA, MCSE and MCSM:


MCSA and MCSE sound vaguely familiar. Oh yes, MCSE has been around since Windows NT 3.1, and MCSA became available for Windows Server 2003. Good times.

The key different is that MCSA, MCSE and MCSM are dubbed cloud certifications. The old MCTS, MCITP and similar certifications are still alive and well. That is, until new versions of Microsoft server products are being released and old exams are aligned with MCSA and MCSE in the future. 

MCSA explained

MCSA stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate. It’s an entry level certification program for people who are looking for their first job in IT. So definitely not someone who has already completed plenty of Microsoft certifications.

The old MCSA, or Microsoft Certified System Administrator, is no longer available. Even though the new MCSA shares the same acronym, it’s totally different and should be considered as a different breed. What they do share, however, is the fact that MCSA is required for the new MCSE – just like before.

Currently, MCSA is available for these two products:

MCSA: Windows Server 2008

For Windows Server 2008, you’ll need to pass the following exams:

  • 70-640: Windows Server 2008: Configuring Active Directory
  • 70-642: Windows Server 2008: Configuring Network Infrastructure
  • 70-646: Windows Server 2008: Server Administrator

MCSA: SQL Server 2012

For SQL Server 2012, you’ll need to pass the following exams:

  • 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • 70-462: Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • 70-463: Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

There’s also a similar certification path for MCSA: SQL Server 2008, but I find little interest in doing that now that SQL Server 2012 is widely available.

What about MTA?

We also (still) have MTA, or Microsoft Technology Associate, which is relatively new and aimed mainly for students. For MTA, the following certifications are currently available – and unchanged with the announcement of other certifications:

image(Source: http://download.microsoft.com/download/1/3/4/134DF526-4D88-42A0-BF9F-78B23B6942F8/MTA_CertPath_Poster.pdf)

MCSE explained

MCSE stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. It follows MCSA, which is a prerequisite for achieving MCSE. It comes in two flavors:

MCSE: Private Cloud

The Private Cloud track includes both Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center 2012 products, so it’s not going to be a walk in the park to complete.

You’ll need to pass the following certifications:

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2008
  • 70-247: Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
  • 70-246: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

A recertification exam (apparently just one) is required every three years.

The second flavor is MCSE: Business Intelligence:

This is a continuum for MCSA: SQL Server 2012 and required the following certifications:

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012
  • 70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with SQL Server 2012
  • 70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with SQL Server 2012

There’s also a second path for MCSE: SQL Server, and it’s called MCSE: Data Platform. Key different with Business Intelligence-path is that this is more developer oriented and requires the following certifications:

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012
  • 70-464: Developing SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • 70-465: Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012

You can also upgrade to MCSE: BI or MCSE: Data Platform, if you already have MCITP: Database Developer 2008 or MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 completed.

Most of the exams for MCSE: SQL Server 2012 flavors are available from June 2012.

Retiring exams

A lot of older certifications are being phased out in the coming months. For a complete list, see here.

What about MCSM – what’s that then?

MCSM, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, is the successor to MCM, or Microsoft Certified Master-program.

This is the highest (technical) level one can attain for select products, including SharePoint, Active Directory, Lync, Exchange and SQL Server.

MCSM is coming with wave 15 of the new products – thus, MCSM: SharePoint would be available when the next version of SharePoint is released. The prerequisite for any MCSM is the new MCSA. So if you currently have MCITP and MCSD for SharePoint, you’ll have to upgrade or pass the future SharePoint certification exams and then you can continue to MCSM.

The ‘old’ MCM track is still alive, and existing Masters get to keep their certification.

What should I do now?

You don’t really need to do anything at the moment. If you are currently pursuing any of the available MCITP or MCTS certification tracks, keep going. You can upgrade to the newest versions and become an MCSE in the coming months. For certain products, such as Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory, there’s nothing new to offer yet since the new versions are not released yet.

Further reading

To read up on the MCSA, check out the new MCSA introduction site. There’s a similar one available for MCSE also.

The illustrated guide to mastering SharePoint

Imagine that this circle contains everything about SharePoint – all tools, methodologies, customization techniques, tips and tricks:


By the time you’ve used SharePoint as an end-user doing things like document management, search, populating content to your My Site and similar, you know a little:


By the time you’ve installed SharePoint Designer, made some modifications and used a few third party tools to modify your SharePoint configuration, you are on your way to mastering SharePoint:



You start studying for 70-667: Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist: Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Configuring certification exam:


You successfully complete MCTS: SharePoint 2010 Configuring, and also pass 70-668: PRO: SharePoint 2010: Administrator certification. You are now MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010 and pretty capable surviving all IT-related things on SharePoint:


You feel there’s more to SharePoint than just IT-stuff. You start practicing customization and development for SharePoint with Visual Studio 2010, and eventually pass 70-573: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: SharePoint 2010 Application Development certification exam:


Life is pretty good now. You can configure most aspects of SharePoint, you can troubleshoot your way out of almost anything you encounter, and you know how to create new functionality and customize existing functionality. Finally, you take the time to study and pass 70-576: PRO: Designing and Developing SharePoint 2010 Applications and become a Microsoft Certified Professional Developer for SharePoint. You’ve got MCITP and MCPD now:


People start referring to you as “the guy who knows SharePoint” and random people email you about their issues with SharePoint. And you are happy to help, or charge for your time helping others. You take pride in the fact that you’ve conquered SharePoint.

Then you decide to embark upon Microsoft Certified Master: SharePoint 2010 – and months later, you pass the exams:


You now master everything that is SharePoint! During the process of becoming a Master, you’ve found new ways and techniques for doing things, and thus expanded the sphere of knowledge. That’s the little dimple at 9 o’clock.

Maybe you still crave more. Is this it? What can you do to fill those small gaps you feel are things you should know better? You cancel your summer vacation and start ramping up for Microsoft Certified Architect: SharePoint 2010. Finally you become an MCA:


You’ve expanded the whole sphere of knowledge, going beyond the currently existing knowledge. You excel in everything related to SharePoint: the hard technical challenges, the development adventures and the business side of things. Still, there seems to be a boundary that is just beyond your grasp.

You can now spend your days and evenings trying to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Or alternatively you can go outside, enjoy the sun, spend time with your family and be confident that whatever SharePoint throws your way, you’ll survive.

Thoughts on SharePoint Conference 2011 (day 1)

The first day of breakout sessions, hands-on labs and Ask The Experts of Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011 has just concluded here in Anaheim, California. It’s been a day of some insights into the future of SharePoint, a lot of enthusiasm on SharePoint ecosystems and partners and a few deep dives on more advanced SharePoint topics. Here’s my recap on things I felt are important and interesting enough to share.

Keynote: Nothing much new but it wasn’t that boring

Keynote this year was actually quite good. It was short at around 90 minutes, so not too many demos or speakers. Pacing was good and I didn’t get the feeling of hyperventilation like I did while watching Build 2011 keynote in September. That was awful. Also, compared to TechEd North America (2011) keynote, the speakers didn’t try to talk about everything but kept the focus to a few chosen main topics.

Jared Spataro, Director of Product Management for SharePoint announced the first major update to Office 365 would be released before end of year. I’m thinking November, since December is often too packed with other activities (think: Christmas) and would leave us IT Pro’s not enough time to divulge all the new features and functionality. No timeframe for other releases or a feature list of what might be included with the update.

Finally: BCS for the cloud

Only one new technical feature was mentioned as being part of the upcoming Office 365 update: Business Connectivity Services (BCS) from Office 365 to On-Premises and Azure. Later it was confirmed during Andrew Connell’s SPC410 session, that developers will get real access to the BCS object model. What that means based on my understanding, is that we can and should use Visual Studio to package BCS models, rather than point-n-click stuff live on production with SharePoint Designer.

I’ve often felt that SharePoint Online should have a native server-side interface for interacting LOB data from on-premises data sources and applications. Building client-side Silverlight applications and Javascript-based hacks didn’t seem like a long-lasting solution. Thus I’ve often resorted to either replicating data to avoid the cumbersome plumbing work or simply decided to run SharePoint locally from the same datacenter my data is already stored on.

With the addition of BCS to SharePoint Online, we’ll finally – and hopefully – get a solid approach to integrating content from WCF, SQL Server and custom .NET-assemblies to and from the cloud. I’ll make sure to try out the new features when they become available. It will be interesting to see how BCS can be used in terms of performance, scalability and most importantly, how securely with my on-premises data.

Microsoft Certified Architect for SharePoint

It was also announced that MCA, or Microsoft Certified Architect certification would be more closely aligned with SharePoint. I have mixed thoughts on this: due to our smaller economy in Finland the recognition of MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) and MCA is next to zero. It also seems challenging to balance the costs of attending either of these premium-level certification programs while trying to testify the added value to your existing customers.

As was known before, MCM is required for MCA. In order to become an MCA, one would first have to pass all four SharePoint 2010 certification exams (2 for IT Pro’s, 2 for developers), then attend the 3 week MCM training, pass the MCM exam and finally apply and prepare for the MCA program.

The cost of attending the MCM training program is $18,500 + $125 for the application fee. I happened to notice that starting in January, 2012 MCM for SharePoint is only one week of required training in Redmond (on-site), followed by 10 weeks of training remotely with scheduled classes (off-site). 

MCA has a list price of $7,500 + $125 for the application fee. It’s a lot of money for something most customers don’t yet have awareness for. For more details on MCA and what it requires, see here.

SPC 2012 in Las Vegas

I don’t think anyone had even a glimmer of hope to learn anything about SharePoint vNext during SPC 2011. It came as no surprise that the next SharePoint Conference will be held in 2012, from November 12th to 16th. I reckon this is close enough for a public beta of SharePoint vNext to be available near the end of 2012. Once again I’m simply extrapolating from the information floating around online and don’t have any hard facts to back this.

Why SPC 11 then?

I’ve been wondering why Microsoft decided to organize SharePoint Conference this time of the year, and why not simply wait until 2012 to announce something new and fresh. Sometimes I can’t escape the feeling that SharePoint 2010, as we know it by now, has been around for almost two years if you include all the beta bits and SPC 09. For us IT Pro’s and developers this is a long time and secretly I was hoping to hear or see something more solid on the future roadmap of Office 365, Azure or SharePoint in general. I guess the next opportunity to see new and shiny things is around November for the Office 365 service update, and then during Visual Studio vNext launch later in 2012.

It seems Office 365 doesn’t play that big of a part during the conference. The lack of deep dive technical Office 365 sessions is also a bit of a mystery, since one would think that moving to the cloud and have everyone deploy solutions based on SharePoint Online and Azure would be a priority by now.

All in all, reflecting day 1 of SPC 11 it’s been better than TechEd North America this year, and definitely better than TechEd Europe in late 2010. Looking at the upcoming sessions for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I’m confident I’m leaving with a lot of new ideas and stuff to work on.

On doing SharePoint certifications and becoming a Microsoft Partner

Not too many moons ago, a lot of IT people bickered on the value of certifications. Granted, the old days of obtaining MCSE for Windows Server 2000 are long gone, and maybe times were a bit different. It seemed like everyone + their dog had MCSE, and it diluted the value of actually having studied and passing the certification exams.

SharePoint certifications explained

Certifications for SharePoint are something that I’m actually happy to see and work with. For the uninitiated, there’s a total of four “real” certification exams, with the outcome of two actual certifications:

Certification Exam Prerequisites
MCTS: SharePoint 2010, Application Development 70-573 None
MCTS: SharePoint 2010, Configuring 70-667 None
MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010 70-668 70-667
MCPD: SharePoint Developer 2010 70-576 70-573

So if you are an aspiring developer, you should do 70-573 and 70-576. For the IT Pro, you should do 70-667 and 70-668.

In addition, the following certifications are highly useful for partner companies and certain individuals:

Certification Exam Notes
MCTS: Windows 7 and Office 2010 Deployment 70-681 Counts as credit for MCITP: Enterprise Administrator. Also, a requirement for partners doing deployment and planning services
MOS 2010 TBA Exam scheduled for release June 2011. See details

Microsoft Certified Master

If you pass all four of the core exams (70-573, 70-576, 70-667, 70-668) and ache for more knowledge, consider MCM – or Microsoft Certified Master. It’s by no means cheap ($18,500 + $125 + other costs, such as unbillable time, travel expenses etc).

Until now, the value of MCM has been two-fold: On one hand, it’s a great way of showing your expertise and mastery in SharePoint among the few. On the other hand, it’s a lot of money for something many companies fail to recognize as something special. I think the true value of MCM varies heavily based on region and the type of work you are planning on doing.

During Spring 2011 it’s been evident that MCM is gaining more recognition and thus more value for the individual aiming for MCM.

How much time should you invest?

This is a personal preference. People learn via different methods: Some prefer learning by reading or doing, others learning by listening and seeing. It’s crucial to have hands-on experience on the product rather than just literal understanding of the possibilities and features.

I normally recommend a 2 month preparation time for any of the SharePoint 2010 exams. This differs a lot as someone who has been working with SharePoint since version 2001 will have less challenges than someone who just did their first SharePoint deployment.

Studying for any of the four core exams can be done on the job, if you are prepared to invest 5 to 10 hours per week for studying.

Becoming a Microsoft Partner company

Also, while it’s nice to gain personal gratification and proof by studying and completing certifications, they are highly valuable to any company aiming to attain a Microsoft Partner competency – such as Portals and Collaboration for any SharePoint (partner) organization.

The value of becoming a Microsoft Partner as a company is pretty evident. See details here.