Today I attended the MCM call with Microsoft Learning (MSL).

I won’t get personal here, because in spite of everything, I do imagine that the folks in MSL are under quite a bit of stress right now (yes – so is the community, but more on that later).  I myself remember getting chewed out back in November of 2010 when we announced that SQL MCM was removing the training requirement.  While I received some support, I received a good share of hate-email and comments – and I cannot recall a more stressful period of time in my career.  Communicating change is tough – and there is definitely a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.  I think the first mistake is to think your audience can’t handle the truth.

With that said, here, in my dream world, is what I wished MSL would have said on today’s call.  They might have expressed some variations on a few of these items – and I’ll save it for MSL to communicate – but otherwise this is just an imaginary list of talking points:

<imaginary MSL talking points>

  • I’m sorry about how and when we communicated the program cancellation.  It was incredibly ungracious and we really regret it.
  • For anyone who has invested in the program in the last X number of months, we’ll be providing full refunds and will work through each scenario on a case-by-case basis.
  • We will extend the ability to take exams for X number of months.  We agree it was unreasonable and unfair to give a 1 month notice.
  • We ended the MCM program because we never really knew how to make it work.  Our organization isn’t structured to support programs like this – programs that are strategic but don’t generate direct-revenue.
  • We wanted to model the programs after what Cisco does, but we didn’t actually do much of what we should have to make it more like Cisco.
  • We wanted MCM to have industry-wide recognition, but we didn’t invest in long-term marketing.
  • We don’t really plan on making an MCM\MCA replacement, hence the cancellation.
  • When we say “pause” – we mean cancel and retire.  There will be a new “top” tier certification, but a much broader audience and it will not resemble MCM.
  • Even if we ask the product team to protect these programs, they have other priorities right now and aren’t in the certification business.
  • We will move all distribution lists and NDA-access related benefits to someone on the MVP community team to manage.  They have budget and know how to handle very large technical communities. They will manage this moving forward and you will be a member of the community and will be grandfathered in as appreciation of your time investment.
  • Business is business, but we’ll throw in what perks we can to soften the blow (MSDN subscriptions, PASS tickets, we’ll use our imagination).

</imaginary MSL talking points>

Now back to my own, non-imaginary voice for a bit.  A few thoughts and opinions:

  • I do really hope that anyone in the pipeline gets a chance to complete what they started if they choose to do so.
  • I do also hope that people are reimbursed according to each situation.
  • I hold out a very, very small hope that the various product teams will re-adopt each MCM/MCA program.
  • I hope that everyone will be civil and not resort to bullying the people in MSL.  Be tough.  Be honest.  Be vocal.  But don’t be vicious or get personal please.  Keep perspective.
  • I know we don’t need an acronym to be masters with the product.  The biggest benefit of being an MCM was the community and also the process of achieving it.
  • We’ll all be okay.

Lastly, I of course remain fiercely loyal to SQL Server.  It is the horse I bet on 16 years ago and I have no regrets.   But as for the SQL Server certification program, quite a bit will need to happen before I would feel comfortable advocating for them again.