In its own quiet way, Microsoft is building a set of training tools, documents and other support to help IT professionals and developers make better use of its tools and technologies to design and manage IT solutions for the enterprise. What am I talking about? Two Microsoft TechNet training and technology programs that look somewhat like, and have the potential early makings of, real project management certification programs (including exams from Prometric for one of the two programs):
- Microsoft Operations Frameworks (MOF): provides technical guidance to help IT managers use and deploy Microsoft products and technologies to build solutions that meet demanding reliability, supportability and availability requirements. Here, Microsoft guidance focuses on operations guides, case studies and templates, plus support tools and services, to help organizations deal with human, procedural, technology and management issues related to building and operating "complex, distributed, heterogeneous IT environments."
- Microsoft Solutions Frameworks (MSF): based on proven practices learned at Microsoft to help IT professionals and project managers to deal with "people and process" guidance and information, so that IT departments and development teams can better deliver "business-driven technology solutions to their customers."
The intended audience for these two programs is primarily IT managers and software developers with higher-level project management responsibilities.
Basically, the MSF is a "people and processes" program, while the MOF is a "tools and technologies program." That is, the MSF deals primarily with planning, scheduling, logistics, staff and budget management. The MOF, on the other hand, covers the use of technologies and services for designing, building and maintaining software projects throughout their entire lifecycles.
MOF's goal is to teach project managers what's available in the vast collection of Microsoft tools, technologies and services. The idea is to help project managers better plan, build, deploy and maintain actual code bases, which might translate into end-user applications, distributed applications, or even Web services, depending on what tools are used or what kind of code is constructed.
The driving concept behind the MSF is to teach project managers how to better design, schedule, manage and maintain Microsoft-driven or -derived development projects. It aims itself directly at the softer side of project and people management, to help IT professionals understand how to use Microsoft tools, techniques and methods to design and manage effective solution projects throughout their entire lifecycles.
Why would an enterprise IT administrator or manager want to become an MSF Practitioner, as qualified individuals are called? Simply put, because such an individual wants to practice state-of-the-art Microsoft project management and development techniques. Reports indicate that Microsoft designed these programs based on customer requests for help in making better, more effective use of its vast collection of tools, and methods. Thus, MSF Practitioners might teach MSF methods and techniques to others, or they might consult with various enterprises to help them adopt and use MSF, or they might function as lead programmers or project managers in-house. For those interested in this program, an MSF Practitioner exam (ID 074-100) is available from Prometric testing.
The Prometric exam info explains the program better than anything I found in Microsoft's coverage: "The MSF Practitioner is an individual who can manage people, important projects and use the MSF approach and tools -- a key credential for anyone that manages large-scale Microsoft development and deployment projects."
To support the program, Microsoft offers a three-day MSF course (1846A: MSF Essentials), which provides access to a raft of white papers. Microsoft also recommends candidates have at least six months' experience using MSF approaches, preferably in a lead role applying MSF to two or more projects.
The MOF program doesn't currently include a Prometric exam, nor does it offer a formal credential like the MSF Practitioner. But it might be worthwhile for individuals who want to understand and apply the Microsoft Operations Framework to Microsoft-based projects.
Ed Tittel runs a content development company in Austin, Texas, and is the series editor of the Que Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series. He's worked on many books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and security certifications.
This was first published in May 2003