In the wild and sometimes wacky world of Microsoft certification, I'm often asked why individuals should chase and obtain such credentials. For organizations that employ certified Microsoft professionals, there are some interesting and compelling reasons related to Microsoft's partner programs. At least two such programs require that a company have two MCPs or individuals with higher-level certs on staff:
Microsoft certified partners pay annual membership fees. In exchange they get access to software licenses, early access to beta software and all kinds of technical and developer information they can use in their own workplaces and with customers. Certified partners also get access to 10 copies of Office XP Developer Edition, 20 copies of Windows XP professional and 10-20 client access license (CAL) seats for server access. Gold certified partners can increase these counts significantly.
The Certified Partner program requires that companies employ two or more individuals with current MCP status. Eligible exams include Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003 and other current platforms. Alternatively, the organization can have developed a hardware product that meets requirements for the "Designed for Windows XP" logo hardware test.
Gold Certified Partners' staff must be able to plan, design, implement and manage custom computing solutions and environments around MS technologies. This program accommodates a broad range of focus areas, including business intelligence, collaborative solutions, hosting, application services, learning solutions and security solutions. The program is designed for high-end outfits that integrate, service or apply Microsoft technologies and platforms. Requirements vary by topic, but usually involve passing specific exams or attaining relevant higher-level certs. For example, a business intelligence partner must have two or more MCPs on staff who've taken and passed SQL server exams 70-228 and 70-229, or who've earned MCDBA, MCSE on Windows 2000, or MCSD certification.
What's in it for partners is early access to information, higher level technical support and cheaper access to MS licenses. What's in it for Microsoft is a dedicated cadre of knowledgeable and up-to-date businesses ready to help them serve their customers. And there's something else at work, too: partner program benefits are attractive enough that Microsoft can--and does--require its partners to upgrade their certifications when new platforms or applications are released, thereby spearheading certification efforts to keep current.
Ed Tittel is the creator of the Exam Cram series of IT certification books. Ed edits this series as Exam Cram 2 for Que Publishing, along with their Training Guide series of certification study guides. He's also a contributing editor for Certification magazine, and writes regularly on certification topics for various TechTarget Web sites, too.