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Microsoft content chief rounds up security info

Just about all of the content on Microsoft's Web site emanates from the organization led by Rich Kaplan, corporate vice president of content delivery. The group also oversees materials used in Microsoft's certification and e-learning programs. In an interview with, Kaplan talked about what's new with TechNet, security certifications and e-learning.

(Editor's note: In the time since this interview was first published, Kaplan was named to the new position of corporate vice president of security marketing for Microsoft.)

What is the goal of the security clinics that are scheduled in the U.S.?
They just started this month. We did commit to reach over 250,000 people. The goal is to educate and listen to customers. [The clinics are about] how to secure the environment, the perimeter, how to have a patch management strategy.

We talk about quality. There is a road show aspect and an online aspect. We have the Security Guidance Center. We are sending out a security bulletin where we talk about security management for your company using [Software Update Services] and Windows Update. What are you doing by way of simulations and product interaction as part of the testing process?
Simulation is the way we have to move and will move in the future. It's a much better predictor of success in answering test questions. We are doing some work in China with the Ministry of Education with our certification exams. A team there is working on simulation. We don't have an announcement for the U.S. yet. We will probably see more of this in the next calendar year. We would like this to be the core way that people measure themselves. During the past few years, certifications have dropped off dramatically. Do you see this turning around?
We saw the growth in certifications peak going up to Y2K as people got involved with technology. In the last few years, we saw less of a desire for people to change jobs and less [of] a desire to get certified. The goal around the specializations is to recognize the broadest base. The offerings we have will continue to expand and get to key areas so people can show what they know. Some other core specialties we are looking at are database management, patch management, building applications and application design. You've added quite a few Most Valuable Professionals to the program this year. Why?
We don't ever want to put a cap on it. If you are passionate about Microsoft technology and have a great relationship with people, then we are interested. We've had a lot of international expansion, and the amount of technology and areas of focus has expanded. We want to recognize people that do a great job. What are your priorities for the certification programs this year?
We will offer more specializations. We launched a help-desk certification. It's doing well, but all certifications start out slow and then they ramp. It is meeting the expectations that I set out for it this year.

We also launched the security specialization. Surprisingly, it has not taken off as fast as I thought it would. We probably haven't done as great a job as we could in getting the word out. We have found that teams that are certified, in general, have a 15% improvement in project deployment in time and budget over teams that are not certified. They need [at least] 17% less external support.

We plan to offer more content online. This is not a replacement for instructor-led [education]. What exactly is the strategy for selling e-learning directly to customers versus using your training channel?
Everyone wanted a blended offering. Some people want to learn online. Some people want to buy a book. Some want instructors. Both partners and customers have said constant learning is the key to long-term success, so we want to offer all of these options.

Another thing we added to the site is assessments. They walk you through and then suggest, depending on how you do, a learning path. That comes from feedback [received] from companies. They would like company assessments.

We will have number of topic areas. One might be on Windows Server deployments [for example]. What has Microsoft added to its Web site that is aimed directly at IT administrators?
In February, we launched a new TechNet site. Some of our feedback was to make it easier to get search content in TechNet and to find all security content in one area. We have two development teams now producing content for the Security Guidance Center. We are working with each product team to unify security content from multiple areas.

You will hear us talk about building centers of excellence around things like patch management. In addition, we launched e-learning on

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