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The new rules for becoming a Microsoft MVP

The MVP program highlights technical concentration in 10 broad Microsoft categories, changing some MVP statuses and eliciting concern over expertise.

There is no doubt about it -- the Microsoft world is changing: Windows is free, Microsoft has its own laptop, Azure and Office 365 have streams of organizations moving them to the cloud and the MVP program has reached next-gen.

An MVP is an individual who has participated freely in the Microsoft community for their technical expertise, sharing knowledge in blogs, forums, social media and speaking engagements. There are more than 4,000 MVPs globally. Microsoft awards these individuals MVP status on an annual basis, as long as they qualify and continue to qualify yearly. Becoming a Microsoft MVP doesn't involve certification; MVP status is an award in recognition of your efforts. For quite some time there were many technical expertise buckets that one might be awarded as an MVP. For example, IT pros might be awarded as an Exchange MVP, an Office 365 MVP, a SharePoint MVP, Skype for Business MVP, even a Yammer MVP -- there were 36 different technical expertise buckets for development and IT professionals.

Now, these are condensed down to 10 broader categories -- the taxonomy. For example, Microsoft pooled together the five MVP buckets mentioned above into a single bucket called "Office Servers and Services."

Becoming a broader Microsoft MVP

There are several key positives to this kind of change. First off, some MVPs complained that they no longer worked with one single area of expertise, but contributed to multiple technical areas. With the new method of becoming an MVP, Microsoft can award MVP status to one person under multiple award titles. The only exception is if all your contributions are still under the same bucket.

The value is that it will "enable much broader contribution recognition for these MVPs, coupled with a durable award title and will also eliminate the limitation of awarding MVP status in only one area," said Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of developer experience and evangelism and chief evangelist for Microsoft.

Microsoft is also opening up its Channel 9 online video platform to MVPs for contributions, allowing those becoming a Microsoft MVP to contribute and get recognition for multiple subject matter or tech expertise foci.

Typically, only Microsoft contributed to the Channel 9 platform. Now, Microsoft MVPs are able to contribute to the community through an official method.

One of the negatives to these new rules is lack of clarity with regard to a person's strength. If you've been an Exchange MVP for 10 years and you identify in that silo -- and don't wish to be part of a broader category -- the new "Office Servers and Services" MVP bucket may not accurately describe your skills. When I speak to an audience about Office 365 migration, I can introduce myself as an Office 365 MVP -- one of 100 in the world, one of 10 in the U.S. Now, I'm an Office Servers and Services MVP -- one of hundreds -- and that may not have the same affect. Each specific category had a benefit. The truth is that more and more MVPs work on more than one area, and it would be nice to be more than just <insert your legacy technical expertise here> in those cases.

The pros outweigh the cons for becoming a Microsoft MVP under the new system. Change always rubs some the wrong way, but it's easy to see Microsoft's reasoning in reducing the number of categories and allowing MVPs to qualify for more than one. These MVP award adjustments will no doubt serve to improve the program and, in turn, assist the community. After all, the community is the reason for the program's existence, so MVPs should be real beneficiaries of any positive changes in play.

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