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Microsoft Launches New "Role-Based" Training and Certs at Ignite

Microsoft's Ignite event certainly lit something afire. We've got new exams, new badging, and a new role-based approach to certifications.

Microsoft is making big changes to its Azure certifications.The week of Sept. 24-28 played host to Microsoft’s Ignite developer conference in Orlando, Fla., this year. Among a raft of announcements and copious information sharing, Microsoft Learning let fly with a certification salvo aimed at Microsoft's immensely popular Azure cloud computing platform.


Here’s a list of related info and announcements or changes that popped up (so far, anyway — it’s only Thurs., Sept. 27, as I write this post):


Microsoft Learning BlogSkill up and stand out, with new role-based training and certification!” 9/24
Microsoft Learning Blog New role-based certification and training is here, and we’re just getting started” 9/24
● Microsoft Learning “Microsoft Role-based Certifications
● Microsoft Docs “Introducing” 9/23


All of these new announcements touch only upon Azure, but it’s clear that a new training and certification ethos is emerging from the Colossus of Redmond. The idea, apparently, is to address IT job roles in general, and cloud IT roles in particular with training and certification especially focused on upskilling and targeting people to fill specific job roles.


Given that so many companies are moving into the cloud (or already occupying its evaporative environs) Microsoft asserts that, “Although 70 percent of CIOs have a ‘cloud-first strategy’ and 85 percent of enterprises want to incorporate cloud architecture, only 16 percent of organizations have the required skills and processes” (Skill Up item from above).


Obviously, Microsoft Learning wants to help companies fill that gap, and steer them toward Azure in the process.


How to Define Those Roles?


Microsoft conducted “market research” to help them “define and refine the overall list of roles and skills.” Then, as you’d expect, they spoke with subject matter experts both inside and outside of their own ranks to make sure this new collection of training options and certs corresponds nicely with the roles and skills they worked out.


This introduces a change in the Microsoft Learning certification program, which hitherto has focused more on tools and technologies, rather than “skills and concepts needed for specific job roles.”


Microsoft is making big changes to its Azure certifications.

Source: New role-based certification and training is here, and we’re just getting started (Sept. 24)



For that reason, I expect this new take on an old problem — how to better prepare and vet people for workplace competencies — to ripple out considerably into other technology areas, as well as other notable platforms and technologies already under the Microsoft umbrella. But now, Microsoft is squarely putting its emphasis on “improved productivity and next-level skills” to help certified people “become even more valuable to [their] team[s] and organization[s].”


Training Gets Some New Modalities


Microsoft is reworking its training offerings — see the Learn piece linked above for more details – to help people find training to fit their learning styles and schedules. These offerings are reorganized into the follow categories (the following bullet points come from the “Skill Up ... ” blog post verbatim):


Microlearning available on  Microsoft Learn offers you the opportunity to learn Microsoft technologies and role-based concepts online for free, in an engaging and interactive way. These step-by-step tutorials provide a hands-on learning experience with easily accessed materials. Earn achievement badges to share with your networks.


Online courses are always a favorite, given their flexibility, self-paced structure, and technical content partnerships with industry leaders, such as Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, edX, and Microsoft Learning Partners. Build practical job skills with a focus on the role-based certification you are pursuing.


Instructor-led training with Microsoft Learning Partners offers deep technical expertise. Choose from in-person training, online training, or blended learning, as you prepare with the experts for certification in your job role.


It’s not inapt to described this as “something new, something partnered, and something tried and true” to play off the old bridal saying.


The New Certs Currently Covered, More to Come


Three Azure-related certs fall under this new rubric (see the figure that shows their badges):


Microsoft is making big changes to its Azure certifications.

Source: Microsoft Role-based Certifications


Azure Administrator
Azure Developer
Azure Solutions Architect


Microsoft indicates that it will be adding to this collection soon, with an Azure DevOps Engineer expected by year’s end, and more for Microsoft 365 Administrator and Modern Desktop Administrator in 2019. The overall “cert chart” graphic from the “Just Getting Started” piece linked above lays this out in more detail.


It’s interesting to see MS taking another stab at an “Expert” level certification, and it will be even more interesting to see how well the market reacts and how many people sign up to pursue such credentials.


That same “Just Getting Started” article also provide a useful (and nicely mapped out) Learning Path for the Azure Administrator role, and talks about transition exams for those already Azure certified who want to pick up and run with the new role-based approach to training and certification.


Where Do We Go from Here?


Good question. We know what’s coming for Azure for the next 12-to-18 months or so. But this is sure to impact other Microsoft certifications as well, so it should be riveting to watch how this new approach and philosophy ripple out into the rest of the Microsoft certification portfolio. Stay tuned, and I’ll do my best to ‘splain it to ya!



ed-tittel120Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Business News Daily, and on Windows desktop OS topics for TechTarget and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at