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Microsoft adds Soft Skills to its Credentialing Opportunities

MSF Practitioner and MOF Foundation endorsements to identify expertise with product and process management.

Microsoft Corporation has long been known for its flagship MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) and lower level MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) programs, which credential skills with specific Microsoft products. However, most people aren't aware that another, product-neutral branch of Microsoft credentialing has been slowly gathering steam in another part of the company. That branch, which includes the MSF (Microsoft Solutions Framework) Practitioner and MOF (Microsoft Operating Framework) Foundation titles, is now being rolled out to the general public.

Two Endorsement Options

To avoid confusion with its existing product certifications, Microsoft is calling these credentials endorsements rather than certifications, at least for now. According to Microsoft, there are already approximately 500 MSF Practitioners, Trainers, and Master Trainers Worldwide, including those inside Microsoft. These individuals earned their endorsements through the original process - one on one interviews with a technical assessment trainer. Now the designation can be earned by passing the MSF Practitioner exam (074-100), which is only available through Prometric testing centers.

Who Should Consider Earning the MSF Practitioner Credential

The MSF Practitioner endorsement is intended for managers, IT professionals, developers, and project managers that lead their organizations in the adoption of best practices. It credentials expertise in applying the Microsoft Solutions Framework.

The Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) represents Microsoft's proven practices for planning, building, and deploying technology solutions successfully. "MSF is based upon real-world practices in the areas of building teams, a proven project life cycle, project processes and activities, and risk management" says Derek Campbell, Product Manager for the Microsoft Solutions Framework.

Gaining the Necessary Skills

Even if you're a veteran project manager, before you can consider attempting the MSF Practitioner exam you'll need to become savvy of the Microsoft Solutions Framework. Microsoft's recommended preparation for the MSF Practitioner exam includes:

  • Attend the three-day MSF course 1846A: MSF Essentials. The course syllabus is located online.
  • Read the online MSF white papers describing the principles, models, and disciplines of MSF located on the MSF section of Microsoft's Web site.
  • A minimum of six months or two projects of experience in a lead role regularly applying MSF to planning, building, and deploying one or more technology solutions into a production environment.

The MSF Practitioner Exam

Unlike the exisiting Microsoft certification options, this program doesn't require technical knowledge of the the workings of specific Microsoft products. According to Campbell, "the MSF Practitioner exam focuses on measuring knowledge of and ability to apply MSF concepts, principles, models, and disciplines; it is not a measurement of specific product knowledge. It is designed to be technology agnostic."

The exam, which went live January 28th, 2003, consists of approximately 70 multiple choice type questions, and has a time limit of 90 minutes. The cost is the same as for other Microsoft exams, which in the US is $125. The exam is administered at Prometric testing centers worldwide.

The MOF Foundation Exam

The second new credential, which is slated for release in Spring 2003, is closely related to the Microsoft Operating Framework (MOF), and is currently titled MOF Foundation. MSF and MOF are closely connected. "Where MSF focuses on the development and deployment of solutions, MOF provides technical guidance that enables organizations to achieve mission-critical system reliability, availability, supportability, and manageability of Microsoft products and technologies," explains Campbell. The MOF Foundation exam will also be available exclusively through Prometric.

Elite Credentials

According the Campbell, the MSF Practitioner credential and community is one of the most exclusive and respected at Microsoft. "Microsoft recognizes MSF Practitioners as 'people and process' experts and points customers to MSF Practitioners for services including training, mentoring and project leadership," he says.

Although credentialing project and process management skills is not a new idea, this is an interesting new direction for Microsoft to take; one which may provide great value to the IT professionals who are able to earn these titles, and to the companies that will benefit from their expertise.