Reconsidering Certifications for Digital Transformation

The way that IT departments have worked for years is by having your IT professionals take up specific responsibilities to cater for. Now, however, as technology continues to evolve, you’ll find the responsibilities overlapping from one role to another. And it’s because of situations like these that we need to be reconsidering certifications across the board.

As a business, you should be looking at what changes you can make. How can you equip your IT team to become more efficient at what they do? Are there any tech companies offering potential solutions to these challenges?

Understanding key concepts

The first thing we need to do is to clear up the confusion surrounding some of these concepts so that we’re on the same page. When we talk of certification, this refers to an independent evaluation of knowledge and/or skills.

Essentially, what this means is assessing an individual to see if they have the necessary skills, and how they got them doesn’t matter. Because of this, an individual that has acquired certain knowledge and skills should be able to get certification without the need to undergo training. And quality certification is demonstrated only when:

  • The identity of the individual can be verified beyond any doubt,
  • The work has been checked to ensure that it was done by the person that submitted it,
  • Taking a prescribed learning path is not necessary to pass the exam,
  • The evaluation process has been proven to be psychometrically sound.

The difference between certification and a certificate is that the latter is what you receive on completion of a training program. Therefore, in this instance, you’ll need to take part in training after which an assessment will be carried out.

Microsoft is making changes

As already mentioned above, the complex nature of the responsibilities facing IT professionals is rapidly increasing. So to better equip your IT teams and have them operate effectively, Microsoft has made some rather significant changes. By now, most people are aware that Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications and exams are reaching the end of the road.

The reason that Microsoft has given for retiring these is that this change will help students build the technical skills they need to keep pace and succeed in emerging jobs. How? By redesigning the certifications in such a way as to align with industry and hiring trends. The recommendation is for people to start moving to the new certifications in anticipation of the retiring of MTA certifications by June 2022.

The exams listed below are the ones that will be retired:

  • Database Administration Fundamentals
  • HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS
  • Introduction to Programming Using Java
  • Introduction to Programming Using JavaScript
  • Introduction to Programming Using Python
  • Mobility and Devices Fundamentals
  • Networking Fundamentals
  • Security Fundamentals
  • Software Development Fundamentals
  • Windows Operating System Fundamentals
  • And Windows Server Administration Fundamentals.

What is an MTA certificate?

An MTA certificate is an entry-level certification for anybody who wants to start a career in the IT industry or is thinking about changing their career to one in the IT industry.

The targets for this certification are beginners, IT generalists, and students lacking technical experience or specialization. The certification is an online-based program where people can learn new material and demonstrate their skills.

The MTA exams, which are part of the MCP program, can help beginners to boost their career progression and function as a springboard to getting advanced certifications such as MCSD, MCSE, and MCSA. 

The way forward

With the above changes coming into place, students and educators alike will be wondering where they go from here. And Microsoft offers us fundamentals certifications as the place to start. The certifications you’ll find are the ones below:

  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals Customer Engagement Apps (CRM)
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals Finance and Operations Apps (ERP)
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals

The above certifications should enable students to validate foundation understanding with mixed concepts and applied learning of Microsoft technologies. With these certifications, you can easily proceed to role-based training and certifications across emerging and in-demand career areas. These include but are not limited to Microsoft 365 and Dynamics, Power Platform, and Microsoft Azure.  

Reasons for these changes

The modern business environment and its various problems are making greater demands on IT professionals. Because of this, it’s now very common to find responsibilities completely ignoring traditional role boundaries.

For example, when looking at the roles at Microsoft, you can often find Azure solutions architects performing some of the responsibilities of Azure data engineers, enterprise admins, and Azure admins. And this overlapping of responsibilities is visible in many different roles.

Consequently, if you’re a security administrator, for instance, you also need to be familiar with the responsibilities of enterprise admins, Azure solutions architects, and messaging administrators. Furthermore, roles work with various technologies so you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with a broad range of technologies to operate successfully in these roles.

Transitioning to role-based certifications

From the reasons stated above, it is becoming clearer as time goes on that changes need to be made. The current approach has worked well for decades but now the industry is evolving, and it is doing so at a very fast pace. And according to Microsoft, there has been plenty of feedback from its customers and other partners that have inspired this shift from product-centric certifications.

With role-based certifications, you’ll get a program that covers many different technologies instead of focusing on technologies in general.

Therefore, the new certification program is designed to offer credentials and skills that are tailor-made for jobs and areas of responsibility that are in-demand. So these role-based certifications will validate the skills that technical professionals at beginner, intermediate, and advanced level learn in any of the following job roles:

  • Developer
  • Administrator
  • Solutions Architect
  • Data Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • AI Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Security Engineer
  • Functional Consultant

Taking your business forward

All businesses need to put themselves in a position to carry out digital transformation. And you need to be able to do this effectively. But, without the necessary skills to carry out the process, most organizations will face great difficulty when it comes to ensuring their IT infrastructure can meet their business needs.

This is why it’s crucial to reconsider the training of your IT personnel and in particular their certifications. The current way of training your IT personnel is beginning to lag behind and that could have huge repercussions in the future. With the right sets of skills available to you in-house, you can vastly simplify tasks such as digitally transforming your data centers, migrating workloads to the cloud, app development, and data integration.   

New skills development methods

The changes that Microsoft is bringing in should enable the certifications program to remain current. By doing this, it will fully equip IT professionals with the knowledge and skills they need for the latest Microsoft technologies as well as those technologies that Microsoft Certified Professionals use every day.

Leveraging up-to-date certifications from technology vendors is extremely important if your organization is to retain IT professionals with the skill set to build a successful IT organization.

When considering certification programs you’ll need to look at a few things such as whether the skills on offer are evolving with technology, whether the program is relevant to your business’ needs, and whether the program will include performance-based testing among other things.

What does this mean for other certifications?

Microsoft will stop offering MTA licenses for purchase on June 30, 2021 and you’ll have until June 30, 2022 to register and take the exam. So if you pass the exam by the deadline date then you’ll earn the certification.

However, if you need to retake a failed exam after the deadline for purchasing passes, you may not be able to do so unless you have an additional purchased voucher. And for those that are pursuing exams that are retiring, you can still earn your certification provided that you pass the required exam before it expires.

Also, Microsoft won’t allow you to trade in your MTA voucher for another exam so you’ll have to make sure that you make use of it before it expires.

Furthermore, you don’t need to worry about the MTA certification that you already have because they will remain on your certification transcript and will be printable even after the exams retire. Two years after the retirement of the certifications, they will be moved to the Certification History section of your transcript.

Steps to take

Now that you know what role-based certifications are, what steps will you need to take in order to start?

  1. Choose a learning path depending on your current role or the one you aspire to. Then, prepare for the exams with a series of courses through online learning, books, instructor-led training, etc. To check your progress, there are practice tests that you can take to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Plan for the exam. You’ll need about 3 hours, including 30 minutes for the introduction, instructions, and comments. You can expect 40–60 questions, and, since your job is hands-on, the exams will be, too. The idea is to test you on real-world situations that you will potentially face in your day-to-day activities.

When all is said and done, you should be able to fully demonstrate the knowledge and skills you have that you have learned for you to attain your certification.

Why Microsoft certifications?

A lot of people will understandably not be too thrilled about all these changes that are taking place. So the question they will need answers to is why should they be concerned about Microsoft certifications anyway?

Well, with Microsoft certification, you can easily demonstrate your expertise, prove your skills, and thus place yourself at a great advantage as an IT professional. As a Microsoft certified professional, you can expect to receive higher recognition of your skills due to validation.

Also, 23% of IT professionals that are certified by Microsoft will earn 20% more. And if that’s not enough, up to 49% believe that having cloud certifications will increase your employability. Therefore, if the knowledge and skills alone are not enough to get you to consider Microsoft certifications, then the other potential benefits should.         

For an organization to grow, you need to perform consistently at a high level. And this is what Microsoft’s role-based certifications aim to offer. You need to have IT professionals that will consistently outperform other colleagues across all roles.

As the cliché goes, time is money. So if you can have highly-skilled IT professionals, they can save you plenty of time on tasks such as setting up infrastructure, determining the scope of impact of security issues, and designing and implementing Microsoft 365 services to name a few.

Therefore it’s easy to see how certifications that focus on the broad responsibilities of the various IT roles can be of immense value to your organization.

Wrap up

The success of your organization may very well hinge on the skill and expertise of your IT department. In a fast-paced business environment, you need IT professionals that are capable of leveraging new technologies to boost productivity. And this is what Microsoft role-based certifications are all about.

The goal is to equip your IT professionals with all the knowledge and capabilities required to execute their day-to-day tasks. So rather than having individuals who are great with specific technologies, you can now get a group of people who are experts at performing across a wide range of responsibilities and technologies.