Introducing the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab

As we all know, over the years Microsoft has already put in a lot of work towards the development of more inclusive solutions for all its customers. So when we talk about the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab, we’re not talking about something new but rather a significant update on the lab that had previously been at the center of this work. 

According to Microsoft, this new lab which is designed “to learn and develop specifically for people with various types of disabilities” will provide a facility that can greatly enhance the work being done to provide more inclusive solutions. In this blog, I will take an in-depth look at this new Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab and what it could mean for inclusivity going forward. 

Why we need inclusive solutions

In this modern era that we live in, no one can deny the significance of technology in all our lives. Regardless of which sector we can look at. Whether it’s the health sector, education, engineering, etc. The applications of various types of technology are limitless in any sector.

And this is exactly why it’s important to ensure that technology can be accessible to everyone. So what do we imply when we say “inclusive technology?” Simply put, all this refers to is ensuring that the technology available is accessible to everyone including groups that may previously have had difficulty accessing it such as those living with disabilities.  

By having facilities such as the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab, we will witness significant strides being made in providing inclusive technology solutions for everyone. And this is something that would be crucial not just in the work environment but beginning in early education. 

This will help to provide all students with a similar platform for engaging with learning material and enhancing the learning experience. With a setup like this in place, we can expect to see the benefits of this go beyond the educational phase and into the work environment.  

Introducing the Inclusive Tech Lab

Arguably the most important aspect of the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab is that it not only develops inclusive solutions but that these solutions are made by people living with disabilities. As such, the objective for Microsoft is to show just how great the potential can be when you bring in people with disabilities in the development process. 

The facility itself is a representation of how committed Microsoft is to developing inclusive solutions. Especially when considering how sensitive a lot of individuals may be to their environment. This then creates the ideal environment where introductory tours and collaborative workshops can be held to further the work being carried out.

The lab gives you an opportunity to view just how Microsoft’s products as well as those of its partners can work together to good effect. Therefore, this is the place to go when searching for the best assistive solutions that Microsoft and its partners are putting together. 

This kind of work clearly demonstrates how Microsoft and its partners are determined to ensure that the fruits of all their development work can benefit all who require access. Expanding the realm of possibilities can significantly alter what the future of the technology industry can look like.

According to Microsoft:

The space is purpose-built to continue this work. It is highly modular and will adapt to specific needs over time and across different projects, allowing discussion and design sessions on products and services intended for home, the workplace, schools, and remote connections. It is a place designed to demonstrate what is possible when you intentionally and proactively include people with disabilities in the product-making process and strive to build products that are genuinely inclusive by design.

The Inclusive Tech Lab is intended to be an embassy for people with disabilities, not a space about them. It will include a showcase of Microsoft’s accessible hardware, software, and services, as well as experiences created by our partners. Primarily, however, it is an inclusive design incubator where Microsoft and disability communities can ideate and evaluate product design and direction. It is a space where our designers can challenge assumptions while learning to recognize the exclusions and constraints faced by people with disabilities. We harness that understanding to create new ideas, designing for “one” and extending to many.”

Inclusive involvement

The teams of individuals working on various projects are encouraged to use the ideas they have received from people with disabilities and find ways to apply them to the technologies they are working on. By providing teams with this lab and all its capabilities, the people here literally have the sky as the limit. They can imagine and work on ideas that are driven toward making a fully accessible environment for everyone across the globe. 

The full involvement of people with disabilities means that the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab seeks to do more than just create a product. As good as that may be, the project wants those working on solutions to be able to relate on a deeper level to those who they are designing products for and how it will affect their lives.  

Principles of Inclusive Design

So now that we’ve looked at why seeking to develop inclusive solutions is such an important objective, we can consider the principles that Microsoft will lean on during this endeavor. Firstly, we can talk about the recognition of exclusion. What this simply refers to is the fact that all of us, regardless of where we’re from, have our own inherent biases that determine how we view the world and therefore live our lives. 

The key then at Microsoft is to acknowledge that these biases exist and this gives you an opportunity to explore these issues. As you recognize what they are and how detrimental they’ve been, you can start engaging the affected communities and coming up with inclusive solutions to bridge all the necessary gaps.

Learning from diversity

The next principle that Microsoft looks at is that of learning from diversity. This is because there is an appreciation of just how different and divergent perspectives can positively impact a learning or work environment. We actually find that in some schools of thought, it is believed that within diverse work and learning environments cognitive skills and critical thinking can improve. 

What causes this is that the interactions that go on in these diverse communities can challenge you as an individual with different views and perspectives that you might not have previously considered. 

Therefore, Microsoft wants to have its Inclusive Tech Lab be a place that will promote learning from diversity. Especially considering the wide reach of its products and services across all continents.  

The last principle I’ll talk about is that of trying to solve challenges for one in a way that will extend to others. When looking at developing solutions from this perspective, the idea is that most people have abilities but as human beings there will always be limitations to those abilities. 

So, when we start considering creating inclusive technology solutions what we can ultimately come up with are systems that will enhance accessibility for people living with disabilities. However, we can also expect to see other users of these products being able to benefit as well. 

Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories

At the heart of the work that Microsoft is doing with inclusive technologies are the adaptive accessories. These accessories, which have significant input from disability communities, are highly adaptable and have been designed with the intention of making them customizable to suit individual needs. The product line features an Adaptive Mouse, Adaptive Hub, and Adaptive Buttons. 

All of the accessories can be configured as necessary and will support everything. And so this includes first-party add-ons such as Thumb Supports or Mouse Tails, as well as custom 3D-printed add-ons that enhance the various use cases. These devices leverage the foundation that was laid by the Xbox Adaptive Controller and aims to eliminate the challenges that the disability community has faced with the traditional mouse and keyboard setup. 

Adaptive Hub

This product is designed to enable users to turn traditional keyboards into a central hub with several wireless buttons. It is in the form of a small, box-shaped device that is meant to enable the devices to offer accessibility. What this entails is that users can augment traditional keyboards and create custom inputs. You’ll notice that the Adaptive Hub has five 3.5mm ports, three USB-C ports, as well as a Bluetooth pairing button. The aforementioned ports are where you connect the adaptive buttons and switches. Furthermore, it can connect to your current assistive technology, such as third-party digital buttons and switches, through the 3.5mm ports.

Adaptive Mouse

This adaptable mouse is built to be accessible. You can personalize the device by attaching the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse Tail and Thumb Support. By leveraging these attachable parts, Microsoft offers users the chance to have a mouse that is designed to fit their unique needs. Also, I’m sure users will gladly discover that the adaptable and customizable attachments help to make the device lighter and more portable. Unlike other accessories, the Adaptive Mouse will connect directly to your PC. The two buttons that it has are easily clickable which adds to the ease of use. And it also features a similarly clickable scroll wheel. In addition, you get the option to configure the buttons and scroll wheel for action/function shortcuts and for both short presses and long presses. 

Adaptive Button

With the Adaptive Button, users will get a small, square-shaped wireless button. It is designed to give you eight digital inputs that can be uniquely customized in the Microsoft Accessory Center and an easy-to-press design. And each Adaptive Hub can connect with up to four Adaptive Buttons. In addition, because of the partnership with Shapeways (which is a 3D-printing company that creates other 3D-printed toppers), users can customize their devices by custom-printing their own button toppers. So, if the button toppers that Microsoft can offer you out of the box are not suitable for you then you can get something more personalized. The design of the button including its small size means that it’s relatively easy to hold and place according to your usage needs. 

Inclusive Design for Gaming

As already mentioned above, a significant amount of the work being done at the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab has to do with gaming consoles. There has been a growing realization of just how much need there is for inclusive solutions for gaming systems. 

For instance, the typical controller that comes with the vast majority of consoles requires two hands, two thumbs, and fine motor control for you to operate comfortably. Quite simply, this will mean the exclusion of a significant number of people who are living with disabilities. 

With this in mind, the teams of individuals working on the development of inclusive solutions need to recognize the exclusion that has existed with gaming consoles in the past. We can appreciate that these devices’ designers worked with certain assumptions about the users of these devices and how they would be using them. 

Unfortunately, that has created a scenario where plenty of potential users can use these devices but with great difficulty or may not be able to use them at all. So, Microsoft now appreciates that if users can’t use their products because of how they were designed then that creates a massive barrier. And this is what a lot of the work at the Inclusive Tech Lab is based around, developing solutions that can eliminate these barriers. 

Learning from diversity

Another important key area for gaming is learning from diversity. Microsoft has been able to do this over the years by engaging with the various gaming communities to seek their insights on a variety of issues. The teams working on these products have received feedback on the functionality of the devices, their ease of use, and any changes that users may want to see to improve accessibility. 

And all of this feedback combined with the development work being done has been central to the creation of inclusive gaming solutions such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Products like these will mean that can be something all users can potentially enjoy even more. 

Creating solutions that enhance inclusivity can be of great benefit to all. Why should individuals living with disabilities be restricted from the gaming experience that countless others across all continents get to enjoy? As Microsoft was working on the adaptive controller, there was a need to take into consideration the unique ambulatory abilities of users in the targeted communities. 

Not only that but looking at people’s situations such as Gamer, CareGiver, Maker, etc, allowed for the development of a product that could be tailored to address various needs. Going forward, we would fully expect the Xbox Adaptive Controller to play a key role in shaping inclusive solutions and significantly enhance the ease of use for all users. 

Inclusive Solutions

Microsoft has been working on several inclusive technologies for a while now. In fact, the Inclusive Tech Lab isn’t exactly something completely new. It’s something that the Xbox team has had in place since 2017 as they were working on the Xbox Adaptive Controller

Now, Microsoft has provided a designated space, extended the lab, and is looking to develop integrative design by working closely with the disability community. The work being done in this environment is producing a great variety of accessibility tools. In the table below we’ll go over some of the possibilities available.


Adapt Windows to your vision

  • use the available color filters
  • change the color contrast
  • make Windows easier to see
  • use Magnifier to enhance the visibility of what’s on the screen
  • use color and contrast for accessibility in Microsoft 365

Listen instead of watch

  • use Narrator to hear text read aloud
  • use the screen reader with Microsoft 365 apps
  • listen to your Outlook email messages
  • listen to your Word documents
  • converting text to speech in Excel
  • seeing AI narration (hear descriptive audio everywhere)
  • Microsoft Soundscape (experience maps in 3D sound)

Use Immersive Reader

  • use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge
  • open Immersive Reader for Outlook
  • use Immersive Reader in Word
  • use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Teams
  • use Immersive Reader in PowerPoint
  • use Immersive Reader for OneNote
  • use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms

Improve the efficiency of keyboard use

  • take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for accessibility


Adapt Windows to your hearing

  • with mono audio, you can hear all sounds in one channel
  • change caption settings
  • make notifications stick around longer
  • display audio alerts visually

Watch instead of listen

  • instead of listening to sounds you can use text or visual alternatives
  • you can autogenerate captions for videos
  • you can use captions and subtitles during Skype calls
  • in Microsoft Teams meetings you can make use of live captions
  • add closed captions and/or subtitles to media in PowerPoint

Improve the efficiency of keyboard use

  • take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for added accessibility
  • use the Search/Tell Me feature (find the command you want)


Adapt Windows to suit your needs

  • make the Start menu simpler
  • declutter your taskbar and make it clean
  • focus on a task by minimizing distractions
  • customize the taskbar

Improve reading comprehension and writing skills

  • enable text suggestions in Windows
  • make reading easier by downloading and using fluent fonts
  • customize text spacing
  • take advantage of learning tools in OneNote
  • use Microsoft Editor to polish grammar and more

Customize your reading experience and read without distractions

  • when using Microsoft Edge, take advantage of Immersive Reader
  • use Immersive Reader in Word
  • open Immersive Reader for Outlook
  • use Immersive Reader in PowerPoint
  • use Immersive Reader for OneNote

Maintain focus and organization

  • improve your PowerPoint slides
  • by keeping your Microsoft 365 files in OneDrive you can prevent the loss of your work
  • make use of the calendar board view to organize things according to your needs
  • go paperless with Microsoft Lens

Improve the efficiency of keyboard use

  • take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for added accessibility
  • use the Search/Tell Me feature (find the command you want)


Improve writing quality

  • you can use Microsoft Editor as your writing assistant in documents, mail, on the web, etc. Also, you can use it to check your grammar, spelling, and more in Word.
  • you can type with your voice to dictate documents, to talk instead of type on your PC, as well as for troubleshooting.

Reading comprehension and skills improvement

  • use the Immersive Reader
  • practice reading fluency with the Reading Progress tool
  • if you want to eliminate distracting content from the web you can make use of the Reading view
  • hear text read out loud

Improve math skills

  • you can benefit from inclusive math interactive training
  • you can use Microsoft 365 apps to write equations or formulas
  • use Microsoft Forms to create math quizzes
  • use OneNote to create math equations
  • use OneNote Math Assistant to help you solve equations, draw graphs, and more.
  • replay ink strokes in OneNote for Windows
  • draw straight lines or measure with the ruler in OneNote

Communicate confidently with inclusiveness

  • create an inclusive communication environment. You can do this with the use of Reflect in Microsoft Teams as well as live captions during Teams events.
  • create inclusive PowerPoint presentations. This can be done by doing this such as using the Accessibility Checker to enhance accessibility and making presentations with real-time, automatic captions or subtitles in PowerPoint, among others.
  • use Microsoft Translator

Configure Windows for effective learning

  • make the Start menu simpler
  • declutter your taskbar and make it clean
  • focus on a task by minimizing distractions (Turn off animation and transparency effects)
  • use Magnifier to enhance the visibility of what’s on the screen
  • customize the taskbar
  • block alerts and notifications by using Focus assist


Configure Windows to meet your mobility needs

  • Make your keyboard, mouse, and other input devices easier to use. You can do this by controlling your mouse pointer with the numeric keypad or making use of the Filter Keys to set the sensitivity of the keyboard, among other things.
  • As an alternative to typing on the physical keyboard, you can use the on-screen keyboard.

Type and navigate with your voice

  • use voice recognition in Windows
  • Windows Speech Recognition commands
  • dictate your documents in Word

Control Windows and apps with your eyes

  • take advantage of eye control features to enhance ease of use

Improve the efficiency of keyboard use

  • take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for added accessibility
  • use the Search/Tell Me feature (find the command you want)

Mental health

Configure Windows to meet your needs

  • make the Start menu simpler
  • declutter your taskbar and make it clean
  • focus on a task by minimizing distractions (Turn off animation and transparency effects)
  • use Magnifier to enhance the visibility of what’s on the screen
  • customize the taskbar
  • block alerts and notifications by using Focus assist
  • enable text suggestions

Improve your focus

  • using Immersive Reader can help you work with fewer distractions
  • stay on track with your tasks by creating Outlook tasks in OneNote or using the Tasks app in Microsoft Teams.
  • customize the look and feel of Office to your liking
  • use Microsoft Viva Insights to help you develop more efficient work habits

Improve the efficiency of keyboard use

  • take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for added accessibility
  • use the Search/Tell Me feature (find the command you want)

Tactile Port Indicators

Having tactile indicators placed on devices can be a great feature that can enhance ease of use for countless people. And for an example of this, we can look at the work that Microsoft has put into devices such as the Xbox Series X game console, Microsoft Audio Dock, and the Surface Thunderbolt Dock among others to improve accessibility for the visually impaired. 

The reason this came about is that when we consider a lot of devices out there, ports like the USBA and the HDMI can feel pretty similar to the touch. And so people working at the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab have been seeking feedback from those who are visually impaired on how best to develop a system that can offer them greater ease of use.

How it works

So how does this work exactly? Well, what this new system is designed to do is provide little bumps over the various ports on these devices to aid with discerning what’s what without the need for sight. This means you will no longer have to feel for just the shape of the ports, but with this additional system, it should become easier to determine which port is which. As we can all imagine, the potential for what this could offer visually-impaired individuals across countless devices is massive.  

It’s no surprise when you consider the devices that Microsoft has been working on initially. Gaming is a huge part of the work that takes place at the Inclusive Lab.

However, this system is something that everyone out there should be looking at considering what it offers. The objective is for the idea to grow even more and become even better because it is not meant to work alone but help improve ease of use. And ideally, it would be great to see this applied to various other types of devices so they benefit as well. 

Surface Also Making Changes

The teams working on the various Surface products have also had to look at their products and consider how they could improve accessibility. Unfortunately, the reality is that a lot of products have been previously developed without any consideration of the needs of those living with disabilities. 

For example, on older Surface devices you’ll find that F4 and mute shared a key and the only indicator for FN lock was a light. When you consider the needs of those without sight you can quickly spot how this would present challenges. When screen reader users were trying to close an app, they could inadvertently mute their PCs and thereby leave them cut off from their devices. 

Fortunately, teams working on Surface products are now developing systems that will enhance the ease of use for visually-impaired individuals. By sitting down with the blind, listening to their experiences, and hearing their suggestions, Microsoft can now come up with more inclusive tech solutions for their products. 

Going forward, starting with the Surface Laptop 3, you will see changes such as the separation of mute and F4. Additionally, FN lock is going to be made accessible via Windows Narrator and tactile bumps will be added to the F4 and F8 keys to simplify keyboard navigation. These wonderful improvements will be made to all Surface keyboards in the future as part of an ongoing effort to provide better inclusive technology. 

More is yet to come and discussions with the visually-impaired community have also uncovered the need for customizable tactile indicators. With this in mind, Microsoft has been able to develop the Surface Adaptive Kit. This is something that should enable the development of even better solutions by looking to overcome the limitations on hardware with enhanced software, better accessories, and more. 

Wrap Up

For far too long technology did not do enough to address the needs of the disability community. Plenty of individuals faced significant barriers when it came to using technology comfortably. As a giant in the tech industry, Microsoft could not ignore the responsibility. Hence, we have the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab. This facility is doing phenomenal work that aims to take down barriers and provide solutions that are accessible to all. And the great thing about all this is that this is not a place that simply comes up with solutions for the disability community but it has members of the community greatly involved in development. Undoubtedly, the work going on here will massively enhance technology inclusiveness going forward.

Encouraging Diversity & Inclusion Through Microsoft’s MVP Program

Diversity and inclusion have never been more critical in all facets of culture. That includes IT, technology experts, and the technological infrastructures at large. Even the technology itself needs to take diversity and inclusion into consideration.

Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional program recognizes some of the greatest evangelists of their products and services, and helpers of the community of users at large. MVPs are proven experts in their fields. They go above and beyond in this capacity, with a  willingness and passion to help those seeking to better understand the technologies they’re using. And they’re advancing diversity and inclusion efforts for companies.

Microsoft also recognizes the critical importance of diversity and inclusion. They have it as their mission to use their influence on the world to encourage positive change in the workplace and in communities everywhere. They are leveraging their demonstrated history as innovators to look at diversity and inclusion in new ways, so that companies of the future always hold it as one of their key values and act on it too.

There is also a connection between the MVP program and Microsoft’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Here, we’ll be looking at exactly what the MVP program is, what it offers, and how it connects to diversity and inclusion initiatives at large.

How did the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program get its start?

In 1993, developer Calvin Hsia created a list of the “Most Verbose People,” ranking the most active users in a CompuServe technology support forum. This list exists in fun to recognize the most active users. And Hsia didn’t necessarily expect anything to come of it.

But because at the time Microsoft offered a great deal of technical support to CompuServe, they took notice of Calvin’s List and those offering support of their own volition. Noting the difference these champions of technology were making for the community, they saw it as an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge their contributions in a more formal capacity.

We can guess with a fair bit of certainty that Microsoft also saw this as an opportunity to identify and leverage a talent pool, of which they weren’t previously aware.

Speculation aside, Calvin’s List identified the first ever 34 Most Valuable Professionals. The MVPs were invited to the first-ever Orlando TechEd conference. There, they could be recognized for their efforts in supporting Microsoft customers and promoting Microsoft products.

The initial list of 34 MVPs, including Hsia, got letters from Microsoft indicating their status as MVPs. This was the official beginning of the MVP awards program. Hsia would eventually join Microsoft and was also honored at the 20th Anniversary MVP Global Summit as a vital supporter of the program.

How many people are in the MVP program?

There are currently over 4,000 MVPs across 90 countries and regions – United States, Australia, Indonesia, Germany, Netherlands, India, Japan, Croatia, China, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and many, many others. This makes for a perfect environment for diversity and inclusion efforts, too.

Microsoft’s website is home to “Find an MVP” and “MPV Reconnect” portals, addressed later in this article.

What is a Microsoft MVP?

A Microsoft Most Valuable Professional refers to a technology expert who is passionate about what they do and freely shares their knowledge and expertise with the community, something they do in a “pro bono” or voluntary capacity.

MVPs are always “plugged in,” staying on top of new technologies and trends.They also have a deep understanding of Microsoft products and services. Most importantly, they are always willing to help others, a quality that can only stem from a passion for community.

One does not become an MVP, however, without demonstrating expertise in a variety of ways. MVPs must also demonstrate efforts in helping others through multiple channels (we’ll be covering what this might look like in a moment).

How to become a Microsoft MVP

The process to becoming a Microsoft MVP remains somewhat mercurial. Or, it may be better to say, it remains intentionally vague. Microsoft obviously applies their own criteria to identifying and finding potentials. However, visibility is obviously a big factor. So one must be able to create a public track record of productive technical support to others.

In Microsoft’s own words: “Be an expert, do lots of what you love, and let us know!”

More than anything, Microsoft is looking for people with a track record of engaging and supporting the community independently and voluntarily over the course of 12 months. This is difficult to accomplish without staying up to date with Microsoft products and continually educating yourself. So, if you’re looking to improve diversity and inclusion within your workplace, start with education.

There are a variety of activities to improve your chances of MVP recognition. For example:

  • Contributing to blogs, podcasts, and books
  • Helping users on forums and social media
  • Participating in user groups
  • Attending conferences and giving speeches
  • Building open-source software

Becoming an MVP, however, you will likely need to engage in a variety of activities. Focusing in one area often isn’t enough.

If you’re wondering where to put your energy and focus as a potential MVP, it would be good to know that Microsoft prioritizes the following award categories (this is where to put your focus):

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Windows development
  • M365 development
  • Developer technologies
  • Data platform
  • AI
  • Internet of Things
  • Cloud & datacenter management
  • Enterprise mobility
  • Windows & devices for IT
  • M365 apps & services
  • Business applications
  • Security
  • Mixed reality

However, there is a formal, defined process to getting on the map. To become an MVP, one must also receive a nomination referral by a Microsoft Full Time Employee (FTE) or Microsoft MVP. Having the right connections does make a difference.

How does The MVP program benefit IT Professionals?

People love recognition for their efforts. Of that there is little doubt!

Recognition as a Microsoft MVP can have a dramatic impact on one’s career. For example, employer, potential employer, and peer perceptions and reputations matter. But there’s so much more to it than perceptions alone. Being recognized as a cut above is just the tip of the iceberg.

IT professionals also benefit from:

  • Early access to Microsoft products.
  • Access to product teams.
  • Access to the Global MVP Summit.
  • Relationship with local Microsoft teams.
  • An executive recognition letter.
  • Visual Studio technical subscription.
  • An Office 365 subscription.

And these benefits continue to see improvements and augmentations by Microsoft, as they continue to look to the future of the MVP program.

And while these may be some of the “direct” benefits of becoming an MVP, MVPs enjoy a variety of other intangible and leveraged benefits we’ll be looking at momentarily. These include diversity and inclusion initiative advantages.

Find an MVP

Microsoft’s website features a Find an MVP portal where you can see:

  • The MVP’s picture
  • The MVP’s name
  • Their award category
  • Their country or region

If you know who you’re looking for, you can filter by keyword, award category, and country or region. You can also sort the entire list by award category, last name, first name, and country or region.

Additionally, you can learn more about each individual by clicking on their names. The amount of information on each MVP varies. But here are some of the tidbits you can expect to find on the Microsoft website:

  • Name
  • Country or region
  • Job title
  • Award category
  • The first year they achieved MVP
  • Number of MVP awards
  • Language(s) they speak
  • Certifications they’ve earned
  • Social media links
  • Biography
  • A timeline of recent activities

Anyone looking to reach out to a specific MVP for comment can learn something about them first by perusing this portal.

This portal also has a positive impact on the career of the MVPs as it gives them more visibility overall.

MVP Reconnect

There is a place for former MVPs as well. And it’s called the MVP Reconnect program. As with the Find An MVP function we just explored, you can search a database of more than 3,600 former MVPs who remain part of the greater MVP community using the MVP Reconnect portal.

What does it look like to be a Microsoft MVP?

Becoming an MVP takes commitment and hard work. But achieving this status opens the doors to valuable experiences, lucrative opportunities, support and collaboration, and a great deal more.

These are some of the ways MVPs benefit from the program and what their experiences are like:

  • MVPs are often the latest to hear about new developments in Microsoft. They also get to offer input and feedback on existing or new products. And if they have a stable of their own clients who are using Microsoft products, MVPs can offer timely, valuable, and specific guidance to them.
  • Some MVPs enjoy networking, sharing ideas, and collaborating with other MVPs. This should not come as a surprise, since MVPs have the answers to just about any question one might have about Microsoft products.
  • Being an MVP opens the door to new opportunities. The MVP program has a strong reputation. And anyone associated with it experiences a boost in their careers. Opportunities that may not have otherwise been available to them become available.
  • MVPs get to be on the cutting edge. The public isn’t privy to the latest developments at Microsoft, especially those not publicly announced. This gives MVPs the opportunity to build their awareness around new product features and incorporate them into their workflow.
  • Relocation matters. Some MVPs seek to establish themselves in new regions or communities. And with assistance from the MVP community, are able to find new jobs, homes, and more.
  • Getting answers quickly. In the MVP program, you have unprecedented access to like minded professionals with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in their respective fields. MVPs get access to other MVPs, who can offer guidance.
  • Access to a larger community. Besides the current roster of MVPs, Microsoft also has the MVP Reconnect program, which gives way to the greater MVP community, consisting of over 3,600 members.

Wasn’t The MVP program canceled?

Microsoft ostensibly canceled the MVP program on October 22, 1999. There are speculations and different reasons circulating, too. At the time, AOL newsgroup leaders sued AOL because they felt they should have been paid for their work. And the cancellation of the MVP program may have been Microsoft’s response to this backlash for independent, unpaid help.

But it seems people felt differently about the MVP program, as there was an outpouring of support for it. Many emails were even sent directly to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. And the program was reinstated only three days later.

Having made the decision to keep the awards program, Microsoft then worked out the finer details and logistics of the program. This increased levels of success in the ensuing years.

Microsoft periodically evaluates the MVP program and considers what it might have in store for the future. Most new developments, however, center on additional benefits for MVPs.

How can MVPs support diversity and inclusion?

There are both obvious and less obvious ways MVPs can support (or are already supporting) diversity and inclusion.

Consider this broad overview of the many ways MVPs can (or already do) promote diversity and inclusion.

The MVP program already represents a very diverse group of people from across the globe

IT talent exists everywhere. Whether it’s Japan or Argentina, there are highly-skilled individuals within their roles. They enjoy their work and are passionate about helping the users who are in need of assistance.

While it may be too “obvious” a thing to say, the MVP program already represents diversity and inclusion in many ways. Whether male, female, young, old, or otherwise, there are established experts representing every possible demographic and ethnicity imaginable.

Promoting the MVP program promotes diversity and inclusion of its own accord, and it can have a very positive impact on companies everywhere, who will need to hold diversity and inclusion as a key tenant of their operations moving forward.

MVPs can use their status as influencers to share about diversity and inclusion

MVPs don’t simply enjoy recognition from Microsoft. They earn recognition within the communities they support. As they answer questions and solve problems for others, their faces earn additional respect. They experience increased recognition and appreciated for their efforts. Additionally, their participation in a community elevates them to influencer status.

Their influence represents an opportunity to create conversations around diversity and inclusion and broach the subject in a considerate, congruent, and tactful way. They can share meaningfully about their own experiences. And they share what diversity and inclusion means to them and why they value it.

MVPs have a built in platform already. They’ve been serving the community and have gained the favor of others by being of service to them. This gives them the platform they need to speak to matters of greater importance.

MVPs make Microsoft products more accessible to anyone

MVPs may be influential in their own right. This platform isn’t to be abused or disrespected. Instead, it should be a primary tool in affecting people positively in a variety of ways.

One of the very practical ways an MVP can promote diversity and inclusion is by doing what they already do best – helping a variety of people in different regions, even underrepresented people, better understand and utilize Microsoft products.

People can connect through technology. Technology is also empowering. People who may not have found a way to bring their projects to fruition may discover new approaches through technology. People who may not know what their passion is can find a new passion in software. And people who may have found it hard to find a job in the past may be able to find new work by becoming IT professionals themselves.

MVPs can empower a variety of people through their ongoing, tireless support work.

MVPs can share relevant issues with their communities

Whether it’s blog subscribers, a social media following, a forum or message board, email list, some combination thereof, or otherwise, MVPs are already in the know with their various communities. They’ve demonstrated their passion for their work and their willingness to add value to others.

Again, being mindful of when and where to share is critical to one’s success, but as relevant issues arise, MVPs can share these with their communities and open them to discussion. Usually, it’s about promoting more conversations. And by staying current with the issues, MVPs can bring a lot of value to the conversations as they unfold.

MVPs Encouraged to participate in community initiatives & speak at events

To become an MVP, an IT professional must support the community at large. These opportunities only grow as they are awarded and recognized for their efforts, and MVPs are often invited to speak at events too.

Every community initiative and speaking engagement represents an opportunity for an MVP to share on topics of value and interest. It would be unwise for an MVP to shoehorn a message about diversity and inclusion into a speech where it doesn’t belong, but in environments where it’s appropriate, it would be a good opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion.

Sometimes, the events themselves are held to promote diversity and inclusion, in which case the angle is baked into the initiative.

MVPs can contribute their expertise to creating & developing products that can be used by anyone

MVPs have access to development teams and first looks at products. They’re also the first to learn about new changes and features. Additionally, they’re afforded the opportunity to give their input and feedback on Microsoft products.

MVPs can leverage this knowledge in helping Microsoft develop products that are inclusive to all. MVPs can offer input on issues development teams may not be present to, and help them course correct so that their products and services aren’t exclusive or offensive to specific people.

Conclusion About MVP and Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

The Microsoft MVP program represents a significant opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion through multiple channels. The program itself is made up of a variety of people from across different regions, different ethnicities, at different ages and different genders too.

Beyond that, though, MVPs have access to Microsoft, its teams, and its projects to an extent no one else has (save for Microsoft employees). This means they can help steer the direction of projects and ensure everyone is included.

Thanks to their deep working knowledge of Microsoft products and services, MVPs can also impart their knowledge to underrepresented minorities and empower them with new skills, opportunities, careers, and more.

MVPs can also speak directly to their own following and communities, touching on relevant, current subjects as appropriate.

Finally, MVPs also take part in community initiatives and are invited to speak at various events. Some of these events represent good opportunities for them to speak out about relevant issues, especially if they have specific experiences to relay. It has never been more critical for companies to evaluate how people can connect through technology, and how this can encourage inclusion and diversity more broadly.

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. Enter Microsoft Certification.

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 to address is 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 candidates who want a career in the IT industry. It’s also for anyone 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. They’re also assuming duties of 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 should 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 with Microsoft Certification

All businesses need to put themselves in a position to carry out digital transformation. 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 with Microsoft Certification

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, expertise, 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. For example, decide whether the skills on offer are evolving with technology. Also consider 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. Additionally, 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 move 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.

Ultimately, 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 certification?

A lot of people will understandably not be too thrilled about all these changes that are taking place. Subsequently, 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 about Microsoft Certification

The success of your business 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. 

MCT Program Update: Office365

We are super excited to announce that MCT Software & Services subscription now includes a non-trial version of Office 365 Enterprise Developer. Many of you have been waiting for this for a long time and we have made it happen for you. Office 365 is no longer a one year free trial version. This is effective immediately.

Office 365 Enterprise Developer includes:
• Exchange Online
• Flow for Office 365
• Microsoft Planner, Microsoft Teams
• Mobile Device Management for Office 365
• Office 365 ProPlus
• Office Online for Developer
• PowerApps for Office 365
• SharePoint Online for Developer
• Skype for Business Online

MCT Program Requirements Update – effective September 2015

MCT Program Requirements Update – effective September 2015:

Current MCT Program Renewal Requirements: (/learning page)

  • Possess a current Microsoft Certification or qualification eligible for the MCT program.
  • Meet the minimum instruction quantity of at least 1 class in the previous 365 days as validated by Metrics that Matter (MTM).
  • All Microsoft training (not just MOC) will be recognized as credit toward program renewal as long as it can be measured in Metrics that Matter (MTM)* – NEW
  • Meet the minimum instruction quality of an average instructor score of at least 7 as validated by MTM.*
  • You can check your MTM records by following these steps.
  • If you taught classes but didn’t use MTM you can add the course to MTM.

*The existing exception process will still apply for ITA, Academic, Microsoft Employee (FTEs) MCTs

Changes for MCT Program Entry/Renewal– New: The MCT Program is updating our order management system to be more efficient and to better serve your needs. In doing so, we are making the following changes:

  • MCT Renewal Window Extended to 90 Days
    • The renewal window for MCTs and MCT Alumni has been extended from 30 days to 90 days. MCTs and MCT Alumni can now start to renew their membership 90 days prior to their anniversary date. All MCTs and MCT Alumni will be receiving email renewal reminders 90, 60, 30, and 15 days prior to their anniversary date.
  • Currencies and Payment Types – effective September 2015
    • Currencies to be supported will be US Dollar (USD), British Pound (GBP), Australian Dollar (AUD), Euro (EUR),and Japanese Yen (JPY)
    • Payment methods supported will be Credit Card and PayPal


For any questions, please refer here.