I've recently gained the rather grand accreditation of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) by passing the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Configuration exam, and I encourage all technical employees of Microsoft partners who work with SharePoint (in any capacity) to do the same!
If you already regularly use of most of SharePoint's features (sites, dashboards, portals, document libraries and all of the other fantastic things SharePoint provides!), then you're off to a good start. Expand your knowledge to learn about installing and deploying SharePoint server, both from scratch and by upgrading from SharePoint Server 2003 and Content Management Server. You'll also need to know about managing users and groups and configuring security and authentication. Keep an eye on my blog, as I'll be posting information I found useful for the exam over the next few weeks.
There are numerous resources available to help you study, including classroom training, e-learning courses, books and practice exams. Full details are available on the Microsoft learning page for this exam.
Microsoft Competencies serve as a recognised level of expertise in a particular technical or business area. Achieving certifications and specialisations is vital for Microsoft partners, as they can help you:
- Differentiate your skills and expertise to customers.
- Extend your market reach.
- Align your business with relevant Microsoft marketing initiatives.
- Form closer relationships with other partners.
The world of Microsoft Specialisations and Certifications is a confusing one! The Competency associated with SharePoint is the Information Worker Competency. Within this competency, there are seven specialisations. Three of these specialisations are SharePoint related:
To enrol for the Information Worker Competency, a partner must have achieved at least one of the seven specialisations. A Roadmap to gaining the Information Worker Competency is available on the Partner Portal.
The requirements to achieve each of these specialisations involve two staff members passing at least one related exam each, as well as your organisation submitting three customer references.
Exact details of the requirements for each specialisation is available from the links below:
- Enterprise Content Management and Forms requirements
- Portals and Collaboration requirements
- Search requirements
Passing the SharePoint Configuration exam is a great place to start on your road to becoming certified, as this particular exam can count towards gaining any of the above three specialisations. It also serves as a great starting point, if you're a new SharePoint partner, to think about which area of SharePoint you may wish to specialise in.
Gaining the Information Worker competency can be a lot of work for an organisation. You may be wondering what the real, measurable benefits are. Well, according to a 2006 IDC study, partners with the Information Worker Solutions competency out-perform other non-competent knowledge worker partners on 12 of 14 key performance indicators. Specifically, this research found that compared to the Knowledge Worker Benchmark, IW competent partners have:
Significantly shorter sales cycles and implementation times, benefiting from Microsoft's ability to connect them with high-yield prospects and Microsoft technical resources.
Service capacity utilisation rates that exceed the benchmark by 10 percentage points. They keep their technical resources billable more of the time and therefore are able to do more with fewer resources.
More productive relationships with their customers. Their number of deals per customer is over 1.5 times that of the benchmark.
Revenue growth averaging 18 per cent, significantly higher than (more than double) the growth of the benchmark companies.
Specialisations and Competencies are available for other technologies as well as SharePoint. For more details about achieving different competencies and specialisations, read through the excellent 'Guide to Earning a Competency 2008' document, available through the Partner Portal.