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SQLBI - Marco Russo

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SSAS Maestro and MCM:BI, MCA:BI, MCSM:BI – make your voice heard #ssas #mcsm #sqlserver

Two years ago Microsoft started a certification program called SSAS Maestro, which was intended to be as a step towards a broader certification such as a Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) or Microsoft Certified Solution Master (MCSM) for Business Intelligence (so the names MCA:BI and MCSM:BI). Analysis Services is not the only part of the skillsets in such a solution, but it’s one of the more complex in this stack. I think that an MCA:BI certification should include also SSIS, SSRS, Data Warehouse data modeling, PerformancePoint and in the near future also Power BI. But SSAS is a key part, and the SSAS Maestro certification has a level of difficulty that is comparable with the requirements for MCA. An MCSM:BI should have a strong commitment on Analysis Services too, and it could get benefit of much of the existing SSAS Maestro training, even if it would not include the case study preparation.

Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t push on MCA/MCSM:BI until now, and the only certification available is SSAS Maestro, which is also not valid as part of the credentials for a Microsoft Partner. It’s not a good situation for all those people who invested time passing the exam (requiring the writing of a case study that oftentimes was days of work). It’s not an incentive for companies in investing on such a training and certification for their employees, since nothing is returned to the company as a direct benefit.

I and others already pinged Microsoft several times at several levels in order to ask putting some attention on that. But, until today, nothing happened. Microsoft is a big company, and it only cares about big numbers. I see the numbers of visitors of this blog, of the SQLBI web site, of the books sold, of the questions I receive by e-mail. I can say I am not alone, the community around is large, and for some reasons I think its importance is underestimated in Redmond. Maybe we need to send a signal.

So here is the call to action: please, write an email to and tell them you would be interested in Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) for Business Intelligence certifications. Make your voice heard!

Published Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:58 PM by Marco Russo (SQLBI)



Brent Ozar said:

The certification situation does seem kinda strange lately. It's been so quiet that I've been wondering if we're going to get an announcement at the PASS Summit. If that comes and goes with still no word for the MCM upgraders or the BI folks, I'll be sad.

August 22, 2013 8:26 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

I'm worried we'll be sad this fall. This is the reason for this post.

August 22, 2013 9:17 AM

Uwe Ricken said:

Hi Marco,


pretty good post and - as Brent mentioned - the current situation is a dissatisfactory one.

When I started with the preparation to the MCM I carefully read all about the program and it's - IMPORTANT - information about the "upgrade" to MCSM.

Now the situation is that nobody really knows what the next steps for the "upgrade" as MCSM is! We'll see :)

August 22, 2013 10:01 AM

Christian Bolton said:

Hi Marco,

Its a great topic to start a discussion on so I thought I might as well add my opinion.

The original Masters program (Ranger) was created for products like Exchange and SQL Server because that's where the most support cases were being raised and in SQL Server's case, large mission critical deployments weren't as successful as they could be due in part to the availability of experts.

The origins of these programs came from a business problem that Microsoft needed to fix and that's why they had investment.  Now that need is less, the budgets have gone and they're just in maintenance mode.  The MCSM programs are very expensive to run and have a limited audience whereas the MCITP programs touch millions of people.

I'm all for an MCSM program for Business Intelligence but I feel like if it happened it would be Microsoft giving a gift to the community rather than something Microsoft needs to do for its business -- and that's why it will take a long time (if ever) to be released.

In better news though, we don't need a new MCA program; its technology agnostic because you will have already proved your technical skills by passing the MCSM.  You could pass the MCSM: Data Platform today and present a BI project for your board review -- its all about how you made decisions and led the project to success rather than the technical implementation of it.

August 22, 2013 10:25 AM

Robert L Davis said:

Hi Marco. I'm very happy to hear that you and the community are very still passionate about the SQL BI Masters certification and/or SSAS Maestros. And I'm glad you wrote this post so I have an opportunity to clear some things up.

When I was running the SQL MCM program at Microsoft Learning, I was very excited at the prospect of taking over the SSAS Maestro program and creating a SQL BI Master certification. So was my boss, the director of advanced certification. So was her boss (I forget his exact title). Though I've been gone for more than a year, I suspect that all of those involved still want this very much.

I can think of 3 reasons it hasn't come to fruition yet, and none of them are because of the Advanced Certification program.

1) Unable to get SQLCAT to participate in transitioning the SSAS Maestro program. In the very beginning, the SQLCAT members who ran the program were gung ho about having us take it over because they imply did not have the time to spend on it.

But when it came time to actually deliver stuff to us so we could take it over, the program administrators virtually disappeared. I would email them over and over trying to get info about their budget, their guidelines, their processes, etc. and would go months without a response at all. When they finally did respond, it would be a terse reply like, "I'll get that for you soon."

I spent a lot of my own time helping them to formalize aspects of their program that they had no clue about how to handle, like properly notifying candidates of their results. I created the email templates for them, I merge the results into the templates, and I sent the results out for them. I created email distribution lists so that the Maestros had some way to communicate with each other. And frankly, I stopped them from doing several things that would have gotten them in big trouble with Microsoft Legal (like telling people that they would give them rights to use the SSAS MAestro name for their own training in exchange for free labor in the program). Trust me, Microsoft Legal would never allow someone to "give away" rights owned by Microsoft.

Sadly, it got to the point that I had to tell the Maestro program administrator that their massive fail in participation meant that we could not proceed with taking over the Maestro program. We still fully intended to create the SQL BI Master certification though.

Everyone out there that went through the program and begged over and over again for their results or for info on redoing a case study or lab knows what I'm talking about.

2) I had creating the SQL BI Master certification program built into my budget for the fiscal year. It was all planned and budgeted. Then right after I left, the budget went away. I learned right before I left that the lower Data Platform certifications (MCSE and below) had overspent their budget by a tremendous amount all the while telling the SQL Server marketing contact that we as a whole were within budget (because Advanced Certification had not spent their budget for creating the new MCSM exams yet).

I called BS on that as loud as I could when I discovered it, but I was already headed out the door and wasn't in a position to follow up on it. Next thing I heard was that the budget for the SQL BI program was taken away. I can't say with 100% certainty that it was because the lower certifications spent money that was in my budget without telling anyone, but I suspect that to be the case. I also suspect that the SQL Server marketing team were never told the real truth.

3) Certification is a costly business. I heard someone say once that certification was a cash cow for Microsoft, but it simply isn't true. Certifications are funded by the product groups. Our long-term aspiration at Microsoft Learning was to get to a point where we did not have to rely on money from the product groups to fund the programs. I don't think that day will ever come, but we did strive to try to reduce the amount of money coming from the product groups every year.

That said, no matter how much we wanted to start a new certification program at Microsoft Learning, we couldn't do it without funding from the product group. We would get contacted quite frequently from different product groups inside of Microsoft wanting an advanced certification for their product .... until we started talking about them funding it. They wanted no part of it if it meant they had to spend money on it.

Often when things get cut at Microsoft Learning, it's not because Microsoft Learning doesn't want to do it. On the contrary, if you want to get ahead at Microsoft, you have to expand your scope of influence. Often, it's because the budget got cut.

And the budget getting cut doesn't mean that the product group marketing team we work with doesn't want it. When their budget gets cut, they have to cut the spending they do including spending for certification.

In case that was too long for anyone to read, I'll sum it up for you. The problem isn't advanced certification. Everyone involved at Microsoft Learning wants the new certification. They don't need convincing.

The product teams need convincing.

August 22, 2013 11:11 AM

Robert L Davis said:

In response to Christian's comment, he is spot on that it wouldn't be a new MCA program. The plan was for a new MCSM for BI program, but the SQL MCA would cover both. So, in short, you could apply to be an MCA by having either SQL MCSM.

August 22, 2013 11:14 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Cristian: thanks for the clarification about MCA and MCSM.

August 22, 2013 2:48 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Robert: thank you very, very much for the clarification. I think that many SSAS Maestro will appreciate having this information (it's never too late) and I'm happy to know the importance of the program is well understood in Microsoft, too.

I hope we will start a discussion in Microsoft, too, having some reponse in the near future.

Thanks again, I really appreciate!


August 22, 2013 2:50 PM

Jose Gomez said:

What Microsoft is failing to understand is that the competition, i.e. Oracle, IBM, SAP are already investing in similar programs, even offering Masters Degrees in cooperation with universities. Deakin University in Australia is a good example of this.

By cutting budgets and not actioning what's going to happen is the adoption/usage of Microsoft tools is going to decrease dramatically, again Australia is a good example where the number of jobs for Microsoft professionals has been rapidly decreasing whilst demand for Oracle, IBM and SAP professionals is going up.

So in the end what might seem like saving money means loosing share of the market, a perfect case of short sightedness.

August 22, 2013 8:39 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Jose: I agree, even if I don't see this change towards other vendors in other markets, losing the partner confidence about Corporate BI tools is not a smart move, and in BI the implementation quality is critical for the success of a Platform. Certification is part of the "marketing" plan.

August 23, 2013 2:46 AM

Jean-Pierre Riehl said:

I agree your initiative and I'll send an email.

We had a discussion about certifications during the last afterwork of the French User Group with many professionals.

All of them think that MCSE (Data Platform and Business Intelligence) already have a high level. Many companies have difficulties to get people certified. Investment in training is already high.

So I think Master or Architect level is not a subject for many of partners.

My opinion is that taking professionals to an higher level is a very good thing, for partners, for SQL Servers and especially for customers.

Build a Corporate BI system (even a Self-Service one) needs skilled people and good architects. So I agree MCSM programs and will give my voice heard.

By the end, thanks Marco to start that topic.

August 24, 2013 4:12 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

JeanPierre: thanks for your feedback!

August 24, 2013 4:20 AM

Mark Stacey said:

Thanks Marco for this idea, and thanks Robert for the insight.

I've done the mail as requested, and hopefully someone inside MS can then use this as support to take to the product group.

On an unrelated but parallel note: I think we should have a BI MVP role, to sit alongside the SQL and SharePoint MVP programs. As PowerBI becomes a product suite, having it's own MVPs will help massively for product adoption.

August 25, 2013 6:56 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Mark, the fact that SQL Server has the largest number of MVPs is also partially caused by the fact that it includes also SSRS, SSIS and SSAS. I would like a split too, but there would be side effects for that, too (i.e. access to beta programs).

Thanks for your feedback!


August 25, 2013 7:13 AM

Stephanie Locke said:

Here you go!

It's a shift in emphasis to the 'Microsoft data platform', which given how broad in feature-set SQL Server is, and how integrated it is with other technologies, it's not unrealistic to acknowledge that PASS is no longer 'just for DBAs'

August 25, 2013 3:30 PM

Andreas Wolter said:

Thanks Robert and Jen for the valuable insights.

I hope that if not the product teams, rather the marketing term realizes what's in it and what's at stake and gets a budget for the premium /advanced certifications to better compete on the market.

August 25, 2013 3:52 PM

Jen Underwood said:

Thank you Marco for keeping this mission alive!

As the former SQL Server BI Technical Product Manager, when I inherited the SSAS Maestro Program from SQLCAT last year starting in October 2012 we did let a few candidates know that there was no budget for it. I did my best to learn about the history, current state, review outstanding exams, and wrap up loose ends while also making the case for MCM BI to be budgeted for the next year. I feel BI certs should be managed in a similar manner to the Database certs.

Note BI budgets and BI personnel on the SQL Server side have been reduced along with other non-Cloud areas the past few years - it is not just the BI certs - it is all part of the Cloud transition. I left Microsoft late last year when I was uncomfortable about the Excel BI focus as you have now seen with Power BI announcements. At the time I was aligned under the SQL Server BI side. Turns out I may have made a mistake and my old role was not cut. However, there is much more BI on the Office side of Microsoft these days than the SQL Server side. If you can't get through on the SQL Server side - try Office. Office 365 gets a lot more funding and resources!

I see BI as a true value add and a strategic investment in the utility/commodity Azure cloud service world Microsoft is heavily pursuing.  I think for this to be invested in, you will need to jointly appeal to the CloudOS mission and add content that covers HDInsight, SSIS, MDS/DQS, and SSRS as well as the Office Product Marketing side for Power BI and Excel. I do not know who that point of contact is this year on the Office Product Marketing side. Contact me offline and I will give you some names that can help you, know the SSAS Maestro history, etc.

Microsoft BI is changing.  PASS is also changing.  I was recently informed that PASS no longer stands for Professional Association of SQL Server.  They dropped the SQL Server aspect and are rebranding to align to broader Big Data, Excel and Analytics audiences.  That was news to me.  If someone has that PASS rebrand announcement, please post a link to it. I have not seen it and I do want to read it.  

Thanks again for keeping this alive.  


August 25, 2013 4:59 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:


thank you very much for your feedaback!

I will certainly contact you offline and the next MVP Summit could be the right place to meet people in Redmond that could be interested in funding a major BI certification. At least, this is my hope.

The PASS rebranding is a huge thing. It's the first time I heard about that and I'd like to see if someone else (with more info) will comment about that.

Thanks again!


August 25, 2013 5:02 PM

Jen Underwood said:

Apparently there is a is the actual PASS post about the vision.  I don't see dropping SQL Server anywhere in here but they are expanding to new audiences and that a great thing.

August 25, 2013 5:15 PM

Jen Underwood said:

And more August 21 SQLPASS Connector:

PASS Mission Statement: Updated for a Growing Community

August 25, 2013 7:24 PM

Greg Low said:

I wish it was different but I found the Maestro program to be a mess. I'll leave my comments at that.

August 25, 2013 7:59 PM

Ed Allison said:

I have emailed as you suggested.  It would be great if Microsoft developed BI qualifications further in this way.

August 27, 2013 5:18 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Greg: thanks for the feedback - I'd like to get your opinion about Maestro in more detail, if you want.

Ed: thanks for the support!

August 27, 2013 4:48 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

It seems the discussion can be closed. Microsoft canceled MCM, MCSM and MCA programs.

August 31, 2013 4:08 AM

Alan Faulkner said:

Marco (and all),

Thank you for your posts.  I was one of those unfortunate ones that experienced exactly what Robert Davis outlined in point 1 .."like properly notifying candidates of their results..".  It took over 9 months of me pestering the contacts I had information on to get anything in regards to the outcome of myu labs, tests, and white paper submissions.  I spent a lot of time and effort on all of the requirements as a SSAS Maestro Candidate.  I truly believe the SSAS Maestro Program (or advanced certification program equivalent) is needed.  I contantly use the techniques I learned in the SSAS Maestro training class.  I would love to be able to take the class again!!!!!  I will be submitting an email too.

Thanks again.

October 4, 2013 6:11 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Alan, thanks for the feedback.

October 4, 2013 6:29 PM

Mark Frawley said:

"Microsoft canceled MCM, MCSM and MCA programs."

Another reason to question the long or even medium-term future of SSAS.  Such a shame.

November 21, 2013 10:24 AM
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About Marco Russo (SQLBI)

Marco Russo is a consultant, writer and trainer specialized in Business Intelligence with Microsoft technologies. He runs the SQLBI.COM website, which is dedicated to distribute resources useful for BI developers, like Integration Services components, Analysis Services models, tools, technical information and so on. Marco is certified as MCT, MCDBA, MCSD.NET, MCSA, MCSE+I.

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