Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Microsoft Certified Learning Consultant Programme

I was in New Orleans over the summer of 2009 at the WPC Microsoft Partner Conference. At the conference, I got to ask Microsoft Learning’s leaders what was up with the Certified Learning Consultant Programme. This programme was launched with much fanfare a few years ago, and I was asked to sit on the MCLC Review Board. The Review Board reviewed MCLC applications and failed or passed them. For the first few years, there was quite a lot of work. Of course, this always seemed to co-incide with other work related complications – but such is life.

I enjoyed the opportunity to look at the applications, but frankly was quite disappointed in many.  All too often, the application form was filled in such that information was just plain missing. One simple example I cited was the request for 100 words about project – and to me that means round about 100 words. I’d be happy if the word count was anywhere between 85 and 115 – and a bit longer if there was anything particularly complicated. But an entry of 43 and 252 words do not make it to 100. But there were some good applications from folks that clearly demonstrated their abilities. It was a pleasure to approve their application.

I like the idea behind the MCLC certificate and the current application process. An MCLC basically reviews the current competency level of a group of people, typically some sort of project team, to determine the gaps in their skills. The MCLC then designs and rolls out a training plan designed to address the key skill gaps and to achieve some soft of return on investment. During the roll out, the MCLC is expected to look at how the training is going and adjust accordingly. Finally, the MCLC needs to analyse the results and ensure that the ROI has been achieved (or not). A hurdle in some cases was that the candidate was required to have the client acknowledge the ROI achievement in writing.

One example was where the MCLC was working with a technical support team about what is required to support the next version of Windows and Office and Exchange in their organisation. The MCLC looked at all the available Microsoft learning products as well as other non-Microsoft products to determine what would be best for that team. This included some in-class work, remote labs, e-learning and some other reading. During the execution of the programme issues, such as redundant modules in the training, or difficulties with attendance at events, etc would be looked at and the programme adjusted to meet reality!

The issue of ROI on the training was one that confused a lot of us – both candidates and review board members. Initially, I understood ROI to be in terms of pounds/euros/dollars. I was never very comfortable about this and was constantly reminded of the annecdote about an accountant. When asked what two plus two should equal, gave the reply: whatever you need it to be. But then I saw a number of really good projects that had non-dollar amounts cited as ROI.

The key point was, for me at least, that if you can’t measure it, it’s not important. Leading from that, basing ROI on less tangible things was OK – as long as it was measured and either the measurement “improved” or there was a good explanation why not.

In the case of the company I noted above was that the project was performed to train a company’s small IT group. That company was in the process of doing a major corporate restructuring deal and really wanted to keep the IT group as a whole. The company had unique home grown applications that needed the trained staff currently in post. So the ROI measurement was based simply on staff satisfaction and their likelihood to want to leave. Each employee was sent a questionnaire and had an interview with their employer and the MCLC before and after the training. And the satisfaction levels measured. A very interesting project. I suspect that one could have put some dollar amounts into some equation and “measure” it in cash terms. But I liked the simplicity of it – and it was something that could be (and was) measured.

But I thought this programme was dead – and hence asked the question at WPC. Turns out the programme still lives. I understand some consideration was given to closing the programme down, but thankfully the axe has been spared. The question now is how to breathe some life back into it.

Some years ago, I gave a talk at a MSL event around how to prepare a successful MCLC application. If there’s any real interest, I’ll ask MSL to organise a Live Meeting and repeat the talk. If you are interested – then mail your MSL contact(s). Or post a comment here. I’d love to hear of any enthusiasm from the community around this programme.


Miklos Cari said...

Hi Thomas..

Well, in fact I am really interested on the MCLC, I really like to hear that the ROI is not always tangible, that maybe will make me think to apply there. But I think that this credentical is not Worldwide right?.. I think is just for people that lives in USA and/or Europe...

In any case I will be very interested in a session to know how to prepare a successful MCLC application..


Hannah said...

Interesting post - thanks for shedding some more light on the practical applications of the MCLC area. Any other information you have about it (including a mentioned talk) would be welcome.