Windows

Windows 7 Desktop Support certification will require a third-party exam

Microsoft's certification team has announced that in order to earn the new Enterprise Desktop Support Technician credential for Windows 7, candidates will also need to pass an exam from the Help Desk Institute. Is this a step forward for customer service?

Microsoft's certification team has announced that in order to earn the new Enterprise Desktop Support Technician credential for Windows 7, candidates will also need to pass an exam from the Help Desk Institute. Is this a step forward for customer service?

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We've discussed the forthcoming release of Windows 7 in the User Support blog already. Now Microsoft has announced a development that will shake things up for those support pros who need official certification of their skills.

I mentioned previously that MS was looking for beta testers for Exam 70-680: Technical Specialist: Windows 7, Configuring. This exam is one of the first addressing the new OS, and it is one step on the path to becoming a Microsoft Certified IT Professional with a specialization in Enterprise Desktop Support. Another requirement is that candidates pass Exam 70-685, MCITP: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician. This is not unusual; historically, Microsoft’s desktop support credentials have required two MS-branded exams, one covering how to configure the OS, and a second test addressing enterprise-support topics. This week, however, Microsoft Learning announced that in order to earn the Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Support cert, techs would have to pass a third exam. What’s really interesting, though, is that Microsoft has partnered with another certification developer, the Help Desk Institute, to provide the third part of the new MCITP credential. The addition of the new material, according to Microsoft, will validate a candidate’s customer service and service management skills.

I have to say that I do not know very much about the Help Desk Institute or their certifications. Before this news, I had only heard of the company in passing. I can’t say I’m thrilled that Microsoft has partnered with them for the Windows 7 exams. Mostly, I am disappointed because their exams and study resources are expensive. The fee for a qualifying exam from HDI runs $225 (less for “members” of HDI). That’s comparable to other industry certs, I guess, but the costs don’t stop there. The real pinch comes from the prep materials. HDI's approved methods of preparing for their exams consist of on-line course packages costing around $500 or in-person training with an instructor costing upward of $1,000!

I don't know about you, but I prepared for my present Microsoft certifications using my own workplace experience and a book that cost me $40. I could not find any self-study resources for HDI's exams on Amazon.com, and that makes HDI’s certifications seem more like a proprietary revenue stream than industry-standard accreditations. I admire that Microsoft Learning wants to bulk up the “soft skills” portions of the Desktop Support cert, but why partner with HDI? Microsoft has accepted CompTIA’s exams as electives for other certifications, and their A+ track has a ton of customer service objectives in it. At least you can find A+ prep materials in any sizable bookstore or library.

The Microsoft Learning Team has maintained all along that they are attempting to address the concerns of hiring managers by clearly mapping certifications to the roles that techs have in their companies. I am fine with this idea. I’m even okay with the idea of expanding the customer service component of the Desktop Support certification. Why choose such an expensive option, though? Based on the information available right now, a Windows 7 Desktop Administrator certification will cost less to obtain than the new MS+HDI Desktop Support credential. And that just doesn’t seem right.

I’ve been trying to decide whether I should update my XP Desktop Support Technician credential for Vista or Windows 7. The addition of an HDI test as a requirement will ensure that I don’t pursue a Desktop Support certification for Windows 7. There isn’t a value proposition for me in the additional test and the additional expense it carries. The sad thing in all this, I think, is that Microsoft’s move will discourage help desk techs from pursuing the Windows 7 Desktop Support certification.

I have always thought that it is important to have a reputable and affordable option for support techs who want to certify their skills. At least we have the A+ to meet those criteria, if Microsoft’s support certification won’t.

39 comments
wjdthird
wjdthird

I have an HDI cert. The course material was pretty simplistic and common sense. Not worth $. "As a hiring manager the HDI certified candidate goes to top of the heap"?? thats funny.

tom.lewis
tom.lewis

I have been working in the IT industry for over 25 years. My first job was writing apps on the Apple II, TRS-80 and Commodore PET. I am also a member of HDI (the name Help Desk Institute was dropped several years ago). HDI has over 7,500 members worldwide and is the largest association for IT service and support professionals. Their training deals with a lot more then "Don't call a caller and idiot". Solving a customers problem is more than just giving them an answer. The HDI training covers exceeding the customer expections, assessing the business needs, creating a win-win situation, and much more. All of my Help Desk (we answer calls and do deskside support) associates are HDI certified. All of them had worked for the company for at least 6 years and were glad they went to the training. They knew the technical part of the job, what they learned was how to do more the just ask "Do you want fries with that?". Was the training expensive, yes. But it was worth every penny. Every person I hire from now on will be HDI certified.

Nsaf
Nsaf

I hold 4 certifications from Microsoft, and throughout the time acquiring them, I have come to find out that MS is not always smart in picking neither their priorities nor the interest of their candidates in mind. This is a true example of stupidity to partner up with such provider when other options are available as stated in the article.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Charging by this lesser known institute for what sounds more like a shrink/pyschiatrist exam is rediculous. Do they think that administrators never have to deal with the public? Maybe they think administrators sit in the server room from 8 to 5? If support people require it, so should others.

TBBrick
TBBrick

Since the economy has gone down the tubes and significantly fewer firms have the $$$ to do expensive M$ OS upgrades, it looks like Mr. Bill's going after those of us with jobs for a few more coins to clink together. Rather reminds me what Old Man Rockefeller said when asked what was enough money. It's reported he replied, "Just a little bit more."

jgaskell
jgaskell

The fact that anyone can buy a $40 book and become a Microsoft Certified Professional is exactly why the MS certification program needs beefing up. The MCP designation has become meaningless because it is just way to easy to achieve.

roberta
roberta

After running the Windows 7 RC for a while now and being extremely happy with it after using Vista for just over a year, I was considering doing a couple of Exams based on 7 and Server 2K8 to upgrade my 2K3 MCSE. Hopefully this new turn of events won't get in my way. I've been brought up in a family retail business where customer service was the most important part of your job... poor customer service = no sales = no job! I've applied the same principles to my Tech Support and Administration jobs... poor customer service = poor feedback which spreads amoungst the industry = no job! 99% of the time it is common sense that prevails when it comes to customer service. I think Microsoft are correct in ensuring the people who are supporting their product can do it in a professional manner. As has been pointed out though, this is probably something for HR teams to look after, rather than another 3rd party that it seems not too many people have heard of.

tekworx
tekworx

Technician since the 60's. Took the MCSE for NT 4 (self study). Never have been happy with any of this. No disrespect but there are a TON of techs out there that have their MCSE that couldn't format a hard disk, let alone put a computer together from scratch. There has always been the feeling that 'BILL' was out to make as much money as possible, and isn't it strange... he hasn't FINISHED an application yet! Kinda says it for me. I have been an I.T. Director and the like and here is what it comes down to, spend all the money you can OVER and OVER every time you turn around to get another endorsement and another one comes along (satisfies the employer that doesn't understand what it takes to GET 'ER DONE!) OR you go with someone that doesn't have time to play Bill's game and just takes care of the businesses that appreciate those that can REALLY do the job. Not overly knocking the profession as I for one can find ANY ANSWER TO ANY QUESTION surrounding technical issues with Microsoft, wanna know why, because the 'BROTHERHOOD/SISTERHOOD' takes care of our own, despite all the capitilistic attempts to continue to destroy our livelihoods. Competition is good OR was that 'GREED' is good... hmmm. I will do the same with Windows 7 as I have since DOS thank you.

bpullin
bpullin

3 tests for a desktop OS??!! Are they nuts?!?!

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Ok. So why is it that desktop support people are required to take this third exam and administrators aren't. There are very few administrators [except in a very large company] who doesn't have to interact with individuals.

egrondin
egrondin

One thing that gives a certification power is the benchmark that it signals when a candidate posesses it. The benchmark has to be a known benchmark, hence a known and popular certificaiton. Microsoft seriously shot themselves in the foot when they took away the MCSA and MCSE levels. People KNOW these names. Most hiring managers are NOT IT professionals and can only key on certain terms... A+, MCSE, CCNA, are all KNOWN terms in the HR arena. HDI is NOT as popular as ANYONE thinks. I have been in the helpdesk/desktop support field for a happy 10 years, and this institute just came to my attention about 3 years ago when my previous supervisor said she had the cert. She wasnt impressed with it, and my company wasnt either. They stopped all financial support for pursuing any HDI certification. It is true that there is a huge need in IT for training and possibly certification of "soft skills" but do I really need to spend a grand to prove it? Windows 7 is not that differant than Vista. All the added and much needed improvements are there, but yeah, its pretty much the same. Someone with vista knowledge will not be lost in a storm when cracking open 7 for the first time... I have the MCDST, and MCITP for vista, I took one test, an upgradeing my skills test... 45 questions, and bam was done... I wonder if 7 will give the same "upgrade" option, and will it carry a HDI kicker? Oh and someone asked in the treads... when the xp certs will expire... XP is the biggest compeditor of Vista right now. Businesses have refused to upgrade, and most have a "convert after the a) first service pack or b) one year on the market - stance" MS may retire the cert, but i dont think having it will be a bad thing to put on your resume. Especially if you keep upgrading (as is my plan) you show continuity, and experiance with older OS systems. XP wont disappear off the face of the desktop world for some time... there will be straglers Is it smart for MS to have renamed all their certifications... I dont know. Was it smart to dump the MCSA and MCSE... no. I do like the way that MS is starting to target job positions a little more. I like that they have a TS (specialist) ITP (professional) and MCM (Master) and Architect levels in certain technologies. Kind of like CISCO... CCNA, NP, IE.. but the way they are going about it is simply mind boggling. Before you could SUBSTITUTE a cert or bring a little more clout to a cert with a third party... like MCSE - Security with Comptia's Security + I think this is the first time MS has REQUIRED a third party. I can see an MCITP in 7 and then an optional kicker of MCIPT - Enterprise support with Soft skills, or something...

lwhitehall
lwhitehall

It won't mean much. Help desks will still be farmed off to India.

ewi3020
ewi3020

"The fee for a qualifying exam from HDI runs $225US (less for ?members? of HDI). That?s comparable to other industry certs, I guess, but the costs don?t stop there. The real pinch comes from the prep materials. HDI?s approved methods of preparing for their exams consist of online course packages costing around $500US, or in-person training with an instructor costing upwards of $1000US!" Actually, the price on the training DOES include the exam fee - see the web site at http://www.thinkhdi.com/hdi.aspx?c=339. In addition, an annual membership at the 'Gold' level or above (Gold = $395/year) includes 1 online training course/exam. I have both A+ & HDI certification. HDI does a good job of focusing on the skills needed by the Help Desk analyst/support person, focusing on customer service (soft skills) and ITIL standards. I have found the resources? available to members to be well worth the $395/year for a Gold membership. That said, HDI does limit you to their training materials & you do not have all the options as you do for other CompTia or MS exams.

star_topology
star_topology

I have a question concerning 70-620 Exam. How long will MS keep that exam around? I'm currently reading up for 70-620 while working extensively with Windows 7. It's the same architecture so I think it would benefit me to learn it, but with the 70-680 exam currently in Beta, I'm wondering if I should even bother with 620??

williamjones
williamjones

Microsoft has announced that they are partnering with the Help Desk Institute for their new Windows 7 Desktop Support certification. This move will make obtaining the Enterprise Desktop Support certification more expensive for techs to obtain, but MS says that the new test will better measure a candidate's customer service competencies. Do you buy that line? Does anyone have any experience with Help Desk Institute that they can share? What's their story?

Justinr40
Justinr40

As an actively hiring manager, I can tell you that whenever I see some witn an HDI certification, they go straight to the top of the stack. I can make a technician with someone that has tech apptitude. It's much more difficult to turn a tech into a communicator. If you can't communicate ( tactufully and professionally ) you have no business supporting people and in IT...all paths lead to the user/customer...

blarman
blarman

Virtually all companies offering certification paths have gone the route of wanting more and more money for more and more worthless certifications. Microsoft feels the need to move the administrative tools in Windows in each successive version just to keep up this charade. It's all a money thing now. They just want to keep sucking more and more out of your wallet. Oracle isn't any different, requiring a live class now to obtain a certification. When you add in the cost of the class to the airfare and hotel costs, you're talking several thousand dollars just for that one class. Come on. Certifications used to be something that techs for a reasonable price (in both time and money) and which had a high return - it demonstrated knowledge, not deep pockets. Now the scale has tipped the other way and we have to pay a ton for a certification that has little return.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

NOBODY ever got a certification by just buying a book. Having personally taken over FOURTY certification exams in the past 12 years, I can say with great certainty that in my own experience I had to work BLOOD HARD and put in many thousands of hours to pass probably 90% of those exams. Yes, a person can become an MCP by passing ONE exam. The MCP itself is probably useless, but the more ADVANCED certifications certainly are not. For anyone who thinks these exams are 'easy' and that anybody can walk in off the street and just pass them -- I suggest you try one yourself and see how you like it. I still remember the first exam I tried -- Visual Basic -- earliest version they started testing on. I walked in feeling all confident because I'd worked with the product since day one -- but that exam kicked my butt. If you only work with some parts of the products but don't pay attention to stuff you don't use/need for your daily work -- you're going to fail. No matter how much experience you have with the few parts that you DO use. I believe this has been a strategy used across all the exams -- to identify a BASELINE of knowledge across the ENTIRE product. The purpose is not to test you to see if you are an expert in some tiny fraction of the product -- but to ensure a solid OVERALL level of knowledge. Sure, there are people out there who cheat on the exams and help others to do so, but is this any different than doctors, lawyers or any other certified profession? Where there is money involved, SOME people will cheat and steal to get it. That's life. For the people who DO work hard to learn the products and pass the eams honestly -- the rewards are great. Working as a contractor most of the time, I've never been out of work for more than a few weeks in the past 12 years -- and right now, the demand is INCREDIBLE in the MOSS (SharePoint) architecture design I've specialized in. The people who DO have problems are the ones who have let their formal education, training and certifications slide. Whether due to laziness, cheapness or just thinking that they are 'too smart' to bother with stinkin' certifications -- the results speak for themselves.

dpeter01
dpeter01

Hi, A good point you have made, however most employers view certifications as necessity. It's just not practical in a competitive job market to think that you can live without certifications. But I am guessing that if you have been an IT Director then the positions you are applying for probably don't require certifications as it's your experience that counts.

lammwa
lammwa

This may be true in smaller IT organizations, but in larger ones the "administrators" do not have direct customer contact. Also quite often they are planners and not part of Service Management.

michael.brodock
michael.brodock

so like the XP exam will be retired when the Win7 exam is out of beta... so the Vista exam should be good until whatever OS replaces Windows 7 exam becomes available. You have some time. :)

l_creech
l_creech

A lack of certifications has never held me back, nor has it held back a good many of the techs I meet with routinely. I can see the benefit for large organizations possibly using HDI or similar if they don't have an in-house training program for help-desk, but for MCPs? I wonder how much MS gets paid by HDI for each cert? Full dsiclosure by MS would be good here, though not likely to happen. I subscribe to TechNet Plus from Microsoft which gives access to most any software for testing purposes. I maintain a bunch of VMs that I use constantly for self-learning and researching the occasional bug outside of a customers working environment. I also purchase most of the MS Press admin guides and pocket guides for the many OSes and Apps that I support for customers so that I can reference those. For those that don't know, as a MS Partner you can call your MS Rep and get some of these boooks for customers free of charge when you have projects that are applicable. When I was in retail I subscribed to the Hot Pack also as it's license allows for business use, something I found useful for letting customers put their hands on various flavors of server product without compromising my own systems. My understanding is that the Hot Pack subscription requires a cert these days, the TechNet subscriptions only require that you register as a Microsoft Partner.

nhahajn
nhahajn

I have the HDI HelpDesk Analyst cert, I wasn't impressed by it really. It was included on a package of training I did. It was really more concerned with Soft skills rather than anything techinical. You could probably pass it with out any studying. A lot of it was just common sense, like don't call a caller an idiot etc.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I always encourage to pursuit certifications as a method to learn more, gain knowledge and for diference yourself from other techs. If my cisco gear is touched by a CCiE guy, I will have peace of mind. We had an issue with a farm of servers with a complex AD structure. About 15 different techs try to fix a KCC problem and only an experienced MCSE was able to fix it. I'm myself mcp mcsa mcse mcts, a+, cst, etc but I believe I will not go for any other MS certification requiring HDI cert and money. I will instead focus in Cisco certs, S+, Security and CET certs in the future. Vmware will be good as well...

david.banoff
david.banoff

Both my current employer and my previous employer (since Jan. 1997) have separated the Help Desk and Desktop Support functions. Users call the Help Desk to open tickets, which get assigned to a Desktop Support tech for resolution. The Help Desk only rarely tries to solve the problems, they just document (often poorly) the issue for the support tech. Our Help Desk isn't outsourced, but it is 400 miles away from my location. I don't see much benefit in mixing the two skills in one cert.

SKDTech
SKDTech

But I see it as opening up the door for CompTIA to step in and offer a more cost effective alternative the Microsoft-HDI cert. Introducing such a costly certification for what should be an entry-level area seems rather short-sighted to me. I don't buy it as being a better measure for competencies.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

So, because someone has an HDI certification, this automatically means they have the wordsmithing skills and attitude to effectively communicate? Just like every MCSE out there is worth their weight? (or any cert for that matter) A cert proves you can pass an exam, and more now it seems, have the money available to pay for exam, training, travel, etc. I think this HDI addition was a backroom deal between MS and HDI, to give HDI more clout. I have a feeling HDI has paid MS handsomely for this setup.

estcst
estcst

I'm wondering how much of this is to create higher barriers so that the old "paper cert" tech label goes away. By forcing would-be techs into being more choosy about which certs they pursue they can prevent people from getting a half dozen certs without ever having a tech job. Ultimately it will force a tech to really be involved in the process before they get certs that shouldn't be attainable by students but would be approachable by pros already in the field. It seems odd to me the number of MSCEs out there who have never held a tech job. The MCSE really shouldn't be obtainable with a set of ExamCram books and a years worth of study. There needs to be some hands on outside of the lab simulators.

jgaskell
jgaskell

...several times over, actually. I have completed several MCP exams over a number of years and software versions. For the most part they are a walk in the park. You mentioned that your first exam was VB, so we are not really talking about the same thing, anyway. The MCSD stream exams are far more difficult than the MCSE stream. My initial comments were not aimed at those certifications.

star_topology
star_topology

Thanks for the reply. It's the same architecture, so I suppose I could try the Beta Exam and see what happens. Perhaps a Win7 670 certification would supplant the Vista 620 on the way to the MCITP "degree" as the links would indicate.

randysmith
randysmith

I think you are referring to Microsoft's "Action Pack" program which provides licenses for use of their OS and productivity apps. This is a good deal for smaller IT-oriented businesses, as it provides full licensing for internal use and testing, and allows SMB to use all current and recent legacy software provided. Current cost is about US$300, software is now provided by download (media available at additional cost), and very simple registration/free certification is required. See https://partner.microsoft.com/40016455 for details (no, I don't work for MS, but we do have the Action Pack subscription).

tweakerxp
tweakerxp

Was it worth $500.00 to learn not to call someone an idiot? I think the whole thing just sounds like a greedy money grab. Bailout money from us.

jgaskell
jgaskell

Can you give me a few more of these? I'm taking notes here ;-)

sam4it
sam4it

what are the process and requirement I need to full to get my HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA)certification. Currently I am in Africa. Do you write this exam in prometric or VUE

Bruno Fonseca
Bruno Fonseca

I am one of the ones that passed the beta exam so now I have the MCTIP for Windows 7, but now that you have to take this HDI test to get the full Certification is ridiculous. Most technicians know what not to do, even though some may choose to ignore it. That training can be done by any manager in house. Why doesn't MS just included it in their training instead of using an outside source. I only heard of HDI once before now, so there certification doesn't hold much value. Tech Republic could come up with their own cert but in the grand scheme of things, whats the value of your resume having Tech-Republic.com Certified.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

There is always people who cheat on exams. This persons are useless in projects and enterprises when the real MCSE knowledge is required, they don't get the final point of getting certifications. I remember when I get my MCSE I spend years studyng and making the labs, testing scenarios. I remember very well my virtual company with 18 sites in 9 countries, 36 domain controllers and playing with sites and services, security stuff,etc. Was amazing. I learn a lot during my MCSE training and certification. And I need to tell you the 70216 exam (Beast) - required for an MCSE was a crazy nightmare. I encourage every tech to get certifications, I myself provide some consulting services to companies and works only with certified ITpros. VB, Databases, Support, Security, etc... no matter the path you use, if you prove experience togheter with certs, I know you are in the IT world and you can work with me. Another stuff is certified pros can ask more money for the job. Is not the same to say to the client: I know a lot, I have 5 years of experience than: I'm a professional IT certified Engineer with 5 years of experience. WOW... this can give you the big money and make the difference.

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