Technology Integrator Retains Employees and Attracts New Business with Certifications

Technology Integrator Retains Employees and Attracts New Business with Certifications

Microsoft Learning
Customer Solution Case Study
/ / Technology Integrator Retains Employees and Attracts New Business with Certifications
Country or Region:United States
Industry:IT Services
Customer Profile
Avanade, a global technology integrator, helps businesses solve their IT challenges through Microsoft® solutions. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the company has more than 4,000 professionals worldwide.
Business Situation
A company that takes pride in the professionalism of its employees, Avanade continually seeks to extend and validate its expertise and differentiate the company from competitors.
Avanade has long relied on Microsoft certifications and continues to do so, focusing especially on the new series of certifications, including Microsoft Certified Professional Developer.
Provides an objective measure of skill
Helps attract, develop, and retain employees
Assists in winning new business
Contributes to a high level of customer satisfaction / “One of the top three reasons that customers choose to do business, and repeat business, with Avanade is our technical knowledge—and Microsoft certifications help us to achievethat.”
Kate Guersch, Chief Learning Officer, Avanade
Avanade, founded in 2000, is a leading global technology integrator focused exclusively on delivering solutions based on Microsoft® technologies. With its commitment to provide its customers with the most qualified professionals to address their IT integration needs, Avanade makes employee expertise a top priority. The company, which has long relied on Microsoft certifications, expects the latest generation of certifications to help it build on its success. Avanade credits Microsoft certifications with providing an objective measurement of skills, and helping it attract, develop, and retain employees, while playing a major role in winning new business and contributing to a high level of customer satisfaction.


Avanade, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, partners with organizations around the world to define how technology can help them realize their business vision. As a leading global IT integrator specializing in Microsoft® technology, Avanade offers customers a range of solutions to help optimize infrastructure, build and integrate efficient applications using the Microsoft .NET Framework, foster better collaboration and information sharing, and deploy strategic solutions within their computing environments.

Avanade is committed to delivering the most advanced technology solutions to its customers through highly qualified IT professionals. In fulfilling that commitment, Avanade continually seeks to extend and validate its expertise and differentiate the company in a highly competitive market. “We tell customers that Avanade developers have a high level of skill, and we can objectively measure those skills according to an industry standard, so customers feel confident they can rely on us,” says Kate Guersch, Chief Learning Officer at Avanade.


From the company’s beginnings in 2000, Avanade has turned to Microsoft Learning and the certifications that it offers to IT professionals and developers. Microsoft Learning offerings include both online and instructor-led training courses, learning tools, skills assessments to guide learning, and exams that provide IT workers with skills and certifications of their knowledge.

Avanade offers several resources to help its IT professionals and developers deepen professional expertise and obtain certification. “Our employees learn through formal courses and training; independent self-study resources; coaching, mentoring, and on-the-job training; and from each other, through knowledge-sharing communities,” says Guersch.

The knowledge-sharing communities function through self-subscribing distribution lists on specific topics, including Microsoft certification. Guersch notes, “People talk about which exams are coming up and exchange resources. In one program called ‘Exam of the Month,’ someone on my team picks an exam and gives specific tips and tricks, and that generates a lot of discussion.”

Because Avanade has long invested in professional development, Guersch says that Microsoft certification is an integral part of the culture. “We review the number of certifications each quarter, and we fully fund certifications for our employees,” she says. At this time, Avanade professionals have collectively passed more than 8,000 Microsoft certification exams. Seventy-five percent of technical Avanade employees have achieved at least the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential; of these, 849 have achieved Microsoft Certified Systems Developer (MCSD), and 1,222 have achieved Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). Many have also earned the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) credential. “All of our technical employees continuously work on certification until MCSE or MCSD is achieved,” says Guersch.

Recently, Avanade employees began preparing for the new generation of Microsoft certifications, which consists of three series—the Technology Series, the Professional Series, and the Architect Series—and four credentials.

The Technology Series targets specific Microsoft products or technologies. The first in the series is the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) credential, which is a prerequisite for pursuing the next series—the Professional Series. The Professional Series validates skills required for success in a specific job role: for IT professionals, there is the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credential; for developers, the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD).

The MCPD credential contains paths for development in three types of applications: Web Developer, Windows® Developer, and Enterprise Applications Developer. The MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer credential requires passing certification exams for all three development environments—Web, Windows, and the distributed environment—making this credential the most difficult in the Professional Series to obtain.

Avanade has set a new area of focus for developers with the MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer credential. Guersch says, “Avanade is committed to requiring 100 percent of our developers to obtain this credential. This fits with our commitment to have the most qualified professionals possible.” Developers will have within 18 months of date of hire, or exam release-to-manufacturer (RTM) availability, to achieve this credential.

For IT professionals, the MCITP credential distinguishes a path for Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) for SQL Server™or BizTalk® Server, and an MCITP for Database Developer, Database Administrator, and Business Intelligence Developer. These paths correspond to expertise in server administration, database administration, database development, and business intelligence design.

At Avanade, database and business intelligence specialists are required to achieve one of the three database developer certifications, also within 18 months of hire or exam RTM availability. They are then encouraged to go on to earnthe MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developercredential.

These days, there is a lot of excitement in the Avanade certification communities, says Guersch. “There is a lot of interest in the communities when there’s a new wave like this. We start receiving a lot of requests about the new exams; people want to know what they need to do.”

The Architect Series consists of the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) credential—the most advanced credential of all. This title identifies top industry experts in IT architecture. These professionals have 10 or more years of IT experience, at least 3 years of experience as a practicing architect, and possess strong technical and leadership skills. Unlike other industry certifications, this credential was built and is granted by the architect community. Candidates must pass a rigorous review by the Review Board, which consists of previously certified peer architects.

In addition to the remarkably high level of Microsoft-certified developers at Avanade, 14 employees have achieved MCA status, and more are on the way. Avanade has a strong commitment to developing architects with its “Principles of Architecture” internal training series, and is supportive of effortsby Microsoft to establish a new bar of architect certification. Guersch notes, “Just as the MCSE, MCSD, and MCPD help us to objectively measure and prove our skills to customers, so will the architect certifications from Microsoft. We are excited about the progress Microsoft has made in this area.”


Avanade views the Microsoft certifications as valuable in many ways. They validate core employee skills; help the company attract, develop, and retain employees; differentiate the company; and assist with winning new business and achieving a high level of customer satisfaction.

Provides an Objective Measure of Skill

Microsoft certifications provide an objective measure of employee skills. Guersch says, “I want to understand the state of skills readiness in our company at any given time, so I look at certifications as a baseline way to have that measure of skills and knowledge.” The credentials eliminate the need for the company to spend time and energy creating its own certifications. “These are very popular and reputable modes of learning. We want to go with a certification that is recognized industrywide as having value,” she adds.

Helps Attract, Develop, and Retain Employees

The support for Microsoft certifications and career development helps people at Avanade feel good about themselves and their careers. According to Guersch, “People are proud of their certifications—they like displaying the credential on their shirts and auto-signatures and letting people know they are certified. It’s a badge of honor.”

Employees are drawn to Avanade because of the support the company provides for achieving certification. “Certifications help us recruit people, because we fully fund the process of achieving certification. Most employees view it as a great benefit that the company is so dedicated to their learning,” she says. Avanade provides a variety of resources to help employees prepare for certification, and colleagues are very helpful to each other through the communities. “Employees find our commitment to certification to be a differentiator. This is especially true for more experienced hires from companies that typically offer less support. I believe it helps retain those employees,” adds Guersch.

Assists in Winning New Business

Having highly competent, well-trained, and Microsoft-certified employees gives Avanade a high degree of credibility with prospective customers and helps to differentiate the company from competitors. “It’s clear that one of the main reasons our customers hire us and believe in us is because of our technical knowledge,” Guersch says. “The certifications help our sales teams demonstrate that there is a level of skill that is objectively measured and is an industry standard,” she adds. “Based on how many requests I get to include our certification statistics in customer proposals, certification helps to play a role in our ability to differentiate our company from competitors.”

Contributes to a High Level of Customer Satisfaction

About 45 percent of the company’s business is repeat business—an impressive statistic for a company that implements large-scale business solutions, because it may be months or years before a customer needs more help. In customer surveys, “One of the top three reasons that customers choose to do business, and repeat business, with Avanade is our technical knowledge—and Microsoft certifications help us to achieve that,” says Guersch.

Offers Possibilities for the Future

Another advantage that Avanade finds in the Microsoft certifications is that, as the new series demonstrates, they are not static, but continue to evolve along with industry needs. “We will continue to rely on the Microsoft certifications,” says Guersch. “And the new generation of certifications, including the MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer will help us build on our success.”

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