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Typically, I like to kick off the New Year with a career-management-and-planning-focused editorial of some kind. I got out of my groove this year and have been pretty mum on the topic. But this week, I’d like to discuss Microsoft's recent release of the “Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, Applications” exam in the context of two questions: What does it take to be an expert in a field? And is PerformancePoint Server an interesting place to hang your hat right now from a career perspective?

The first question is an interesting topic in its own right, and I plan to explore it further in an upcoming editorial. For now, I’d simply like to point out that it’s easier to be an expert in something that’s relatively new and that many people don’t know much about yet. Usually, expertise is defined in terms of being really good at something. Sometimes I take a more pragmatic approach and define expertise as the delta between what I know and what someone else knows. If I know a lot more than anyone else about a topic, does that make me an expert? What if I know more than other people, but my skills aren’t necessarily strong? Can you have a field of expertise in which no one is an expert? Those are all interesting questions that we’ll have fun exploring in upcoming editorials. For now, I’m sticking with the pragmatic definition: You’re an expert if you know more than the other guy. And it’s usually easier to meet that goal in fields that are new or that few others have decided to become experts in yet. Like maybe PerformancePoint Server.

Now let’s briefly explore whether being a PerformancePoint Server guru is an interesting career move these days. Time will tell if PerformancePoint Server is a flash in the pan or something that has traction for the long haul. But I can tell you that almost every Microsoft person I talk to these days who is responsible for SQL Server in one way or another is very interested in PerformancePoint Server, is spending money training their partners and customers on PerformancePoint Server, and is telling me that they’re seeing a tremendous amount of interest in PerformancePoint Server from their customers.

As of yet, there’s no classroom or e-learning training from Microsoft, no Microsoft Press books, and no practice exams on the topic of PerformancePoint Server. Hmmm. A market segment that’s hot—as defined by customer interest and Microsoft field representatives who are throwing investment funds at it—but that’s immature enough that there are no training classes being offered by Microsoft Learning or books being offered by Microsoft Press about the topic. I’m willing to go out on a limb and speculate that becoming a PerformancePoint Server expert is a good career move in the short term, and the goal might be approachable given the relative lack of maturity and expertise in the market for the product today.

You can read more about the PerformancePoint Server exam at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/exams/70-556.mspx and download some eBooks about PerformancePoint Server, which are based on material that’s part of the PerformancePoint Server documentation, from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc161069.aspx . You can learn more about the Microsoft Partner Program competency for Performance Management Specialization at https://partner.microsoft.com/US/program/competencies/iwsolutions/40043177. Enjoy.