On the 1st of the month at the start of each quarter, through its MVP program (@MVPAward), Microsoft has been awarding (and/or re-awarding) external individuals with the MVP designation (for a period of 1 year) for their contributions (over approximately the prior 12 months) in a single area of expertise. Some people have maintained their designation (possibly changing technical expertise along the way) for well over 10 years continuously. That program is evolving in a very positive way to embrace the broader contributions of some MVPs.
Most recently, each award has been given for a single specific area of expertise (usually related to a Microsoft product group) and 2-3 months before each award quarter, a team of people from the relevant product group reviews the contributions (covering the specific area of expertise) of newly nominated or expiring individuals to see if they get the award.
Contributions that count include public speaking, event planning/running, user group running, authoring (blog/video/book/article/podcast/screencast/webcast/scripts/code), forum participation, social media advocacy, mentoring, other community contributions and feedback to product groups. The contributions should typically be unpaid (or perhaps with just expenses covered), but have included royalty-based authoring work – because well, it’s not that well paid and it can be shared with lots of people.
During the 1 year period for which an MVP has their designation – again, this is an award for contributions in the last 12 months or so – they get various complimentary benefits including the highest MSDN subscription, invitation (including admission, partial accommodation coverage and evening events) to the global MVP summit at Microsoft HQ, possible regional summit, participation in product group interactions (PGIs) through email lists and conference calls, and potentially (under NDA which must be signed to participate), the opportunity to give feedback directly to Microsoft teams and potentially receive early access and/or disclosure of timelines and product/service information.
There are 50+ areas of expertise (spanning software development, IT professionals & consumer topics) and until now, an MVP can only aim for one each year, and so typically only be connected to one product team for each year. An MVP has had to focus his/her contribution efforts to get/remain chosen amongst some 4000+ existing MVP candidates worldwide with perhaps 100+ working on a single area of expertise. An MVP could also choose two areas of interest, but this hasn’t had much consequence except to guide session choices at the annual MVP summit.
As Microsoft’s focus changes, the organization changes and trends change, it can be difficult for an MVP to remain in a specific area, or for the area itself to remain. MVPs may change expertise because they deliberately (or through circumstance) refocus, areas are discontinued, new areas emerge or areas merge. While MVPs may contribute to multiple areas, they have so far only be recognized for one.
Enter the evolved program. MVPs in the software development and IT pro space will have the opportunity to be recognized in multiple top-level areas (which span the existing areas). This provides the opportunity for an MVP to turn an interest into another official area of recognition and be connected to more than one product group. MVPs should be careful not to spread themselves too thin so as to drop below the acceptance bar in one area, and should see it as an opportunity to be recognized for either additional contributions in a new area or for contributions in another area they already make but for which they could not be recognized before this new change.
Newly nominated and expiring candidates under consideration for the Jan 1 2016, Apr 1 2016 & July 1 2016 renewals will likely be automatically renewed, giving them time to adjust to the new recognition model. Oct 1 2016 candidates will have had almost a full year to make contributions.
This change represents a great way for highly-contributing MVPs to broaden their recognition and connection to Microsoft.
The official post is now live here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/stevengu/archive/2015/10/07/moving-into-the-next-generation-of-the-microsoft-mvp-award.aspx