Microsoft this week handed out its MVP awards for the coming year. The honor is bestowed upon those who help members of their respective communities through writing, speaking, offering help solving problems, and, most importantly of course, to those who demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the technology.

I recall a time a couple years back when some in the SharePoint community felt the MVP program should be replaced by something else; that it was creating a false “elite” within the community, and that some folks, by the very nature of their roles, could never become MVPs.

Apparently, that’s all water under the bridge now, as the program is thriving and more experts seek the designation. To me, it is an important one. Just as shoppers for cars might check for JD Powers awards, or grocery shoppers might seek out a “prime” or “choice” designation on their meats, people looking for help in the SharePoint space want to know who Microsoft considers expert in the field.

That said, there are some great resources in the community who either don’t seek the designation or cannot achieve it. That doesn’t mean they lack expertise. It might mean they don’t have time to speak at events or write for outside publications. In that regard, it’s like deciding between a plumber who has a “Better Business Bureau” recommendation and one who doesn’t, but comes highly recommended by your next-door neighbor.

You’ve got to meet them, sit down with them, and find out if they’re the right choice to help you solve your problems or take you to the next level. Only then can you make the best decision.