Microsoft Partner Network is Getting a Makeover, and a Personality Change

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

I know it was you, Fredo.

We at Web Applications UK love Microsoft, this is no secret. You may not see a WinMo within 100 feet of our office, but we still love Microsoft – and who knows, the whole WinMo thing might change when Windows Phone 7 comes out. Enough about the phone, this article is about partnership and competency, Microsoft Partnerships and Competencies that is.

Competencies are a key component of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). The Microsoft Partner Network is a community that assists and provides resources for Microsoft Partners. There are currently 640,000 Microsoft partners across the world; the MPN provides partners with learning opportunities, customer expertise and communities that drive innovation. This also means that there are 640,000 broken people across the world who have no idea what to do about the seismic shift in Microsoft’s Partnership Program, scared to death they are going to lose and never get back all of their hard-earned competencies. Web Apps is here to provide a little light at the end of this dark tunnel.

So, for all those non MPN members out there, What Is A Competency?

A ‘competency’ is recognition from Microsoft that your organisation has proficient/advanced skills in specific Microsoft Technologies.

Microsoft allows its partners to differentiate themselves from competitors by fulfilling a number of standardised qualifications. There is a competency for almost every skill set useful in implementing and maintaining Microsoft technologies. Competencies are a great way to show customers what your business’ specialties are, and boosts confidence with Microsoft’s vote of confidence. The requirements to attain a competency vary but there are some general requirements for Competencies. For a Competency your organisation needs at least two Microsoft Certified Professionals or Application Compatibility, Volume Licensing Online Training and Assessments (exams), three unique customer references and a full Microsoft Profile.

Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? I should, Web Apps currently holds seven (7) competencies, including:

  1. Volume Licensing
  2. Unified Communications Solution
  3. Independent Software Vendor (ISV)
  4. Data Management Solutions
  5. Business Intelligence
  6. Information Worker Solutions
  7. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Business Process

Also, we are in the midst of studying for the Unified Communications (Voice) Competency to complement our current specialisation in Instant Messaging and Presence.

So what is all this about a ‘seismic shift’?

Well, Microsoft is getting rid of its partnership qualifications. Do you know/are you a company with a Microsoft Select, Silver or Gold partnership level? Well not for much longer. Microsoft is scrapping its ‘Gold Partner’ title as well with the rest of them; soon we will all just be ‘partners’ (probably October 2010). That’s not all. Competencies will be split between Silver and Gold levels.  It took some time for Microsoft to decide on the ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold’ titles, for a long time during the planning process (and in much of the slightly dated MS literature) the ‘Gold’ competency was going to be called an ‘Advanced’ competency.

This sounds like nothing but being a ‘Microsoft Gold Partner’ has been such a badge of honour for such a long time that this new system might take some getting used to. Instead of being a Gold Partner or Silver Partner, members of Microsoft’s Partner Network can earn Gold and Silver Competencies. The requirements for attaining these competencies vary in degree more than in essence, for example a business needs five customer references for a Gold competency instead of three for Silver and four MS Certified Professionals instead of two. Starting in October 2010 partners must make a minimum revenue commitment based on their geography and which competency they wish to attain (for a Gold Competency). Also starting in October 2010 partners going for a silver and gold competency must also pass a Microsoft Licensing Overview Assessment and a Sales and Marketing Competency Assessment.  And finally each MS Certified Professional may only carry one gold competency (you are not allowed to employ one genius who racks up 10 Gold competencies). New logos will appear shortly.

Don’t forget the ‘Small Business Specialist’

The beloved Small Business Specialist is also not immune to changes. Instead of an accreditation, the Small Business Specialist will join its cousins as a full-blown Competency. The requirements to obtain a Small Business Specialist designation will remain the same as they are today and the general requirements for competencies are the same across the board. Now, just because you’re a member in the Small Business Specialist Community today does NOT mean that you will automatically qualify at the competency level. Once again, the competency general requirements apply to everyone. The only real change will be the exams, many of the old and existing exams to become a SBS will no longer qualify, six of the original exams to be exact. Instead there are now four exams that will qualify you, Windows Small Business Server 2008, Configuring; Windows 7m Pre-installing for OEMs; Windows Server 2008, Network Infrastructure, Configuring; and Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office.

In case you were worried….Web Applications’ dedicated team has already met the new requirements for Small Business Specialist.  That logo is going to be sticking around us for a long time.

At the end of the day, these are not monumental changes. If you start noticing new logos here and there, do not be alarmed, it is natural to experience some slight disorientation due to how often Microsoft has changed their minds regarding this program. We are confident this is the final restructure.  You can find more information on Microsoft’s plans straight from the horse’s mouth