Microsoft expects about 30 local partners to automatically transition to the Advanced Competency level, when the requirements of its new Partner Network scheme are finalised in October.
However, the company says most of the approximately 120 gold level partners it currently has are “well positioned to grow to [the advanced] level of certification”, as Microsoft continues to transition partners up until the launch of the Partner Network in July 2011, the end of the fiscal year.
The programme’s membership levels have changed from Registered, Certified and Gold, to Community, Subscription, Competency and Advanced Competency, with Advanced Competency now the highest level.
The number of competencies and specialisations has been halved from about 60 to 30, with four new competencies among the 30 being Application Lifecycle Management Solutions; Authorised Distributor Solutions; Digital Home Solutions; and Digital Marketing Solutions.
Partner director Brent Colbert says nearly all of Microsoft’s local managed partners have had a one-to-one meeting with the company about the transition to new levels and competencies, or are booked in for one, while other partners have been getting information from Microsoft’s various partner communication vehicles and the partner helpdesk.
Although not all Advanced Competency requirements are finalised, they include having four Microsoft Certified Professionals with advanced credentials or compatibility in products that pass Microsoft tests; a Partner Solution plan with minimum revenue commitments met; training and assessment in volume licensing, sales and marketing; five customer references per competency; and participation in the customer satisfaction index.
A partner can hold multiple standard or advanced-level competencies, but Colbert says the more stringent advanced competency requirements will limit the number of advanced competencies one partner can hold.
Microsoft is aiming for good coverage of partners across all competencies.
He says it is difficult to know how many local partners will fall within the newly-established competency areas, which include Application Lifecycle Management Solutions, Authorised Distributor Solutions, Digital Home Solutions and Digital Marketing Solutions, as these requirements have not been finalised.
The vendor is asking partners to prepare for the transition by reviewing employees’ qualifications in relation to competencies, use partner account managers and the helpdesk as sources of information, along with raisingpotential issues with staff about meeting the new competency requirements well before October.
Intergen director of marketing Wayne Forgesson says his company wants to secure an Advanced Competency.
“We are currently a gold partner in six areas, but we are targeting 13 competencies we want to gain status in at the Advanced Competency level.”
These include software development, CRM, ERP and content management.
Forgesson has already met with Microsoft about the changes and the company is getting people trained.
“There have been meetings, discussions and webinars. Like all these things it is getting clearer by the day what Microsoft has planned.”
It is also acquiring customer references to meet the new competency requirements. “You currently need trained staff, implementations and customer references to get a competency. That doesn’t change under the new partner network, but Microsoft is now looking for more detail such as additional references.”
Forgesson says the partner programme changes will be better for Intergen and its customers.
“It enables us to focus on those areas of differentiation. There are [Microsoft] areas we’re stronger in so that will be reflected by having advanced competencies.”