FOUR fresh partner competencies and a category for small business specialists are some of the new initiatives from Microsoft that should press the buttons of local partners.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this month, Microsoft announced a number of revamps to its partner programme.
This includes four new competencies for partners with skills in custom development, mobility, licensing and OEM hardware solutions.
Microsoft introduced competencies to its partner programme last year to enable certified partners to identify their areas of specialisation.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is throwing its weight behind resellers who focus on small businesses, classified as companies with fewer than 50 PCs, with a new category, the small business specialist community.
Steve Guggenheimer, vice president of small business in Redmond’s partner group, says the scheme will highlight partners focused on this segment and will help customers find partners with the skills they need.
“It has been hard for small businesses to find partners and for partners to differentiate themselves,” he says.
To qualify as a small business specialist resellers need to be registered Microsoft partners and provide evidence of their understanding of the small business market.
“They need to understand how small businesses operate and how to work with them,” says Guggenheimer.
They also have to subscribe to Microsoft Action Pack, which, at NZ$800 a year, gives them access to all of the vendor’s latest technology.
Small business specialists can use special branding to identify themselves and will have access to promotional materials designed especially for them.
They will also be highlighted in the Partner Finder section of Microsoft’s online portal for small businesses.
Details of how the programme will be rolled out locally are still being thrashed out, but Steve Haddock, partner group manager at Microsoft New Zealand, says this specialisation is particularly relevant to the local market.
“Customers want to know they can go to the right partners with the right skills,” he says.
“There is great value in this programme for partners who want to be part of it.”
Microsoft will use the programme to ensure partners are skilled up in its latest products and obtain certifications, says Haddock.
To keep the speciality meaningful, Microsoft will limit the number of partners who can enrol in the programme to between 50 and 80, says Haddock.
Opportunities abound in the small business sector, says Haddock, adding he is recruiting another person to his team to support partners operating in this space.
Louis van Wyk travelled to Minneapolis as a guest of Microsoft. Read more coverage of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on pages 8 and 9.