New MS programme kicks off

New MS programme kicks off

RESPONSE in the local channel to Microsoft’s new partner programme, which was launched globally last month, has been positive, although resellers want clarification around some of the complexities in the programme.

Under the new scheme, Microsoft has introduced different options for partners to ascend its certification ranks that are more linked to their technical and business skills.

One such concept is Partner Points that count toward certification, with 50 required for certified partners and 120 for Gold.

Points are accrued around a partner’s skills and can currently be earned by specialisation in a particular skill set or competency, having a solution certified by Microsoft and through customer references.

Later in the year, points will also be awarded through independent customer satisfaction surveys and attendance at worldwide and regional partner conferences.

Competencies are designed to enable partners to identify their areas of specialisation and also count toward certification, with at least one required to become a Gold partner.

Seven competencies will initially be recognised, including Networking Infrastructure, Business Intelligence, Learning and ISV/software solutions. The other three, Microsoft Business Solutions, OEM Hardware and Licensing Solutions, will be added in the third quarter of the year.

Microsoft plans to tailor marketing and initiate partnerships in the channel based on the competencies.

Current certified partners, including Maclean Computing, ATL Systems and Kinetics Group, say they are evaluating which one they want to be identified with.

Mike Milne of ATL Systems says his company will continue to demonstrate its value to Microsoft under the new system.

“ATL Systems has invested a significant amount into building our relationship with Microsoft, and hopefully our position in the new programme will reflect this.”

Some Gold partners, such as Simpl Group, say the changes are unlikely to diminish their status, while others, including TechTonics, are assessing the potential effects.

Jason Westland of Gold partner Designer Technology is positive about the new programme, but is uncertain whether it makes Gold certification easier or harder to attain.

However, he regards a strong relationship with the vendor as crucial to generate high brand awareness.

According to Microsoft partner group manager Steve Haddock, the new programme is based on feedback and is essential, as it has not been altered in over a decade, while business has become more complex.

“Our partners are more vertically focused and customers often want specialists. The old partner programme did not reflect this.”

Haddock concedes that some of the new ideas behind the programme may seem complex at first, but says account managers can communicate the details to partners.

Some partners say the changes are unlikely to encourage them to become certified, as the benefits do not outweigh the additional costs.

One reseller, who did not wish to be identified, says it sells high volumes of Microsoft software, but since it purchases products at the same price as its certified counterparts, the cost of certification is not warranted.

“Unlike many other vendors, Microsoft does not build in price protection or exclusivity for all but the top-end products,” says the reseller.

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