Microsoft is overhauling its partner program by phasing out its gold, certified and general register tiers and migrating partners to a competency-based model.
Called the Microsoft Partner Network, the changes were announced at the software giant’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, this week.
New categories in the program are community, subscriber, competency and advanced competency. The existing points model used to assign partners will be discontinued.
“The way to think about those four categorisations is as landing sites,” recently-appointed Microsoft Australia partner strategy and programs directory, Inese Kingsmill, said. “They basically allow partners to, in many regards, tailor the engagement they want to have with Microsoft and with each other.
“It is really around what is the level of engagement and requirement that you want from the Microsoft Partner Network in terms of what it can deliver through connections with peers, customers and with respect to anything else in the program.”
The software vendor has also created 30 new solution competencies across areas such as infrastructure and business productivity.
The changes will be rolled out over the next two years. In the first 12 months, the company will focus on reorganising partners into the new competency classifications.
Existing Gold partners will retain their classification for the first 12 months, after which time Microsoft will evaluate partner qualifications and certify them according to the new model. Those Gold partners looking to enrol or re-enrol in the program must also participate in the Customer Satisfaction Index within the last year.
All partners can continue to use current marketing paraphernalia until the 2011 enrolment period. Six months after this date they must adopt the new logo system.
“Everything that those partners have invested in terms of their certifications and commitment to Microsoft, and they currently have, with the program fully transfers across to the new program,” Kingsmill said. “It is not like they are losing things they have got now. All of those commitments continue and roll over. The message is continue, don’t stop, keep moving forward with certifications to grow your business as you normally would to make sure you land in the new categorisation of the partner network in the right place.
“It is fair to say we will be looking at our Gold and Certified partners very carefully to make sure they land in the right place and the partners that are currently registered in the program we will obviously be communicating to them more programmatically and making sure they are staying abreast of the information.”
More detail of the new program and how it will affect Australian partners is expected to be announced at the Australian Partner Conference in September.
As part of a swag of announcements made at the partner conference the vendor is: Re-launching its Partner Learning Center; introducing partner tools for sales and pipeline management; expanding its Profitability Modeller; and introducing a Practice Builder and Services Ready initiative, where partners can accelerate practice development.
It is also offering several new or updated sales and marketing tools along with access to online collaborative portals for technical support and relationship building.
The company also said it will “release the biggest wave of new products and services in its history” over the next 12 months and claimed to have 640,000 partners globally serving 160 million customers.