The renewed Microsoft Gold certification status will take shape in October and it also plans to introduce new part incentives during the next 12 months.
Microsoft vice-president of worldwide partner sales, Ross Brown, said it had identified a problem within its 27,000 global Gold partners and about 15,000 Certified partners.
"They way you got to the level was through a points-based model, partners were figuring out what's the fastest way to get the points for Gold, regardless of whether it had anything to do with their business," Brown said. "We needed to make the program more relevant."
"Unless you're driving actual customer engagements for us, I don't want you in the top tier of the program, I want deeply committed loyal partners there. We want to see from deal creation to closure, who actually drove the solution and credit them."
Some of the biggest changes its making to its Gold status is getting partners to invest in personnel in specialised areas.
"In the past, we allowed partners to have one person take an test, and we'll count him towards six competencies. There's no way that in everyday of your job, you can do the subject matter of six different disciplines to the depth that it's going to make you an expert," he said. "The one requirement we have set is that we don't want to see duplication of MCPs so if there is one person certified in one particular competency, you can't reuse them for another competency. That creates a specialisation focus."
It has also introduced a comprehensive measurement of partner's capabilities beyond completing a test. Some of these measurements involve customer case studies and how satified the client is with the partner's project work.
A revenue requirement for each competency has also been put in place, Brown said. There are 22 competencies such as unified communications and virtualisation.
Microsoft partners that have previously held a Gold status, have to re-certified to ensure they fit the criteria.
"Our partners that have been saying there were too many Gold certified partners," Brown said. "Some of them have said they can't make Gold anymore and that's because they're not meeting the requirements and we have to set a bar somewhere.
"Gold doesn't mean you're a good partner, it means you're deep in an area, but you can be very valuable to customers and Microsoft just by being a base level of competency."
Earlier this year it announced a deal registration program for partners for virtualisation and management.
Microsoft Australia partner director, George Stavrakakis, said partners had embraced the differentiation and that it was committed to the relationship.
"We've got the proof points, domain experts and we're investing in the technology sets, Stavrakakis said.
Brown said it was a two-year process to decide to make changes and there were a number of factors contributing towards it.
"We knew it was going to be disruptive to partners and that's a distraction to what they do because they only concentrate on driving customer value," Brown said. "We're trying to provide partners with the transition tools and communication, so when they're ready, the material is available and they get through it in a coherent way."
Stavrakakis said it had to change and adapt to make sure it was ahead of the pack and still relevant for customers.
Microsoft will also be introducing new partner incentives over the next year, but Brown couldn't provide further details at this point in time.
"There will be a significant shift in our incentive models," Brown said. "Nobody spends more on channel incentives worldwide than we do."
Julia Talevski attended the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference as a guest of Microsoft.