After six months in development, Microsoft went live last week with its new "partner portal", which forms part of the software giant's new worldwide Internet strategy.
John Ball, distribution manager for Microsoft Australia, said the new site is "plugging into a global infrastructure" which allows far easier navigation and access to information critical to its partners.
Ball wouldn't disclose how much the project had cost but he did say 10 people have been working on the site in Australia for six months and that there was probably a similar team in the US helping to integrate it.
"It has enabled us to better utilise some of the fantastic US-based services and features, although the content for the partner portal will definitely still be controlled from Australia," Ball said.
"We will also now be working with partners more efficiently. They will have rapid and easy access to newsgroups, sales and marketing tools, service packs, technical support and webcasts on products. There should be far less time spent waiting on the phone for call centre support.
Microsoft's channel partners now have to go through a fairly extensive profiling process to gain access to the content-rich secure section of the portal. Ball said security and privacy issues were paramount in the development of the portal.
"There was a massive amount of attention paid to security and privacy," he said. "It added a whole layer of complexity to the project. Microsoft is very serious about security and privacy."
Ball said partners should have no trouble using the new site, but if they do, Microsoft's call centre staff have been trained on helping portal users register and find what they are after.
While most of the partners that will be using the site don't actually buy from Microsoft (they buy from distributors), the site is e-commerce-enabled and is generally a key part of the company's shift to being an e-business.
Some of the sales and marketing tools available to partners attract a fee but they can now be ordered and paid for online.
Stage two of the site to be launched next year will include separate sections for different types of Microsoft partners. There will be separate secure sections for distributors, retailers, licensing partners, application developers and consulting partners as well as a host of other features such as a direct voice-over-IP hot button to the call centre.
A separate site for systems builders will also be merged into the partner portal next year.http://www.microsoft.com/australia/partner.