Microsoft has set out to radically overhaul and simplify its channel relationships, telling resellers at its annual partner conference in New Orleans that it will consolidate more than 50 different programs into one.
Announcing the “profound change” in a letter to partners on Microsoft’s website, vice-president of worldwide partner sales and marketing, Allison Watson said the new program would be phased in over 18 months, starting in January.
The “Next Generation” program will give greater standing to partners focused on mid-market and SMB customers, as well as adding several competency areas. The scheme had been designed to build closer relationships with partners, as well as between partners, Watson said.
Speaking to ARN ahead of the official Microsoft announcement, National channel manager, Kerstin Baxter, said the vendor was working towards a “single partner program framework” in response to the current scheme which she admitted “can be confusing and a little bit complicated.
New competencies being added were the OEM hardware solutions, ISV/software solutions, licensing and Software asset management solutions. The advanced infrastructure solutions competency had been retooled to allow mid-market and SMB-facing partners to become gold and certified partners, Baxter said.
The program also introduces a new partner level, registered member, for those partners who do not wish to specialise and become certified or gold partners. Registered members won’t be required to attain partner points, but will still receive support through such means as Microsoft’s partner portal.
Under the new scheme, certified and gold partners will be required to achieve partner points to maintain their certification. Partner points will be awarded for a range of activities or achievements, including Microsoft competencies, customer satisfaction, individual certifications such as the MCSE, and new business wins.
The change in requirements for certified and gold partners would make it easier for partners in “smaller geographies” to attain certification, Baxter said.
“In many ways we were a little too skewed to enterprise,” she said.
The competency framework would allow Microsoft to offer tailored support to partners based on their specialisations, Baxter said.
It would also help partners differentiate themselves to customers: “At the moment, we have around 800 certified partners in Australia,” Baxter said. “For a customer to know which one to choose can be difficult.”
All existing Microsoft partners will be automatically “grandfathered” into the new program, which begins in January.
While existing partners were the primary focus, the new competencies would start to come into effect in April, Baxter said.
“As of June or July the MS Business Solutions partners will be fully integrated in the program,” she said.
Microsoft last week mailed letters to all of its existing certified partners and Business Solution partners informing them of the new partner program.
It will follow up with phone calls from account managers in two to three weeks, Baxter said.