Microsoft has opened enrolment for its Microsoft Partner Program, a new program announced in October that will combine Microsoft's traditional partners with those it inherited when it bought Great Plains Software and Navision.
Microsoft bills its new program as the biggest overhaul in the way it deals with partners since the launch of its Solution Provider program in 1993.
The Microsoft Partner Program was set to go into effect next month and would gradually be built out over the course of 15 to 18 months, the company has said.
Microsoft Business Solutions partners, which include the former Great Plains and Navision partners, would join in July 2004.
The new partner program recognises partners at three levels: registered, certified and gold certified. Each level has different requirements. Partners can highlight specialisations by enrolling in what Microsoft calls Microsoft Competencies, of which 11 will be available.
The specialisation is not only meant to distinguish partners to services and software buying customers, but also to Microsoft. The software maker plans to focus partner communications and support based on the competencies.
Beginning in April 2004, partners will be able to earn Partner Points to elevate their status. Points are earned by meeting specific criteria in a variety of categories, such as certifications, customer satisfaction, specialisation and number of tested Microsoft-based applications.
Existing Microsoft partners at the "certified" and "gold" levels as well as "certified" Microsoft Business Solutions partners would be grandfathered in to the new program at their current levels, Microsoft said.