Microsoft has gone live with its new Cloud Partner Program (MCPP). Originally announced in March, the program marks a shift in partnership strategy towards a cloud-first approach with Azure taking centre-stage.
Microsoft dubs this the partner program’s “first material change in 15 years”, and is for all partners in its ecosystem regardless of whether they build and sell services, software solutions or devices.
According to Microsoft, the program “aims to better align partners’ go-to-market motion with the way customers buy Microsoft products today”.
The program roll-out is one of the first tasks for its new partner chief Nicole Dezen, whojoined the business in July.
Effective from 3 October, the legacy silver and gold competencies are replaced with six new ‘Solutions Partner’ designations, now generally available to all partners.
The six solutions areas are data and AI (Azure), infrastructure (Azure), digital and app innovation (Azure), business applications, modern work, and security.
In order to “better understand a partner’s capabilities”, Microsoft has unveiled two qualifying levels. One of these is a solutions partner level that is designated based on a partner’s “capability score” (PCS). Partners gain a capability score based on their certifications, added customers, successful deployments and overall growth.
To attain a solutions partner designation, partners will need to earn a PCS of at least 70 points out of an available 100 points across the four measurement areas.
“Investment in partner growth and success requires a robust, objective measurement of progress against a partner’s chosen solution areas,” Microsoft said in a statement, adding that the PCS will help it “quantify” that progress.
Partners that have already met the requirements for a designation through legacy benefits will receive it immediately. Partners that meet the requirements but don’t have legacy benefits will receive the designation after paying the fee.
Legacy silver and gold competency badges are no longer valid. Partners will continue to receive legacy benefits until their next anniversary date, at which time partners do have the option of maintaining their old benefits aligned to their gold or silver status. Partners that qualify as solutions partners, however, will get the opportunity to switch to the new benefits.
A solutions partner dashboard in the ‘partner centre’ provide status tracking for designations. Supplementing these designations are additional industry designations for partners who build software, starting with retail, healthcare, and financial services.
"With the global reach, strategic investments, and technology stack from Microsoft, we empower our partners to create and sell differentiated products and end-to-end solutions for customers in any scenario and every industry," Dezen said in her blog. "Additionally, we are committed to making the Cloud Partner Program a beneficial place for all partners, whether you build and sell services, software solutions, or devices."
Microsoft has also launched a resource for independent software vendors (ISVs), the ISV Success Program. This arm of the program is currently in private preview, moving to public preview ‘later this year’. Details of the program were released earlier in the year and was met with mixed feelings from partners.
Cloud has been on the cards for Microsoft for a number of years now. However, as more customer accelerated cloud transformations during the pandemic, Microsoft’s cloud commitments increased.
In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began its global spread, Microsoft introduced a number of competency extensions across specific product portfolios such as Teams and Azure, alongside postponing Microsoft Partner Agreement implementation plans. This was in addition to ramping up online training and certifications, backed by improved access to digital marketing resources.
At the time, Microsoft said it aimed to — in its own words — empower businesses in their respective industry verticals to deliver value faster, adapt quickly to changing conditions and build for the future, with security at the core.
Shortly after, Microsoft's channel chief Gavriella Schuster exited her role after more than five years paving the way for Rodney Clark to take over.