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Microsoft re-launches competencies and partner points plan

Company issues three tiers for partners based on a new point structure, competencies and customer winsrn

The last time Microsoft Corp. updated its partner program for competencies was 12 years ago. The company admitted this to emphasize the importance of the re-launch of competencies section of the plan, said Darren Bibby, partner development manager for programs at Microsoft Canada Co.

“”More than

96 per cent of our revenue is driven through partners and this (program) puts into place why partners are so important,”” Bibby said.

A new partner points portion of the plan will accompany the upgrade to competencies.

The overall goal of this upgrade is to help partners clearly define their areas of specialization with Microsoft products so that they can offer value-added solutions.

Microsoft will start the progam with eight competencies and add an additional three by year’s end.

They are: networking infrastructure, advanced infrastructure, security, integrated e-business, business intelligence, information worker productivity, independent software vendor software solutions, and learning solutions.

Microsoft Business Solutions competencies, OEM hardware for system builders, and licensing solutions will be released later on this year.

Also the new plan will be flexible to include all types of partners regardless of size or specialization.

This program has three tiers: registered, certified and gold.

To attain Microsoft partner certification a reseller has to pass an exam on the specific competency and submit three business wins in that area, except for the learning solution competency where the partner just needs one.

More than 85 per cent of the partners are currently in the certified tier, Bibby said. With registered, it will add approximately 8,000 more partners. Microsoft certified and gold partners total 1,300.

To partners the designations means “”Microsoft has validated that I am good at something,”” said Bibby. “”We make them go through some hoops to earn that creditation.””

The competencies plan will give partners the Microsoft stamp of approval for these eight competencies, Bibby said. He believes this type of branding will help validate partners in the market place.

Microsoft will provide further assistance with a marketing campaign that will feature between eight to 10 of these specialized partners, he added.

In addition, competencies provide a road map that partners can use to collaborate with other partners.

The partner points section of the plan works this way: Each partner receives 50 points once they become a certified partner. To reach gold status that partner has to reach the 120-point mark. Registered partners start at zero.

Starting in April, partners can earn points by meeting specific criteria for a variety of activities related to developing, reselling, servicing and supporting solutions, and training customers.

Those partners who have already reached certified status will be grandfathered in. They will have to regain their points starting next year.

“”Before we only measured on certification or testing of products. Now we are adding references and will eventually launch a customer satisfaction (requirement),”” Bibby said.

Customer satisfaction requirements are not manditory today, but will be soon, he added. The mechanism will see the top 25 per cent in customer satisfaction receive extra points.

Bibby said that customer satisfaction tracking is too complex of a process and that Microsoft will hire a third party research firm to manage the results.

“”We respect the partner’s need for privacy. Partners want to know how well they are doing,”” he said.