What has happened to the Microsoft Partner Channel, and is it good for my business?
This will impact 400,000 businesses that have some level of Microsoft partnership. I can actually no longer refer to the ‘certification of partners’ as the term ‘Certified Microsoft Partner’ has been dropped.
Until last month, a small IT provider could relatively easily obtain a level of Microsoft partnership with just two certified staff. Now, the bar has been raised in an attempt to help the market place choose the right partner. My spin on this is that it got too easy for small providers to become Gold Partners, and so the larger companies could not distinguish themselves in the market place anymore. Of course, I didn’t think that five years ago when I became the smallest Gold Certified Partner in Australia!
Over the past few years, larger technology companies were pushing Microsoft to introduce a Platinum level to improve the ability to create market place awareness of supplier capability and scale. The program has now been given the overhaul it needed.
Now, tech companies qualify as a Microsoft Partner, and go on from there to score technology-based competencies at either Silver or Gold level. Four qualified staff are now required in a field to gain Gold status, as well as reference sites and many other hoops to jump through.
Of course, all of this is very political and relevant to my industry, but what does it mean for you – the customer?
Well, it means you can actually qualify the capabilities of a company based on the industry awards they hold once again. The grading value has been returned, and a company with a Silver or Gold level competency in technology probably has some genuine skills in that area. Just like when you hire a new staff member, you look to qualifications to improve your chances of getting the best person for a job, you can now apply this to your outsourcing choices too.
If you need help figuring out what kind of partner you need, and at what level for a particular skill type, there is help available from Microsoft.
The last update I got from Microsoft suggested that less than 25% of previous Gold Partners have been able to transfer to a Gold Competency, so the plan has worked just the way it was designed to. While this is harsh for the small businesses that have been marked down, it will make it easier for you to find the right people to provide your future IT services.
If your business is small and needs budget solutions, you will seek a partner with a Silver Competency. If your business is larger or more demanding on IT functionality, you will seek a partner with a Gold Competency.
Click here to read more IT Systems expert advice.
David Markus is the founder of Combo - the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.