Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Microsoft Partner Network

The amount of discussion around the new MPN is increasing, and the information available to help explain it seems to have settled out, so I am going to take a little time to address the coming changes. There are a series of common questions and whines that seem to be consistent, so I'll share my take on what is to come from what I believe to be true.

The first question regards when the new MPN takes effect. October is the launch of the program broadly, although some aspects have been slowly intergrated into the current program over the last months. But October is the official date, so that is when things kick into gear. I have had lots of questions and confusion around why we continue to get the report cards monthly with points listed on them. These are informational and are important for companies whose renewals are happening prior to October. The information is valid under the current program, but will go away once we reach the October launch. No more points. Note: your renewal date will actually be the transition date from the old program to the new. Everyone does not make the switch on October 1, but as your renewal date comes you will be moved to MPN.

A very common discussion is around the gold level. The new gold in MPN is not equivalent to the current gold in the program today. My perspective is this, and my disclaimer is that this is my opinion only so take it for what it is worth. I think the current gold level becomes roughly equivalent to the silver certified level in the new program. Gold in the new MPN (formerly called advanced competencies) is a level that is not available today. But it is very much like becoming gold in the current program was some years back. It is designed to be a differentiator, and it is designed to be difficult, and it is designed to keep most partners from being at the new gold level. It is supposed to be hard to achieve. Just because you are gold today you SHOULD NOT expect to be gold at your next renewal. They are not equivalent levels. So many partners are voicing displeasure (whining in my vernacular) about the fact that they can't or at least are not planning to make the investment required to remain gold under the new program.

Here is the reality. If being gold in the new MPN is important to you - it really is not unattainable. It takes 4 engineers and some sales to achieve it. That allows you to be at the highest certification level that Microsoft offers a partner. I don't think that is too much to expect. Some will say "easy for you to say since you have so many employees". The hard truth and reality is that a company with less than 4 people cannot expect to be equal to a company with 75, nor can we at 75 expect to be equal to companies with hundreds or thousands of engineers. All IT companies are not equal. Microsoft has taken a good shot at making differentiation possible. I would never say that we have the same level of expertise that our larger competitors have. We are not as deep, don't have as many resources, etc etc. I know it is a hard pill to swallow but we at HTS will move from a half dozen competencies to one or two in this program. It is a reality that change is coming. And that is the design.

Change happens. It always has, and it always will. The speed of change continues to increase so that means we have a few choices to make:
  • Resist it, fight it, refuse to participate
  • Grumble about it, drag our feet, grudgingly move toward it
  • Embrace it, support it, lead others through it

Which of those describes your approach to change? The train has left the station so I encourage you to embrace it and figure out where you will fit into the new MPN. There are some resources available to you:

You can create a customized transition plan to the Microsoft Partner Network by calling the Microsoft Partner Network Experts at 1-877-254-6825. You can work with an MPN Expert to develop a customized transition plan to help you understand your current partner status and identify what actions your organization will need to take to meet your membership goals under the Microsoft Partner Network:

  • Your organization’s status toward achieving new silver or gold competencies based on the competencies you have currently achieved
    – Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs)
    – Exam requirements for those MCPs
    – Training and Assessments
  • Licensing Assessment
  • Sales & Marketing Assessment
  • References

    If you prefer to work on it yourself, the new transition tool is now available. You can find it here. Eric Ligman wrote a great blog post to lead you through using it that can be found here. Lots of resources to begin the process. But the message is to get started now. It will require some tests to be passed and some planning to be done in most cases. Don't sit back and wait. Find out where you are today, and then you will know what your options are and what needs to be done to move to the place in MPN you desire to be.

    There is another piece of great news from Microsoft that you should be aware of. This week the US SBSC team has made $500 available to their partners. Microsoft Small Business Specialists (SBSCs) have access to rebate funds reserved exclusively for them! SBSCs are eligible to receive up to $500 back on marketing investments.

Funds are available for you to drive demand generation efforts through Ready-to-Go Marketing (includes Events, Campaigns, and various Marketing Services). We want to help you to grow your business.

Don't wait: These funds exclusive to SBSCs are valid until December 31, 2010 or until supplies last. More information is available here. To get your reimbursement, submit your invoice at Your special promotional code is: 'SBSC500H1'.

Get started today. Spend the marketing money. Use the online tool. Call the toll free help line. Just start the process and work toward your goal. Planning makes this happen. Remember that vision without execution is hallucination. And if you don't think it is worth the effort - that is your choice - just remember who made it. Don't complain about Microsoft if you choose not to participate in the new MPN. That is something you will decide, not them!


Richard Tubb said...

One of the best summaries I've seen of the MPN changes. Thanks for sharing Arlin!

Scott Bekker said...

Great post Arlin. I'd take your point about the feasibility of achieving Gold status on a competency a step further. Microsoft lowered the Gold requirement for the new Midsize Solution Provider Competency to three engineers, down from the four required for every other competency. The Midsize Solution Provider Competency seems designed as a catchall for a broad group of partners, and looks like one of the best upgrade paths for smaller shops looking to retain both a generalist approach and a Gold logo.

BJ Farmer said...

Thank you Arlin

This post has some great info and I appreciate you incorporating what your company is doing to move forward so I have a gauge

Stuart R. Crawford said...

Arlin, thanks for the reminder about the importance of change and the choices that are available to us. As you know I have been on a 24 month change cycle. I love what I do now and love the fact that I have an opportunity to continue to serve the community I cherish.


Stuart Crawford
MSP Marketing Coach

Sharon Collins said...

Thanks for the great post, Arlin! I’d like to make one point of clarification around the Gold branding discussion. The new branding is now tiered at the competency level, instead of the organizational level. This is a fundamental change in the branding approach that makes it tricky to compare the new gold & silver brands to the current Gold Certified & Certified brands. In MPN, there will no longer be a “gold level”. In fact, many partners will likely have a combination of gold and silver competencies. Today, partners are either Gold or Certified, not both.