To meet the rapidly changing business needs of customers across the globe, Microsoft is evolving its partner program. Starting October 2022, Microsoft will be changing the name of its partner program from “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program”. The new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will be available to all the partners in the Microsoft network, irrespective of whether they build or sell solutions, services, or devices. This new partner program with more focus on Cloud is aimed at achieving innovation and growth for its partners to help them scale their business.
What is the new “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program”?
Microsoft has advocated a four-pronged rationale for its new Microsoft Partner Network Program:
- Simplifying the programs for partners
- Delivering greater customer value
- Investing in partner growth in new and innovative ways
- Enabling and empowering partners to drive customer value
Currently, Microsoft Partners can attract customers by achieving one or more of Microsoft’s 18 “competencies” which shows that they are experts in that area. These existing 18 specializations or competencies will be streamlined and simplified into six solution areas:
- Data & AI (Azure)
- Infrastructure (Azure)
- Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
- Business Applications
- Modern Work
These are high-demand Microsoft Cloud solution areas providing opportunities for scale to meet the business demands of customers.
Solution Partner Designations
One key change in the evolving Microsoft Partner Network Programs is the replacing of the current silver and gold tiers with a single tier designation model. The partner designation will be the first avenue for you to set yourself apart by demonstrating your capabilities and competencies in the solutions areas. To measure the performance of partners for partner designations, a holistic partner capability score will be calculated based on your technical capabilities and other factors.
Attaining a solution partner designation
To be eligible for a solution partner designation, you have to have a partner capability score of a minimum of 70 points out of the maximum available 100 points in any of the solution areas. The score will be dependent on three major categories, and you will have the flexibility to focus more on one versus the other based on the nature of your business. These categories include:
- Performance, which is measured by the net customer adds
- Skilling, measured on the basis of opportunities offered for upskilling with certifications (intermediate and advanced) and trainings
- Customer success, measured on the basis of usage growth and number of solution deployments
To avail of the solutions partner designation benefits, an annual fee of $4,730 or equivalent will be applicable, the local fee may vary. Once, you have attained solutions partner designation in one area, the subsequent solutions partner designations can be obtained by meeting the criteria at no additional cost.
In this new model, there will be two qualifying levels:
- Solutions Partner: Based on achieving the minimum partner capability score i.e., 70 points in a particular solutions area.
- Specializations and expert programs: A differentiator for solution partners based on earning advanced specializations by having deep technical expertise and experience in workload scenarios specific to the six solution areas.
These levels will help your customer understand your capabilities better and identify the partners best suited for their business.
There are numerous benefits associated with the solutions partner designation. These benefits have been designed such that they can be relevant in addressing the needs of different Microsoft Partners. These benefits will help you grow your business by increasing your customer outreach, providing more exposure to your business, and helping you gain knowledge and gain technical skills. There are two types of benefits:
Provided irrespective of the solutions partner designation. These common benefits will include:
Marketing or “Go-To-Market” benefits
Focused on increasing customer reach and enabling greater visibility for partners:
- Partner “Go-To-Market” toolbox
- How to market with Microsoft consultation
- Profile optimization and referral management
- Digital marketing content on demand
- Ready to go marketing assets
- Geo expansion readiness assessment
- Co-selling with Microsoft
Support and advisory benefits
Focused on facilitating technical skilling, enablement, and support:
- Technical presales and deployment services, including advisory hours for architecture and deployment scenarios
- Personalized assistance, comprehensive courses, etc.
- Microsoft product support for troubleshooting
These will depend upon the solutions partner designation attained at will be an addition to the common benefits. These will focus on encouraging business development. The product benefits such as Azure bulk credits, cloud service subscriptions, access to development environments, on-premises licenses, etc. will be aligned to the solutions partner designations or specializations.
Adjusting to the new program might take some time for partners. Therefore, Microsoft has announced relaxed timelines with room for readiness. Here is a quick snapshot of the key timelines:
March 16, 2022
- Announcement of the new Microsoft Cloud Program.
- You can check your progress towards becoming solutions partner on your dashboard in the Partner Center.
September 30, 2022
- Last day to renew the legacy competencies and their benefits, there will be no renewal of competencies post this date.
- Associated badging will be valid only till October 2022, but benefits can be retained.
October 3, 2022
- New solution partner designations available for attainment
- No further competency renewals
- Partners need to achieve the minimum required capability score of 70 points to attain a solutions partner designation
Earning 70 or more points in any of the six solution areas at General Availability (GA) will make you eligible to attain the solutions partner designation. You will receive the new designation between the GA and your first-anniversary date, and you can download your new customer-facing badge from the Logo Builder in the Partner Center. On the first anniversary after GA, you can opt for the solutions partner benefits or the legacy benefits by paying the annual membership fee associated with them.
In case you are unable to score 70 points or more at GA, your existing competency benefits without the associated badging will continue till your first-anniversary date after GA. Any time after GA, when you can meet the criteria, you can attain the solutions partner designation and choose the benefits at your anniversary date.