As announced in March 2022, a major revamp of the Microsoft CSP program. Starting October 2022, the Microsoft Partner Network will be called the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. In this new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, the existing Gold and Silver competencies will be retired. Instead, Microsoft Partners will be required to earn designations in one or more technology-specific solution areas.
Six new “solutions partner” designations will replace the 18 legacy competencies. The six new designations are Data & AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work, and Security. The purpose of creating these new designations is to help customers identify Microsoft Partners with expertise and skills in the high-demand Microsoft Cloud solution areas.
Microsoft has also updated the partner benefits and they are now aligned with the new solutions partner designations. When a Microsoft CSP attains a solution partner designation, they will receive the benefits packages associated with that designation. There will be some common benefits for all solution partners such as:
- Go-To-Market support, personalized consultations to help with marketing plans
- Technical pre-sales and deployment services that will enable faster solution delivery, technical support, etc.
- A customer-facing badge that acts as a differentiator and makes them easily identifiable to customers looking to work with partners with expertise in the solution area.
Apart from these, there will be specific product benefits such as cloud licenses, Azure credits, etc.
As Microsoft has identified these six solution areas as high demand, Microsoft CSPs have an opportunity to tap this market, reach out to more customers, and scale their business by becoming solutions partners.
Understanding Partner Capability Score
The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will offer two qualifying levels for the partners: the solutions partner and the specializations or expert programs. A Microsoft CSP can become solutions partner by earning a minimum of 70 points (out of 100) in any one of the solution areas. They can further achieve advanced specializations in different solution areas that will demonstrate their deep expertise in that area. Both these designations will make it simpler for customers to identify and partner with Microsoft CSPs who have the technical capability and expertise in the particular cloud solution area.
To objectively measure and quantify the performance of the partner in each of the solution areas, Microsoft has developed a partner capability score. To qualify for a solutions partner designation, a Microsoft CSP needs to have a partner capability score of at least 70 points out of a total possible 100 points. Also, the points under each category should be more than zero. As per their technical capabilities and expertise, partners are free to earn one or more solutions partner designations. Partners can track their progress at Partner Center to see how close they are to attaining a solutions partner designation.
Partner capability score will be a combination of points earned in three categories:
This category will measure the number of customers added. It focuses on increasing the customer base for CSP as well as Microsoft. Net customers add is the metric that is measured under this category. A CSP can gain points under this category by partnering with eligible customers. The customers eligible to be counted under this metric can be customers who are new to Microsoft or were using Microsoft products earlier but are now associated with a new partner. The eligibility criteria for customers will also vary as per the solution area.
To calculate the net customer, add, any lost customers will be subtracted from new customers added in the trailing 12-month period.
Microsoft has always been focused on ensuring that its partners have the right skills and capabilities to deliver solutions in the most effective manner. Thus, under this category, CSPs will have to earn certifications to get credits under different solution areas. This will demonstrate the technical capabilities and skills acquired by people linked to a partner organization. There are two types of metrics in the skilling category
- Intermediate Certifications- this will measure the number of people having intermediate certifications in a particular solution area
- Advanced Certifications- this will measure the number of people having advanced certifications in a particular solution area. Some solution areas might not have advanced certifications.
Customer Success Category
Customer success and customer experience is critical to the growth of any business. Customer success is often visible with high levels of customer stickiness and deepening of relationships with increased levels of transactions. Thus, this is the final category on which the partner capability score is dependent. The metrics used in measuring the progress under the customer success category are usage growth and deployments.
- Usage growth- This will determine the growth in usage of Microsoft products by existing customers over the last 12 months. To earn points under the partner capability score the CSPs will have to achieve the threshold and eligibility criteria set for the different solution areas.
- Deployments- A CSP can earn points under this metric based on the growth in customer deployments. To be counted for calculating the partner capability score, the deployment should meet the qualifying criteria specific to the solution area.
The partner capability score allows CSPs to combine the points earned under different metrics to qualify for a solutions partner designation. As long as the score in every metric is greater than zero, CSPs can focus on scoring more under one category to improve their overall partner capability score. Depending on the key business priorities, CSPs can determine their focus areas and don’t have to boil the ocean to score very high in each category. This allows CSPs the flexibility to choose the path they wish to take to become a solutions partner.
Attaining Solutions Partner Designations
Each of the six solution areas has its own eligibility, threshold, and qualifying criteria to earn points under one of the three categories of the partner capability score. Let us look at how to achieve a partner capability score under each solution area.
Solutions partner for Data & AI, Infrastructure, and Digital App & Innovation
The three solutions partner designations under Azure: Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation, and Infrastructure have common qualifying criteria and thresholds in the performance and customer success category. The certification requirement under the skilling category varies with the solution areas. The considerations for the three categories are:
Maximum threshold of 30 points. Each customer addition adds 10 points to the score, with a potential to add 3 customers in total for maximum impact.
Eligibility: Customer spend of over USD 1,000 of Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR) in at least one of the previous two months.
The following certifications are available for this designation:
As a prerequisite, the Microsoft CSP should have at least two people with Azure Administrator Associate certification. Each qualifying individual earns four points with 20 points being the maximum.
The intermediate certifications include:
- Azure Network Engineer Associate
- Azure Stack Hub Operator Associate
- Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate
Digital & App Innovation
- Azure Developer Associate
- Power Platform Developer Associate
Data & AI
- Azure Database Administrator Associate
- Azure AI Engineer Associate
- Azure Data Scientist Associate
- Azure Data Engineer Associate
- Data Analyst Associate
As a prerequisite, the Microsoft CSP should have at least two people with Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification. Obtaining any one of the advanced certifications helps CSPs score four points for each certification and a maximum of 20 points can be earned
The advanced certifications include:
- Azure Virtual Desktop Specialty
- Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
Digital & App Innovation
- Azure IoT Developer Specialty
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Power Platform Solution Architect Expert
Data & AI
- Customer Data Platform Specialty
- Azure Cosmos DB Developer Specialty
Customer Success Category
Thresholds and eligibility include:
Usage growth: Determined by the growth in the aggregated ACR over the last 12 months. Monthly growth of 10% will fetch the CSP 10 points with a maximum cap of 20 points (20% growth).
Deployment: Measures the number of unique Service Level 2 services deployed over the last 12 months except for Virtual Machines and Virtual Machine Licenses where each deployment earns two points subject to a maximum of 10 points can be for deploying five services.
Solutions partner for Security
To attain the designation of Solution Partner for Security, a CSP must have a partner capability score of 70 points by providing services on Microsoft 365 or on Azure services. The partner capability score here has four metrics divided into three categories.
Each customer 2 points, subject to a maximum of 20 points.
Eligibility for Azure Security: Customers with monthly ACR of at least USD100 in the last 12 months.
Eligibility for Microsoft 365: Customers with at least 25 paid seats in the consideration month.
In Security, only intermediate certifications are available. Each qualified individual gets 6.6 points and a maximum of 40 points can be earned here. Microsoft 365 Security Administrator Associate and Azure Security Engineer Associate certification is a prerequisite with at least one of the following three:
- Microsoft Security Operations Analyst
- Microsoft Identity and Access Administrator
- Microsoft Purview Information Protection Administrator
Customer Success Category
Thresholds and eligibility include:
Deployments: Focused on growth in customer deployments based on Azure consumed revenue (ACR) on security workloads deployed. Each deployment earns 3.3 points subject to a maximum of 20 points.
- Azure Security: Subject to deployment being in the customer’s production tenant environment with at least USD12,000 ACR for security workloads in trailing 12 months
- Microsoft 365: Deployment of at least 25 paid seats in the current month and at least 15% of monthly protected users deployed
Usage growth: Focus on increase in usage of security workloads across customer deployments measured in growth of ACR in Azure Security and growth in monthly protected users (MPU) for Microsoft 365.
Every ACR growth of USD 1,250 brings 1 point and every net MPU growth of 125 gets 1 point, subject to a maximum 20 points.
Solutions Partner for Business Applications
Focused on determining a partner’s capability to facilitate solution delivery across Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. The designation for Business Applications requires a minimum of 70 points across 5 metrics in 3 categories. Business Applications partners can work in larger markets and other markets which determines their thresholds for different categories.
For larger markets, each customer addition using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power platform products is worth 1 point, for others, it is 3 points, subject to a maximum of 15 points
Eligibility: Customers with an active subscription with a workload of USD 1,500 in the month being considered.
Determines the skills and capabilities of the partner based on the number of certified professionals with intermediate and advanced certifications.
Each qualified certified person earns 1 point in larger markets and 2 points in other markets, with a maximum cap of 20 points. The certifications include:
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Commerce Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Developer Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Field Service Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Power Apps + Dynamics 365 Developer Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Marketing Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Developer Associate
Each qualified certified person earns 2.14 points in larger markets and 5 points in other markets, with a maximum cap of 15 points. The certifications include:
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert
- Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 + Power Platform Solution Architect Expert
- Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Solution Architect Expert
Based on Monthly Consumption calculated on the basis of monthly active users times consumption rate, across:
Usage growth: As a prerequisite, baseline consumption value units of 100,000 and 50,000 are required for larger markets and other markets, respectively. Every 1% growth contributes to 1 point, subject to a maximum of 30 points (30%).
Deployments: Measures growth in deployments with minimum monthly usage level. Each new deployment adds 2 points in larger markets and 4 points in other markets, subject to a maximum of 20 points.
Solutions Partner for Modern Work
This designation is for partners who have been instrumental in helping their customers foster greater productivity and make a smooth shift to hybrid mode of working with Microsoft 365. It requires a minimum of 70 points across 5 metrics in 3 categories via two attainment paths, i.e. Enterprise, and Small and Medium business with different requirements.
Subject to a maximum of 20 points.
Eligibility for enterprise path: Active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload must be greater than 300. Each new customer adds 4 points.
Eligibility for SMB path: Active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload must be greater than 300. Each new customer adds 2 points.
Gauge the partner’s skills and capabilities with two metrics of intermediate and advanced certifications based on two attainment paths mentioned above. At least one person must have intermediate, and the same or different person must have advanced certification to qualify for the designation.
- Developer Associate
- Teams Administrator Associate
- Messaging Administrator Associate
- Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
Subject to a maximum of 10 points with 4 certified persons for enterprise or 2 certified persons for SMBs
- Enterprise Administrator Expert
Subject to a maximum of 15 points with 2 certified persons for enterprise or 1 certified person for SMBs
Threshold and eligibility include:
Usage growth: Based on growth in monthly active usage
- Enterprise eligibility path: Customers with active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload greater than 300, with a maximum of 30 points which can be earned.
- SMB eligibility path (Ideal for CSPs): Customers with active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload between 10 to 300, with a maximum of 30 points which can be earned.
Deployments: Measures growth in deployments with minimum monthly usage level.
- Enterprise eligibility path: Customers with active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload greater than 300, and monthly active usage more than 40% of PAU in the given month. A maximum of 30 points which can be earned.
- SMB eligibility path (Ideal for CSPs): Customers with active subscription with paid available units (PAU) for at least one eligible workload between 10 to 300 and monthly active usage more than 40% of PAU in the given month. A maximum of 30 points which can be earned.
Accelerate your Partner Capability Score with C3
It is evident that as a CSP, you need to focus on increasing your partner capability score to boost your business growth at multiple levels. Based on the three categories you can leverage to increase your score, a CSP automation platform like CSP Control Center or C3, can help you. Since the focus must be on your performance, skilling, and customer success, it is important to understand how CSP automation can help you achieve all three in a robust and comprehensive manner.
First, with automation, you can scale your solution provisioning to a higher number of customers, seamlessly adding new business to your side. The performance category majorly focuses on the new customer additions and automation can help you achieve just that. With administrative work becoming automated, error free and happening at a faster pace, your team members can focus more on customer acquisition, thus helping you score high on the performance category.
Second, on the skilling front, when your team members are freed from the burden of license management, manual reconciliation, and invoicing, they can focus more on upskilling themselves with the right certifications as required by Microsoft. They can invest their energy and bandwidth into upgrading their technical capabilities which can help you achieve success eventually.
Finally, features like the ability to provide self-service capabilities, the option to bundle offers, provide discounts and multiple integrations can help you create an exemplary customer experience. Invariably, when you offer everything, your customers need before they ask for you, they are likely to increase their usage and deployments, which are the key metrics for the third customer success category.
As an end-to-end, Microsoft CSP productivity solution, C3 is all you need to revolutionize your CSP business and foster your growth with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. You can leverage our technology ecosystem and unparalleled capabilities to increase and scale your partner capability score to earn badges and receive program benefits and incentives. Get started with C3 today to accelerate your journey towards the badge to differentiate your business from others and become a preferred partner for potential customers.