FARGO, N.D., July 16, 2003 — Working in tandem with its network of certified reselling partners, Microsoft Business Solutions is launching a revamped training program designed to help customers get the most out of their business applications with new curriculum and classroom training. And, since the training will take place locally, Microsoft Business Solutions expects to help customers save time and money as well.
The Microsoft Business Solutions Education Center program replaces the Authorized Training Partner (ATP) Program. The centers, operated on-site by business partners, will offer training for IT staff and information workers on Microsoft Business Solutions–Great Plains and Microsoft Business Solutions–Solomon product lines and Microsoft Business Solutions CRM.
Classes are designed to cater to a variety of technical knowledge levels, and teach everything from how to enter a basic financial transaction to strategies for designing customized workflow and reports for Microsoft Business Solutions CRM. All public Microsoft Business Solutions classes offered at the centers have Continuing Professional Education (CPE) accreditation.
“We felt there was a unique opportunity to work hand in hand with our business partners to develop a training program that best meets the needs of our mutual customers,”
says Matt Magness, director of Microsoft Business Solutions training.
“To help reselling partners deliver superior service to customers, we’ve expanded the training offerings to include an interactive CD-ROM, hard copy materials and classroom-based training. At the same time, we’ve enhanced the business model, which will allow our business partners to enjoy a higher profit margin.”
For reselling partners who choose to become a certified Microsoft Business Solutions Education Center, Magness says the benefits are considerable.
Reselling partners can draw on the Microsoft Business Solutions brand recognition. Qualified training organizations can purchase official curriculum at a reduced price, and once system enhancements are implemented, they will have control over scheduling, pricing and fee collection. Additionally, referral opportunities exist for education centers so they can reach more individuals who want training.
Magness says the partners operating the training centers will receive proactive communication from Microsoft about classes, program information and initiatives via e-mail and an education center newsletter. To offer customers the best training possible, Microsoft Business Solutions Education Centers will also have access to their own exclusive portal to stay apprised of program news and activities.
Microsoft Business Solutions will advertise schedules for all designated public classes offered at the education centers, and will provide additional tools and templates the education centers can use for additional marketing purposes in their geographic region.
Once customers complete the training, education center partners will have access to customer feedback and reports showing their instructor and facility performance.
“The feedback the education center partners receive will help them monitor quality and make adjustments to optimize their customer service,”
Microsoft Business Solutions Education Centers Deliver Higher Client Satisfaction
Tracey Crane is the chief operating officer with TGO Consulting in Markham, Ontario. TGO is opening the first Canadian Microsoft Business Solutions Education Center (MBSEC) at their Markham location. Microsoft Business Solutions’ retooled training, Crane says, allows her company to deliver an even higher level of satisfaction to clients who use Microsoft CRM and Microsoft Business Solutions — Great Plains.
She knows from experience with the ATP program that costs and time can make training a tough sell.
“It can be difficult to get customers to sign up, but once they do they find it valuable and many come back for additional classes,”
“When people are well trained they’re much happier. They get the chance to go off site and get good training, so they feel rewarded. And they can get more value from their applications.”
The attendance at TGO’s training, she says, speaks for the quality of what’s offered. The 12-person classroom is booked nearly every day. Crane estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of the trainings is regularly scheduled classes, while the remaining 30 percent is curriculum developed for specific customers.
Crane says the content developed for Microsoft Business Solutions Education Centers tackles training from a workshop perspective.
“There are now three levels of training, so there are exercises tailored for students with different experience and skills,”
“The core content, of course, has remained the same, ensuring that when users leave the room they can use functionality to its fullest.”
The proof of the training’s value, Crane says, is that even the most experienced customers leave classes excited about what they’ve learned.
And the key ingredient, Crane says, is fun.
“It’s hands-on training and we try to make it as fun as possible,”
“It’s very interactive. We do everything from group exercises to game playing — anything to involve students and get them talking and interacting. As long as students remained engaged and are learning, we even allow cheating — within limits, of course!”
Crane says she believes that participating in an on-site training program brings TGO Consulting and its clients closer together.
“It’s a good way for us to build relationships with clients and develop a solid understanding of how people use technology differently,”
“It’s also an effective way for Microsoft Business Solutions to better understand what our customers want from our products. We have students fill out product recommendation forms at the end of the class.”
Those recommendations, she says, get noticed.
“One student suggested adding the ability to print from a journal inquiry screen in a financial application,”
“In the next release, it was there.”
Looking Ahead: The Future of Microsoft Business Solutions Education Centers
With 10 centers up and running, Magness believes the program is off to a good start.
“We believe a strong training program is a great complement to an existing Microsoft Business Solutions consulting practice,”
“Microsoft Business Solutions and its partners have worked hard to develop a program that serves additional reselling partners more gracefully.”
Magness expects the program to expand steadily and eventually include between 50 and 75 Microsoft Business Solutions reselling partners. He says that a framework for international expansion has been built, but decisions on how it will take place and in what regions have not been finalized. In addition to the international expansion, the program will also incorporate training for the Microsoft Business Solutions–Navision and Microsoft Business Solutions–Axapta product lines into Microsoft Business Solutions Education Centers.