REDMOND, Wash., March 17, 2004 — At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference in New Orleans last October, Microsoft unveiled its vision and strategy for building a new global program that accommodates the depth and breadth of Microsoft’s industry partners. The new Microsoft Partner Program (MPP), which is being rolled out gradually throughout 2004, is designed to offer industry partners a predictable, consistent, and flexible relationship with Microsoft. Starting in April 2004, two key components in the program: Microsoft Competencies and Partner Points will be available to partners.
Since the Worldwide Partner Conference, Allison Watson , vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft, has been meeting with partners to discuss the changes and listen to their feedback. PressPass recently spoke with Watson about the latest developments in the program, how they will drive success for Microsoft partners, and some of the key benefits and new value that partners can expect to see in the near future.
PressPass: For the sake of background, can you tell us briefly what the new Microsoft Partner Program is?
Allison Watson: We have a goal of building the best partner program in the industry and the new Partner Program is the new framework for how we’ll do that. The Microsoft Partner Program provides a single, integrated program that recognizes partner’s expertise, rewards them for the impact that they have with their customers, and delivers the added value to help their businesses be successful regardless of their size, business model, or market focus.
We believe the program is a revolutionary and innovative approach to working with our partners, and so far partner response has been quite positive. The program focuses on our partners’ ability to serve their customers and drive their business success. It allows partners to develop their technology skills related to Microsoft solutions while giving them the flexibility to respond effectively to their customers’ needs. And it is delivered in an evolutionary way; we are rolling these changes out over the course of this year so partners are able to see what these changes mean for their businesses.
PressPass: Let’s talk about that “evolutionary” concept. In October, you indicated the timeline for presenting all the components to partners would be an 18 month process. Where are things at today?
Watson : The program is a journey in Microsoft commitment to building a closer relationship between our partners so that we can best meet the needs of our mutual customers. In December we opened enrollment in the program to current Gold Certified and Certified Partners. They are grandfathered in to the new program, giving them an opportunity to understand and participate in all the components of the new program requirements before the annual beginning of the new program year in 2005.
In our evolutionary journey, today we have reached an important milestone in our delivery of this program — the availability of Microsoft Competencies and Partner Points–where the vision that was announced back in October comes to life.
PressPass: Competencies are one of the central components of the new program. Can you go into more detail about them and what they do for a partner?
Watson: Competencies are really about helping deliver more focus, for our partners and customers. Customers have multifaceted needs and require a diverse range of solutions, and they have told us they want a better way of finding partners with the expertise they need. Microsoft Competencies make it easier for partners to position their unique Microsoft-based capabilities to customers who are looking for a specific solution.
Because Microsoft Competencies recognize a partner’s expertise in a particular area, partners can also focus their relationship with Microsoft in a way that fits their unique business model. Competencies make it easier for partners to align with Microsoft marketing initiatives, and Microsoft can deliver tailored benefits and resources to support partners in those particular solution areas.
The new Microsoft Competency framework maps to a range of solution areas. In April of 2004 partners may currently for qualify for eight different Microsoft Competencies: Networking Infrastructure, Advanced Infrastructure, Security, Integrated E-Business, Business Intelligence, Information Work Productivity, ISV/Software Solutions, and Learning Solution. Partners can learn more about the specific solutions that map to each Microsoft Competencies at http://www.microsoft.com/partner .
PressPass: Are the requirements for a Microsoft Competency all the same? What if a partner wants to choose more than one to better reflect their business?
Watson: Each Microsoft Competency has a unique set of requirements that represent the specific skill set needed for the particular technology solution it is reflecting. In general, Competencies are achieved through a combination of customer references and employee certifications. For example, one of the ways an ISV partner can gain a competency is by having a certified software product based on Microsoft technology.
If they choose, partners can achieve one or more Competencies to differentiate their capabilities with Microsoft technologies to customers looking for a particular type of solution. As long as partners meet the appropriate qualification criteria they can enjoy additional benefits and resources for each Microsoft Competency that they earn regardless of their size or the market segment served.
PressPass: Are there additional Microsoft Competencies you will be adding in the future?
Watson: There are several Competencies which we will be launching in the coming months. The Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) Competency will be unveiled in the July timeframe, timed with the traditional June-July program year that MBS partners have traditionally had. We will also be launching the Licensing, Reseller, and System Builder/OEM Competencies in the fall.
We will working closely with our partners, Microsoft business groups, and customers to evaluate the competencies we have and can add new competencies in the future as new technologies and solutions warrant.
PressPass: Let’s talk for a moment about Partner Points. How are these a factor in the new Microsoft Partner Program?
Watson: One of the first questions I get from partners when we talk about Competencies is “Now that I can identify my expertise with competencies, how do I get recognized by Microsoft for my full impact in the marketplace?”
With Partner Points, we are able to recognize the broad impact partners have with customers and look at all the roles partners play in recommending, reselling, servicing, and supporting solutions, and in training their customers. Partner Points measure partners’ total impact and success in the technology marketplace and determines the level in the program a partner company has attained.
PressPass: What are those different program levels and how many Partner Points does it take to reach them.
Watson: The important thing about Partner Points is that they are designed to create a level playing field and to enable partners of all sizes to reach the highest levels in the program. We also wanted to encompass the broad range of business models partners have, and focus on partner’s total impact with customers — not just measure technical certifications or sales. This approach gives partners a great deal of flexibility and doesn’t require partners to have a rigid business focus. As long as a partner’s organization earns the Partner Points required, they can enroll in the program level that’s right for their business.
Each level offers incremental benefits to reward increased participation in the program, and Partner Points gives partners a roadmap to show how they can move up in the program. At the first level, Registered Members are not required to earn points. As the program levels progresses, Certified Partners must earn at least 50 points, while Gold Certified partner need to earn 120 points and are required to declare at least one Microsoft Competency.
PressPass: What are some of the ways that partners earn Partner Points?
Watson: As we developed the Partner Points framework, one of the things that partners wanted us to recognize was customer satisfaction and good skills working with customers. In response to that feedback, customer references are one of the key ways that partners can earn points.
Of course, there are other ways that partners can earn points, including software and professional certifications, Microsoft Competencies attained, customer satisfaction, business wins, and more. ISV partners, for example, can earn Partner Points by developing Microsoft-based applications that have passed required certification. Partners can also earn Partner Points by declaring a Microsoft Competency. I’m excited by the flexibility Partner Points provide to encompass the broad range of partner business models and ensure they can advance to the highest level in the program.
Partners can visit http://www.microsoft.com/partner for more specific information what they can do to earn Partner Points.
PressPass: Are you doing anything special to help educate partners about the Microsoft Competencies and Partner Points?
Watson: At the Worldwide Partner conference I made a commitment to partners to being predictable and consistent with our communications and to give them an opportunity to understand what the new program means for their business. As part of our evolutionary approach to delivering this new program to partners and our commitment to ongoing communication, Microsoft is providing partners with webcasts, and other tools and resources designed to help partners learn about the new components in advance of the actual go-live date. Today, they can begin to evaluate the Competencies and determine which one is right for their business, and also start looking at how they can earn Partner Points. Partners will have an opportunity to start enrolling in the Microsoft Competencies and Partner Points in April 2004.
PressPass: Moving forward, what can we expect to see in the near future?
Watson: We are working on delivering new value and benefits for partners as we continue to implement the new Microsoft Partner Program throughout calendar year 2004 and into 2005. I am looking forward to some exciting announcements in the months ahead. Our goal is to ensure partners have access to increased benefits and resources that support all stages of their business cycle, such as business planning; building expertise; creating demand; selling, servicing and supporting; and retaining customers. Specifically, we’re really excited about how the Competencies help us do a better job of focusing resources, targeting our marketing efforts and aligning Go To Market Campaigns for partners. We’re working hard to build and deliver the best partner program in any industry, and Competencies and Partner Points are an exciting key step along the way.