The new Microsoft Partner Network is here!

imageToday is the day that the new Microsoft Partner Network arrives! With the launch of the new Microsoft Partner Network comes some very exciting changes and benefits for partners around the world. 

One of the most notable changes, as mentioned in my “Microsoft Partner logo, branding, naming updates revealed at #WPC10” post during Worldwide Partner Conference, is that the launch of the new Microsoft Partner Network brings with it the formal retirement of the old organizational levels, including Gold Certified, Certified and Registered member. In the new Microsoft Partner Network, there are no longer “Gold Certified Partners,” “Certified Partners,” or “Registered Member” levels as company designations. 

So what are the ways to participate and connect in the new Microsoft Partner Network? Let’s take a look:

  • You can participate as a member of the community through many different social networking engines such as: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and our Microsoft Partner Network Community, Here you can take part in many online conversations, hear from other members, and interact with other partners and Microsoft employees in a virtual connection.
  • Want to take it a step further? It’s easy! Simply join the new Microsoft Partner Network by completing your company profile on the Microsoft Partner Network site and joining the Microsoft Partner Network. By doing this simple step, you will gain access to additional benefits for your organization, such as: online business and technical training (most of which are free of charge), access to customizable marketing campaigns, no-cost online technical support and getting listed in our online Microsoft customer directories.
  • Do you focus on serving the needs of small business customers? If so, you may want to look into obtaining the Microsoft Small Business Specialist designation, which identifies your organization as one with the expertise and focus on small business that small business owners look for. By obtaining the Microsoft Small Business Specialist designation, you will get access to the Microsoft Small Business Specialist logo to identify your organization as a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and access to a special edition of the Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider subscription, in addition to other resources to grow your business.
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  • Are you interested in building and developing your business in the Microsoft cloud? If so, you will want to look into the new Cloud Essentials Pack, which is available to all partners, for internal-use software, technical support, and marketing resources to help you learn about, try, build, and sell cloud solutions. From here, you would want to then look at Microsoft Cloud Accelerate . Partners earn the opportunity to participate in Cloud Accelerate through successful sales of solutions or applications built on Microsoft’s cloud technologies and services. Cloud Accelerate partnerswill earn a "cloud accelerate" badge, additional internal use rights and other benefits that exceed those offered in the Cloud Essentials Pack, including access to a clear roadmap of Microsoft’s vision for its cloud portfolio.
  • Attain a competency to set you apart from the competition by demonstrating your proven Microsoft experience and skills to customers. When you achieve one or more of the 29 competencies in the Microsoft Partner Network, you receive benefits that are aligned to your sales cycle to help you with business planning, enabling your staff, generating customer demand, sales and support. You can get hands-on experience with the latest Microsoft software, acquire new technical and business skills, use the new Microsoft Partner competency brand to help customers identify your specific capabilities that will solve their business needs, and also become eligible for deal-based and competitive support.
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In the new Microsoft Partner Network, it is now at the competency level that you can obtain different levels, which are: Silver competencies and Gold competencies. Some of the feedback we heard from partners in the past was, “Help us differentiate ourselves better,” and “Raise the bar” to obtain certification levels. The new Silver and Gold competencies combination distinguishes you as a premier business solution provider, creating an even more exclusive community which will allow you to develop your business in alignment with emerging customer needs. It also allows you to highlight and showcase your company’s specific areas of focus and expertise.

There are a few things to know about the new Silver and Gold competencies in the new Microsoft Partner Network:

  1. You can have both silver competencies and gold competencies. If you have several areas of focus, you can achieve Silver and/or Gold competencies for each of these and you can mix and match Silver and Gold competencies within your organization.
  2. We heard loud and clear the requests to “raise the bar” from customers and partners, so yes, the new gold competency requirements are difficult and this is intended based on the customer and partner feedback to “raise the bar”. These changes will require a time investment to earn certifications and pass assessments, as well as meet a revenue commitment and participation in our customer satisfaction process. While the bar has been raised, Gold competencies will reward this deep expertise and high commitment with benefits that significantly surpass the cost of qualification – including channel incentives, eligibility for a Microsoft named contact who will support the creation of a business plan and help with sales efforts, a distinct Microsoft partner gold competency brand, increased support and greater visibility and connection to local Microsoft teams.
  3. If you plan to attain a gold competency or competencies, we recommend that you attain your gold competencies based on your primary business focus and earn silver competencies to complement your gold competencies and showcase other capabilities of your business.
  4. Because the rate of technology change in the marketplace is rapid, new product versions open new and exciting solution possibilities. As such, ensuring your staff are trained and certified on these latest products and technologies both from a technical and sales and marketing perspective provides a competitive advantage and helps you offer your customers the most relevant solutions in market. To ensure Microsoft partners can deploy, recommend, sell and service the latest Microsoft technology to meet customer demand, partners who choose to attain a silver competency will need to pass technical exams and business assessments based on the latest Microsoft product version in market (unless otherwise noted).
  5. To help you achieve the certifications you need and want for the competencies you are looking to obtain for your organization, be sure to utilize the Competency Exam Packs with Free Retakes that we offer.

Now some of you might be wondering, “With the launch of the new Microsoft Partner Network, what is Microsoft going to do to help promote and raise awareness about its partners who do engage in the program?” Great question! Here are just a few of the things you can expect to see from Microsoft to help promote and raise awareness of our Microsoft partners and their skills:

  • Online Presence: We will surface Microsoft partners on the global cornerstone Microsoft website in addition to all IT Pro, Technical Decision Maker, Developer and Small Business customer sites. In addition, through Microsoft Pinpoint and Solution Finder, we continue to provide visibility to customers who are searching for the best local companies, software and products and services to solve their unique IT and technology challenges.
  • Online Outreach: We will proactively reach out to customers to inform them about how we do business through partners via our customer newsletters, online banners and social media activities. As competencies are aligned to Microsoft customer campaigns, this outreach will include a primary “call to action” whereby customers will be prompted to “find a partner” within all key product and solution Microsoft customer marketing.
  • Public Relations: We will drive the partner story to customers through the use of public relations including testimonials, case studies and we will also provide PR materials to partners to help you achieve local press coverage.

I want to call your attention to the first bullet point above, because there are some really exciting enhancements coming to the Microsoft Pinpoint tool that will make this an even bigger benefit to our Microsoft partners worldwide:

  • We continue to enhance Pinpoint to ensure that search criteria are updated for new partner network competencies. We will continue to optimize the tool for search engine discovery (e.g., if you type a company name in any search engine a partner’s profile will appear).
  • We plan to make Pinpoint available worldwide. By December, 2010, we plan to have Pinpoint available in more than 45 countries. Unlike Solution Finder, in Pinpoint partners will be able to list their company as doing business in other countries. (See? We heard you) There are currently over 1 million customer visits via Pinpoint each year, which we expect will grow once we expand availability.
  • We will integrate Pinpoint into our Microsoft product experience, which means we will showcase partners to our product users from within their Microsoft products. (This is VERY cool in my opinion!) We will start with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online; the beta of this product is available now.
  • We will enhance Pinpoint to become a marketplace (i.e., add “try” and “buy” functionality to our current “search” and “find” functionality). This means that customers will be able to purchase partner applications via Pinpoint directly.

Now, with all of these enhancements coming to Microsoft Pinpoint to highlight our Microsoft partners, I would HIGHLY suggest that you ensure that your business profile is up-do-date (on either Pinpoint or Solution Finder, depending on which tool is available in your country) and ensure that you have customer reviews. Partners listed in Pinpoint that have customer reviews receive 10 times the amount of leads as partners with no customers review.

As I mentioned last Friday, I believe the new Microsoft Partner Network is one of the “11 Reasons why today is a day to remember…” and Microsoft partners are another. In addition, it is also just one reason why I am sooooo very excited for the future! While the information above is designed to give you an overview of the new Microsoft Partner Network and some guidance on how to begin or continue engaging with us through it, there are many other steps we are taking in conjunction with the launch of the new Microsoft Partner Network to enhance your experience with Microsoft, to make it easier to do business with Microsoft, and to simplify your navigation of and access to resources and benefits from Microsoft that we will be bringing forward. I will be putting up several posts here on the blog to call out some of these items in the very near future (some today even), so keep an eye out for these, such as:

Here are a few other resources you might want to take a look at as well:

Here’s to the next generation of our partnership together and the incredible success I look forward to having with all of you through the new Microsoft Partner Network!

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Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and RSS and see “What I’m thinking
Global Partner Experience Lead
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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