New Microsoft Partner Leadership Marches Forward with Program Transition Plan

Nicole Dezen made her debut as CPO at Microsoft Inspire, talking up the transition to the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.

Jeffrey Schwartz

July 20, 2022

6 Min Read
Path forward

MICROSOFT INSPIRE — It’s full steam ahead as Microsoft’s newly appointed channel leaders prepare partners for major changes that take effect in October. Microsoft’s new chief partner officer (CPO), Nicole Dezen, and her leadership team addressed partners for the first time in their new roles on Tuesday.


Nick Parker at Microsoft Inspire 2022.

Nick Parker, president of Microsoft’s industry partner and sales organization, introduced Dezen during the Microsoft Inspire partner conference. Parker announced the appointment of Dezen as Microsoft’s first CPO last week just before the company’s annual global partner event.

“I’m honored to be the chief partner officer for Microsoft,” Dezen said. “Let me tell you why. The creation of the role of chief partner officer reflects the breadth, scope and scale of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem. The investments Microsoft is making in partners create new possibilities for you and more value for customers.”


Nicole Dezen at Microsoft Inspire 2022.

Dezen embraced the company’s transition from its longstanding Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Microsoft revealed the plan in March, which eliminates gold and silver partner designations.

The company is requiring its channel to achieve minimum partner capability scores (PCS) of 70 for each of six new categories. The categories are Azure data and AI, Azure infrastructure, Azure digital and app innovation, business applications, modern work and security.

Microsoft at the time said the deadline for the transition to the new program is Oct. 3. Despite protests from hundreds of partners who don’t haver the resources to meet the PCS minimums, that deadline remains. Many established partners don’t have the certified technical staff to achieve scores of 70 and have lamented that some of the requirements could be prohibitive. Even those with the resources have complained that Microsoft hasn’t given adequate time.

Looking to show that not all partners are taking that view, Microsoft invited Tayyab Ali, VP of consulting services for Alphabold, a gold partner, to share his experience.

“You don’t need to get 200 points, you need only 70 points,” Ali said. “You have to pick from the six designations that are available and find the best fit for your organization. Once you have picked the right one then yes, you have to go deeper into it and see how you can get to the points required across the three categories that they have: performance, skilling and customer success.”

Incentive Plan Details Coming

Dezen said Microsoft is providing enablement to partners with incentives, tech skilling, partner programs and its commercial marketplace. However, Dezen said Microsoft will reveal how it’s revising its partner incentives later in the year.

“When it comes to partner incentives and investments, we are evolving the portfolio to provide a predictable experience that helps you deliver exceptional value to our customers,” Dezen said.

But she emphasized that Microsoft is building those incentives around the new program.

“Incentives and investments are aligned with our commitment to the cloud and partner opportunity across our six solution areas,” she said. “We are listening and incorporating partner feedback into our strategy and plans to improve our partner incentives and investments. We’re working to better delineate our breadth and enterprise motions with …

… customer choice at the heart of everything we do. We’ll share more on this in the coming year as we continue to evolve this to reward growth.”

Julie Sanford, Microsoft’s new VP of partner GTM programs and experiences, said the portfolio of benefits will help partners differentiate themselves based on their specialties.


Julie Sanford at Microsoft Inspire 2022.

“Benefits will now be tailored,” Sanford said. “So, if you focus on Dynamics or the Power [Platform] portfolio, we’re going to connect you to benefits related specifically to business applications. Or let’s say you also have a modern work practice. When you earn that designation, we will stack that benefit kit on top of the one you already earned for business applications, giving you even more of what you need to drive and run your business.”

Rationalizing the New Program

Daniel Rippey, director of the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, reiterated why the company is making the transition. Moving from 18 gold and silver competencies to just six core solution partner designations will simplify customer engagements, Rippey said.


Daniel Rippey at Microsoft Inspire 2022.

“Industry research tells us that customer expectations and buying patterns have evolved,” he said. “Trusted digital storefronts, time-bound trials and real-time transactions are commoditized expectations now. Our customers are starved for time. We know that they’re looking for technology as a resource multiplier. They’re seeking simplicity and clarity of understanding with impactful outcomes that yield immediate benefit to their business as the core unit of value.”

Despite Microsoft’s focus on specialization, Rippey maintained the company is not abandoning the general practitioner. Microsoft’s direct sales force “informs and educates thousands of field sellers of your general practitioner and specialist capabilities, and we’re here to help you bring home sellable solutions into this network,” he said.

But he emphasized: “In this, specializations are critical, enabling you to further differentiate your organization and best position your solutions these sellers are looking for to bring qualified leads to partners who have proven deep technical capabilities and a track record of driving successful outcomes.”

Throughout the year, Rippey said Microsoft will continue to launch specializations in areas it sees as a strong addressable market. Rippey noted that Microsoft is maintaining its Action Pack starter kits, a key partner benefit. And the company will maintain the existing benefit packages that are made available to every single competency partner it has today, without interruption.

ISV Success Program

Sanford outlined new benefits with Microsoft’s ISV Success Program. The program aims to help ISVs access free benefits so they can build and publish their applications faster and to expand their customer reach, according to Sanford.

“For ISVs that already have a mature market presence, we’re working on accreditations to recognize, differentiate and reward your existing intellectual property that’s in high demand,” she said.

Microsoft is also increasing Azure dev and test benefits to help partners create proof of concepts faster, Sanford added. Also, Microsoft will provide previews and early availability of releases faster.

“We’ll continue to connect you with these the moment they become available, she said. “And of course, we will continue to provide marketing services and platforms to help you generate leads through the commercial marketplace.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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