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July 19, 2022
Sponsored by Sherweb
Microsoft has announced big changes to its partner programs, and the time to act is drawing closer. As of Oct. 3, the Microsoft Partner Network will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, with subsequent changes to competencies and incentives to follow. These updates will undoubtedly shake up how Microsoft partners and resellers interact with the Microsoft ecosystem. Fortunately, there’s plenty of lead time for current partners to prepare for potential impacts.
The change from Microsoft Partner Network to Microsoft Cloud Partner Program reflects Microsoft’s efforts to simplify channel programs across the three clouds of Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure under one umbrella. Whether a partner resells Microsoft products and solutions, develops solutions and applications based on Microsoft platforms or delivers IT services, they will all attain certifications, specializations, benefits and incentives according to the same revamped system.
Sounds simple enough, but how will this all play out in practice?
First, the way partners qualify for the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is based on two criteria: solutions partner designations and specializations. Second, legacy incentives will phase out by Oct. 1, 2023, meaning that all partners should take care to consider their options—including mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships—to mitigate any negative consequences.
With silver and gold partner levels being eliminated, Microsoft partners will soon be prompted to differentiate themselves in at least one of six solution areas. Doing so will earn them a solutions partner designation, which highlights a partner’s expertise for potential customers and qualifies them for relevant benefits and incentives. While existing competencies do match up with the new designations, partners will need to renew them once the program changes take effect in October.
Eligibility for a solutions partner designation is based on a partner capability score. This score is determined across three metrics:
Performance: Net customer adds
Customer success: Customer usage growth and number of solution deployments
Skilling: Certifications, advanced certifications and exams
It should be noted here that the fee to obtain a solutions partner designation is roughly the same as the previous gold competency level. Current silver partners can therefore expect a substantial jump in the cost of skilling and necessary requirements for acquiring a designation. Again, this might prompt some businesses to consider strategic partnerships to maintain their status in the Microsoft ecosystem.
After achieving a solutions partner designation, Microsoft partners can further distinguish their technical expertise by attaining a specialization. Based on current gold competencies, specializations also align with Microsoft’s six solution areas. Note that partners must maintain certain certifications to validate their specializations.
Just as Microsoft incentives and product benefits used to be based on silver and gold competencies, after Sept. 30, 2023, they will be tied to the new solutions partner designations. Partners have an entire year to plan, but the sooner they prepare, the more equipped they’ll be for the impending change.
Once the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program officially launches, partners with legacy incentives will have two options:
Attain a solutions partner designation: Meet the necessary requirements as soon as possible after Oct. 3 and immediately become eligible for incentives.
Purchase a legacy benefits package: If all a partner’s legacy competencies have been renewed prior to Sept. 30, they can keep their incentives until their renewal date in 2023, up to Oct. 3 when legacy incentives will officially expire.
Note that partners can’t do both options—purchase a benefits package to maintain legacy incentives while simultaneously achieving a solutions designation to become eligible for new incentives—but must essentially choose between switching sooner or later.
As if the Microsoft ecosystem wasn’t complex enough before, it’s understandable that current partners might be flummoxed by this new wave of announcements. Don’t stress! There are plenty of resources available to help you.
As an award-winning Microsoft partner and value-added cloud solutions provider, Sherweb is committed to helping other IT providers and resellers navigate these changes and continue to make the most out of their relationships with Microsoft. Check out this webinar for more information about changes associated with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Current silver partners—who will arguably be the most impacted by these changes—should also watch this webinar for recommendations on how to respond. Looking for an expert partner to help you make sense of it all? Join Sherweb’s partner program.
This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.
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