November 11, 2022
By Joseph Landes
Microsoft has one of the largest and most comprehensive partner programs in the software ecosystem — more than 400,000 service providers partner with the Redmond-based company.
Last month, the company officially unveiled the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program that provides managed service providers (MSPs) opportunities to differentiate their offerings, scale customer connections, and position for long-term profitability.
Here’s a recap to help understand the recent changes relating to how partners will be evaluated on their competencies and capabilities and learn how your MSP can achieve distinctions that help propel cloud-based revenue and growth.
Why Pursue Solutions Partner Designation?
One of the biggest changes is the introduction of solutions partner designations that have replaced the well-known silver and gold competencies introduced more than a decade ago. When comparing two potential MSP partners, SMBs used these to quickly identify which had proven expertise in the specific technology area they needed assistance with.
The new designations reinforce that your MSP is an expert in the cloud. That’s important, given Flexera’s 2022 State of the Cloud report showed 53% of SMBs spend more than $1.2 million on the cloud — a figure up 38% year-over-year. Having a Solutions Partner designation allows your MSP to stand out from those who haven’t committed to building a cloud practice.
We recommend the infrastructure (Azure) designation for MSPs who understand the value of having their clients and operations in the cloud. It highlights that your MSP can help customers accelerate their cloud migration(s), and expertly help move key infrastructure workloads to Azure. In helping clients with their foundational Azure infrastructure, MSPs lay a foundation for themselves to handle the ongoing maintenance and management of the infrastructure and any additional investments clients will make.
How to Achieve Infrastructure Solutions Partner Designation
Other solutions partner designations, such as those for Data and AI, Modern Work, or Business Applications, and their descriptions can be found on Microsoft’s site. Microsoft will continue to build out additional solutions partner designations. Per the program announcement blog, we can expect industry-specific designations and ones geared toward partners building software, in addition to the existing ones geared toward partners delivering services.
To qualify for any solutions partner designation, partners must earn a partner capability score that quantifies a partner’s performance. Partners must obtain a minimum score of 70 points, out of 100 points maximum, across three categories (Performance, Skilling and Customer Success) that look at five key measurements.
Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know about these three categories as they relate to the infrastructure designation.
Performance: The biggest metric determining how you fare in this category is the number of net new-customer adds your MSP brings to Azure.
Skilling: This category reflects the number of people in your organization who hold Azure certifications. It is broken into two components reflecting intermediate and advanced certification. Each certified individual can only count as one for earning points, regardless of the number of certifications completed.
For the full points for this component, your organizations must have five individuals holding five eligible certifications. At least two individuals must hold Azure Administrator Associate certifications in any of the following areas: Azure Network Engineer Associate; Azure Stack Hub Operator Associate; and Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate.
Advanced. For the full points for this component, your organizations must have five individuals totaling five eligible certifications. At least two individuals must hold Azure Solution Architect Expert certifications. They can be in Azure Virtual Desktop or Azure for SAP Workloads.
Customer Success: The Customer Success category is measured in two distinct ways – customer Usage Growth and Deployments.
Usage growth is scored based on growth in Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR) across your customer base over the past 12 months. Your customers’ minimum ACR must be $1,000 in the trailing 12 months.
Deployments is scored based on the total number of advanced Azure services represented in ACR over the last 12 months. Each Azure service is worth two points. These could include services such as Azure Files, Azure SQL Server, FSLogix and others. Virtual machines (VMs) DO NOT count toward this metric.
Championing the Designation Internally and with Clients
The three key categories Microsoft uses to distinguish partners in the new system can also help your MSP to grow your cloud-based revenue and relationship with Microsoft.
Here are tips on how to communicate your Azure performance, skilling, and customer-success capabilities to clients and prospects.
Performance: You should be providing your clients with performance metrics they can use to see what value Azure is bringing to them. Make sure to capture metrics such as compute utilization, power usage/costs, and number of redundancies and dependencies (backups, VPNs, etc.) before your client migrates to Azure so that you can evaluate and compare results at 30, 60, 90 days into their cloud journey.
Report consistently on all aspects of their environment, but look for the little wins (decrease in number of help desk tickets, for example) that you can share to show immediate ROI and validate their decision to migrate to Azure.
Skilling: As explained, Microsoft views this as how many certified personnel in your organization contribute their expertise around your Solutions Partner designation. Clients should also know about these great resources you have.
Consider additional ways to show off your staff’s expertise outside of just displaying your Solutions Partner badge. This could include blogs, question and answer sessions, Lunch & Learns for clients, or even social media spotlights for employees when they attain new Azure certifications.
Customer Success: This category shows Microsoft you’re getting your customers to do more with cloud and advanced Azure services. By more deeply integrating with Azure technologies, you can help customers ease the burden of management and consolidate tools while achieving greater efficiency and, often, time and cost savings.
It’s imperative you understand your client’s end goals and expected outcomes before embarking on their migration. Ask questions and set expectations regarding how they will measure their own progress and outcomes, and what sort of metrics can be used to measure your MSP. Great client outcomes and journeys can be captured via case studies, blogs, or other joint marketing assets that can be used to communicate your value to new prospects.
It’s a good time to grow with Microsoft. While the process of applying for your solutions partner designation may not be quick or easy, truly valuable distinctions that give you a competitive advantage in the market rarely are.
Joseph Landes is the co-founder and chief revenue officer at Nerdio, where he focuses on helping MSPs build successful cloud and virtual desktop practices in Microsoft Azure. Before joining Nerdio in 2018, Landes worked for Microsoft for 23 years where he held senior leadership positions at the company’s headquarters in Redmond as well as in Eastern Europe, India, and Brazil. You can follow him on LinkedIn or @GetNerdio on Twitter.
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