Believe it or not, this month I celebrated my one year anniversary in my role leading the Exchange partner marketing team.

Man, a year can go fast when you’re having fun!

While I’ve been working in the Exchange product management group for nearly 4 years, these last 12 months have afforded me some amazing opportunities to really get to know how we go to market through our fantastic Exchange partner ecosystem. And, along the way, I have had the chance to meet with many of you and learn what we can do to help make building your business on Exchange even more successful.

One of the most vocal pieces of feedback I received at WPC, through advisory councils, 1:1 discussions, etc. is you felt that the Unified Communications competency wasn’t arming you with the best branding or tools to help you differentiate your offerings to customers.

I took this feedback to heart and worked with many key stakeholders within the Exchange and Lync business groups, as well as our Worldwide Partner Group, to see what we could do to address this feedback. I cannot be more excited that I can announce that in response to your feedback, the Microsoft Partner Network (a/k/a MPN) is evolving the Unified Communications (UC) competency.

More specifically, in October 2011, the UC competency will split into two separate, new competencies: the Messaging competency, focused on Microsoft Exchange, and the Communications competency, focused on Microsoft Lync.

Without a doubt, the key motivator to this important evolution of a MPN competency was the ability for you to further differentiate your Exchange and Lync expertise in market and compete more effectively.

Sounds simple, but the reality is we know how much you invest in developing solutions practices on Exchange and Lync. And, that the introduction of these two new competencies will give you the chance to demonstrate these investments through the power of the Microsoft Partner Network.

But, we didn’t stop with a creating two new competencies!

We are also investing in expanding the scope of these competencies to reflect the investments you are making in the advanced capabilities of both Exchange (e.g., archiving and voicemail) and Lync (e.g., voice and video), as well as your commitment to helping customers with their journey to the cloud with Office 365. These investments include new training and assessments to help you demonstrate your capacity to help customers realize even more value out of the investments they are making in the Microsoft business productivity platform.

Here’s the scoop on the two newest competencies:

Messaging competency
For partners who want to broaden their business portfolio to sell, deploy, and support Microsoft Exchange and solutions built on the Exchange platform, the Messaging competency will enable you to grow your business by strengthening your Exchange practice, differentiating your expertise through distinguished branding, and expanding customer opportunities.

The Messaging competency recognizes your expertise in implementation design, deployment, and support of Microsoft Exchange Server. In addition, the Gold Messaging competency highlights your additional investment and specialization in archiving, security, and voicemail, as well as your ability to help customers with their journey to the cloud to Exchange Online.

Communications competency
For partners who want to broaden their business portfolio to sell, deploy, and support Microsoft Lync or build products and solutions on or interoperable with the Lync platform, the Communications competency will enable you to grow your business by strengthening your Lync practice, differentiating your expertise through distinguished branding, and expanding customer opportunities.

The Communications competency recognizes your expertise in implementation design, deployment, and support of Microsoft Lync. The Silver Communications competency enables you to highlight your investment and capabilities around IM/Presence and Conferencing workloads and the Gold Communications competency demonstrates further expertise in enterprise voice and video, PBX integration and Lync Online.

We’ve got a lot more to tell you about these significant changes planned for this year and next, and I personally invite you to stay tuned between now and WPC11 to learn more.

In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the recently updated MPN portal pages dedicated to the current UC competency, and download the Evolution of the UC Competency Guide. This document is designed to walk you through the transition to the new Messaging competency and Communications competency.

I’d also like to take this time to recognize several individuals who were instrumental in making this change happen, including Kristin Murray (Exchange), Isabell Sheng (Lync), Dan Truax (WPG) and Katie Larson (WPG). Without their tireless efforts, this simple notion of splitting the competency would still just be that, a notion. THANK YOU!

Ian
Group Product Manager
Exchange Partner Marketing