The excitement continues to mount as we get closer to putting the final touches on the new Microsoft Partner Network. Over the past two days, our tips have been focused on helping you lay the groundwork to know what changes will be made and understand how they will affect you. We’ve covered the Partner Dashboard, Competency Tool, business assessment requirements, and how to navigate the competencies information. Today, let’s have a bit more fun and talk about benefits (ooh) and certifications (ahh).

Tip #6: The Benefits of Membership.

The new Network offers a set of core benefits to all partners each time they enroll or renew their memberships. Each membership opportunity offers a different level of access to to these core benefits, which are aligned to the six stages of the partner business cycle (Plan, Enable, Create Demand, Sell, Service, and Retain). Deeper engagement in the Network, by purchasing a subscription or attaining a competency, translates to more benefits. The Core Benefits at a Glance page is a great way to see how the various benefits stack up. I talked about it in tip #9 as a way to determine how you want to participate in the Network. Here, it’s just a good read to see what’s available to you.

  • Current Gold Certified and Certified Partners will be happy to hear that we have extended the period of time that you can continue to use your current logos and internal-use software benefits until October 31, 2011. Read about this benefits extension on the partner portal.
  • Model your Microsoft Action Pack or silver or gold competency software benefits with the License Calculator.
  • Technical benefits will also change—download the Partner Technical Services data sheet to get details.

Tip #5: Get Trained and Get Certified to Get Current for Competencies.

In general, the requirements for the new silver and gold competencies include employing or contracting with 2 (silver) or 4 (gold) unique Microsoft Certified Professionals who have passed at least one eligible exam. In addition, the eligible exams are now more closely aligned to current Microsoft technologies. You will want to look at each competency you plan to attain for its specific requirements (see tip #7 in yesterday’s blog), which includes the list of, and links to, the eligible exams.

  • The U.S. Learning Plan Tool is also an excellent resource for seeing the assessment and exam requirements by competency, packaged up with relevant training—the majority of which is offered at no cost to partners. Bonus tip: if you already know the exam you need to meet a requirement, you can search for it by number and get links to exam preparation and exam scheduling. (Note: the Partner Learning Center, where partner training courses reside, will be unavailable starting this Friday, October 29 at 9am Pacific Time while we update our systems for the changes to the Network).
  • To help you meet competency requirements and showcase your company’s skills, take advantage of the Competency Exam Packs, which offer discounts of up to 30% and come with the no-charge Second Shot offer, so you can retake exams you don’t pass on the first try.

To read an overview of what you can expect in the new Microsoft Partner Network, visit our Prepare page on the U.S. partner portal. There, you can see links to more transition resources.  And don’t forget that from the U.S. partner portal home page, you can get to the Prepare page any time from the “Recommended” quick links, top right.

There are two more Daily Doubles left—we’ll see you Thursday for tips #4 and #3!

Cheers,

Diane Golshan
Sr. Marketing Manager, U.S. Partner Team
Learn more about what I do at Microsoft.