Over the past few months, a large number of our partners formerly known as Gold Certified and Certified have come up for Microsoft Partner Network membership renewal, as I noted would be the case in a December post (The New Partner Network + 45 Days). Now that we are through that very hectic part of our year, I wanted to follow up with Sharon Collins, the U.S. Partner Team Lead for the Partner Network, and ask her how that heavy period of membership renewal went, particularly in light of the more stringent competency requirements put into place last November.

Sharon’s biggest concern is that so many partners who were previously Gold Certified are uncertain about whether to pursue a new competency at all, if they can not achieve a gold competency. “They feel like having a silver competency doesn’t carry as much weight, and that it’s not worth investing the time, money, and resources to meet the requirements for 'only’ a silver competency.” It’s unfortunate, Sharon continues, because there are some really powerful reasons that achieving a competency—even if it’s silver—can translate into real business value, more revenue, and better market differentiation.

Fact: Only 5% of Microsoft’s partners worldwide can distinguish themselves as having achieved a high degree of proficiency with Microsoft silver competency. That’s across all of the 28 competencies, so when you start looking at individual competencies, the achievement of a silver competency becomes a significant point of differentiation—in some of the less established competencies, you could be in an elite group, one of just a few hundred partners who can claim that silver competency.

According to an IDC study, partners who invest in earning a greater number of competencies see up to 28% more revenue per employee (IDC, “Microsoft Core Infrastructure: Partner Pathway to Business Performance,” June 2009). The investment you make in attaining a competency can pay for itself and continues to reap rewards for your business.

In addition to these compelling value statements, Sharon says that the changes implemented in November are sometimes not fully understood by partners. The new Partner Network works differently. “The tendency is for partners to equate the new silver competencies with the old ‘Certified’ program level, and it’s not the same. The requirements for the silver competencies are actually comparable to those for the old Gold Certified level. You’re still in an exclusive group.”

So, if you’re a partner still trying to decide what to do about your upcoming membership renewal, what are some things to think about?

  1. Let the MPN Experts help. Sharon employs a team of agents who are well-versed in the new competency requirements and who can help you understand exactly what you need to do to successfully renew your membership, and ideally, retain your competencies. Contact them by e-mail at msexpert@microsoft.com or by phone at 877-254-6825. You can also chat online with the agents—visit any of the competency-specific pages on the U.S. partner portal, and if an agent is available, you’ll see a “click to chat” button.
  2. Understand the Details of the Benefits Extension. While it is true that software and logo benefits for Gold Certified and Certified Partners were extended through October 31 of this year, your technical support and MSDN/TechNet subscription benefits are not covered by this extension.
  3. Take Advantage of Opportunities for Market Differentiation. The exclusivity of the competencies (remember that 5% worldwide stat we cited?) lets you market yourself in a specific way. You’ve invested in your people, your solution, and your company by meeting the more stringent requirements of competency attainment.

Have a topic you’d like us to cover on our blog? We’d love to hear your suggestions and questions. Send an e-mail through this blog or to partnerQ@microsoft.com, or post it on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @msuspartner on Twitter.

Cheers,

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