Today, Microsoft has announced that it will be changing the name of its Microsoft Partner Network to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.
The changes will be effective from October this year, allowing a six-month transitional period for the current partner ecosystem. According to Microsoft, the transformation serves as a reflection of the ‘enormous and ongoing transition’ of business operations to the cloud, aligning partners’ go-to-market motions with the way customers are buying today.
The Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme focuses on six solution areas aligned with Microsoft Cloud, detailed in the company’s State of the Partner Ecosystem event. These are Data and AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital and App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work and Security.
“Partners’ engagement with Microsoft technology has driven significant impact on communities all around the world,” said Nick Parker, CVP global partner solutions (pictured above) during the virtual event.
“Their solutions are enabling continued response and recovery from Covid-19, they’re enabling our shared customers to adapt and capture reshaped industry market opportunity including hybrid work, digital payments and Telehealth.
“Where partners are successful, we see communities thrive with technological skills, job creation and community-level digital transformation, creating a hub for technology resources and access to innovation, and enabling economic growth.”
Microsoft will be categorising partners’ capabilities and success through the introduction of two qualifying levels — the solutions partner and the specialisations and expert programs.
“We are retiring gold and silver, and as part of that we simplify what it means to be a member in our network,” said Rodney Clark, CVP global channel sales and channel chief. “We have base memberships which are open to all partners — every single partner type in our ecosystem onboards and starts their journey with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme.”
The Solutions partner level is a designation based on meeting key requirements across a new ‘partner capability score’ introduced by Microsoft for each solution area. Specialisations and expert programs will allow solutions partners to build on this through differentiating their organisations, demonstrating ‘deep technical expertise and experience’ in specific scenarios.
Described as a ‘holistic framework for measuring partner performance, skilling and customer success’, the partner capability score will take factors such as added customers, certifications and successful deployments into account alongside overall growth.
A minimum of 70 points (out of an available 100) will allow a partner to attain solutions partner designation. All partners can access their own dashboard in Partner Centre to measure their progress toward this designation which, Microsoft has reassured partners, will be a gradual transition in which partners will be fully supported to make necessary changes.
“What I really want to emphasise … is the investments that we’re making so that we help every single partner in our ecosystem to qualify for these new levels, and to participate in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme,” said Clark.
“We’re investing in this dashboard that takes partners directly into Partner Centre and allows them to see exactly where they stand, and from there we provide technical skilling if there’s a gap that we need to close to help them get to 70 points.
“There’s proactive support to help partners navigate exactly where they need to go and how they need to invest in order to get there.”
Aside from gaining access to the dashboard, there will be no immediate changes for partners, Microsoft said, with no impact to partners’ business or program status prior to October 2022 and no reduction in benefits.
Instead, Microsoft has confirmed an increased investment in its benefits program with updated benefits reflecting the changes. Partners will be able to renew benefits they are currently using, whilst taking advantage of new benefits packages tailored to their unique needs and business focus.
Partners will also continue to receive internal use rights licences (IURs) including on-premises licenses, cloud service subscriptions and Azure credits, although IURs will now be named ‘Product Benefits’.
No partner’s incentive eligibility will change in the 2023 investments and incentives program year, which runs from October 2022 to September 2023.
“We are engaging with our ecosystem and giving plenty of time for our partners to understand where and how they should be investing,” said Clark. “We are creating an opportunity to prepare for this. This notion of six months is an opportunity for us to ensure that every single partner in our ecosystem who wants to be a part of and participate in this next wave of value has the opportunity to do that.”