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Compromise in the Works on MPN Competencies?

There is growing buzz that Microsoft will come up with some compromise over the certification requirements that some partners fear will put them out of business. But it is not clear to what extent.

Details of any changes to the new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) are expected to be made public next week at the company's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, set to be held in Washington, DC.

"The word on the street is some changes have been made and will probably be announced at WPC," says Howard Cohen, northeast regional chairman of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP).

Cohen says it remains unclear what those changes will be but he was optimistic. "The people at Microsoft who were responsible for MPN have told us clearly that they are open to dialog and they appreciate the role IAMCP plays as the voice of their partner channel." A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumors but said "we will be talking a lot about MPN next week at WPC."

As reported, MPN is set to place new certification requirements that will force many partners to hire additional engineers in order to maintain multiple advanced certification levels. As the Gold Certification Partner designation is set to fade away, MPN will give way to specialty-specific designations called Advanced Competencies.

The requirement that bars double-dipping by engineers could impact those organizations with multiple Competencies now because they will have to add engineers to cover multiple disciplines at the Advanced level in the MPN.

Many Microsoft partners, larger ones in particular, say that's a good thing. "We don’t want to compete with someone who paid $1,500 and passed one test and became a virtualization partner," says Thad Morrow, director of sales at Concord, Calif.-based Entisys Solutions.

"Personally I think they are going to have make revisions because it will put too many partners out of business to be quite honest," argues Jeff Goldstein, president of New York-based Queue Associates, winner of Microsoft's CRM Dynamics SL Partner of the Year Award. "I understand what Microsoft is trying to do. Too many people are Gold Certified Partners."

Cohen doesn't dispute the notion that Microsoft has too many partners out there who have abused the Gold designation over the years. By his estimate, of the 12,000 partners in the New York City metropolitan area, 7,000 don't even have registered domains. Of those that do, perhaps only 3,000 to 4,000 are active Microsoft partners looking to grow their businesses, he reasons.

"Nobody who's making investments in building a good practice likes to see anybody level the playing field," Cohen says. "I think MPN is meant to wipe away all of the things that leveled the playing field. This is a good thing. As long as you don’t hurt the people who are playing by the rules, those are the ones we have to make sure we are taking good care of."

Pruning Microsoft's partner base in a way that doesn't take meat off the bone could be a critical challenge for the company's new channel chief Jonathan Roskill, who took over last week after swapping jobs with Allison Watson, who held the job for over seven years.

Another challenge for Roskill will be to get partners comfortable with Microsoft's "we're-all-in" cloud strategy.  What other challenges does Roskill have? If you'd like to make your opinions known, please take a minute to participate in a brief poll. As always, your responses will be kept anonymous unless you invite us to follow up with you about your answers. Click here to take the survey.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on July 08, 2010 at 11:59 AM


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