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MPN: Going for the Gold

Anyone who was hoping that Microsoft's partner organization would put the breaks on its plans to require unique certifications was disappointed last week.

"It's full speed ahead," said Julie Bennani, general manager for partner programs at Microsoft, in an interview during last week's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. "We are still going on with those requirements and landing those in October."

While she and Microsoft's new partner chief, Jonathan Roskill, signaled they were willing to consider alternatives at a later date, as reported, the plan looks baked to move forward with the Oct. 1 date for transitioning to the new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). "If we said, 'If you could get Gold in three of the five in Core IO, we could give you a Core IO competency.' That's one thing that's interesting to think about," Roskill said.

Microsoft last week did say it's renaming the competency and advanced competency designations Gold and Silver, but many appeared to welcome a Silver designation like receiving a booby prize.

At WPC last week, I sat in on a session called MPN: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. It was moderated by Mo Edjlali, a management consultant, who, until recently, served five years as the president of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners Washington D.C. chapter.

Now a management consultant, Edjlali looked at the situation from both points of view. "I think Microsoft wants people to have focus, that makes sense," Edjlali said. Indeed there are many partners who are Gold who most would agree don't deserve that designation today.

"But I think the trouble is some products are so closely related that you can't say your good in BI and not in SQL Server, it confuses customers when they might feel that expertise isn't there when it's always been there," he added. "People say 'my staff hasn't changed but now we are going to come across like we're not as sharp as we used to and these big companies that have the manpower will have the credentials but not have the skills or actually put the billable people on project with those skills.'"

That is the center of the fear. The large integrators can afford to have Gold certified engineers across the board, but the small- and mid-sized firms can't. So they will have to decide which disciplines they want to be Gold certified in and accept Silver for the rest.

Perhaps a better idea would have been to introduce a Platinum tier, Edjlali said. "It's going to be difficult for people to go from Gold to Silver," he told me in an interview after the session.

Janice Crosswell of Microsoft Canada's Corporate Assurance Group, who was sitting in on the session tried to spin the situation. "Silver is better than [the current] Gold," Crosswell said to the group. "When you're talking about some of the math, and I am saying 'I am just Silver,' you are actually rank higher than the [current] gold. There are some more requirements."

That didn't go over too well. "Customers are never going to know that Silver is now better than Gold used to be," a partner in the session replied. "They see Gold and that's what they see."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on July 12, 2010 at 11:59 AM


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