Salary Surveys

2011 RCP Salary Survey: Microsoft Partner Salaries Plateau (and That's OK)

RCP's 5th annual Salary Survey finds partner salaries in 2011 are holding steady. That's a big improvement after the drop last year, and many partners see reasons for optimism about their personal fortunes as they look into their pipelines for the remainder of 2011.

  • Download the PDF version of the 2011 salary survey here for more salary charts and analysis.

First, three things about the last 12 months:

  1. The Microsoft partner program has gone through a name change and revamp of the program.

  2. Microsoft has been pushing its technology higher into the cloud and pushing new partner opportunities up there.

  3. Microsoft had record Windows 7 sales.

For Microsoft, 2010 has been a mixed bag of successes and not-quite-successes, so there's no telling how the next 12 months will turn out. The same could be said of the compensation of Microsoft partners and the people who work for those companies. Salaries overall, in fact, were flat this year, with highlights balanced out by a few low spots.

For starters, average base salary of all RCP respondents is $92,222, which is $350 shy of the 2010 results -- less than the 12-month data plan you were billed for that first-generation iPad. Rounded to the nearest percent, the average base salary change was zero. In other words, good news is nothing. If we look back to the 5 percent drop from 2009 to 2010, we could make the argument that a flat result for 2011 is one of the highlights.

An even brighter spot is that the salary median has gone up by $8,000, or nearly 10 percent better than the $81,000 median from a year ago.

Compensation depends mainly on the health of the companies that provide the jobs. But poor jobs data and a slow-motion economy the last 12 months pretty much guarantees Microsoft partners will approach reviews with a bit of caution or come in low with new hires to keep the corporate pulse beating.

"Most companies are hurting, [and] any employees laid off in the past and then replaced with a new hire were replaced at a lower salary this year," said Richard S., president of a health software consultancy.

"We've carried a tight budget, but looks like this year's success will bring us to a positive gain," said Bohdan P., who presides over a Gold Certified Partner software firm in Illinois. But even then, he acknowledged that, "we still have to build a reserve for future uncertainties."

Farther down the career ladder, people like Dustin H. saw the writing on the wall. "The recession caused a significant downturn in the amount of overall development work at my previous employer and had a definite affect on the ability of the company to increase compensation and provide benefits." It's what spurred him to action -- more accurately, to change jobs. He's now making more as a senior consultant at a large Gold Certified Partner software consulting company in Omaha, Neb.

What Happened to Raises, Bonuses?
Keeping and retaining talent with incentives seemed to be the mantra last year, and we often saw incentives expressed in raise or bonus figures. But because last year companies found revenue was still a challenge, and with most companies basing raises and bonuses in large part on company performance, there wasn't much by way of raises to dole out. In fact, 37 percent of respondents reported no raise and another 4 percent actually had their pay cut.

On the bright side, fewer respondents this year believe that their companies won't incentivize through raises or cut pay in the next 12 months. That's a good sign that morale in the work place is looking up, and many companies are starting to make some revenue headway.

And even brighter: Of the respondents who said they got raises, 42 percent expect a 1 percent to 3 percent raise bump in the next year. Nearly all raise ranges are predicted to be higher, except for those who received raises in the range of 16 percent or more. (Of course, we won't know how that optimism pans out until next year's survey, so stay tuned.)

The generally flat attitude companies had on raises has been perhaps even more deflated when it came to bonuses. Companies for the most part were stingy toward them, with an average reward of $5,941. That's a precipitous 37 percent drop from last year. Many companies saw revenue in 2010 to be a big challenge, and company performance was a major factor in bonus compensation.

Overall, respondents seem to maintain a positive attitude about compensation, with 56 percent eyeing increased compensation in the next 12 months.

Many Slices of the Salary Pie
As we do every year, we also like to see how salaries break out based on several factors. For one factor, we like to see how salaries look based on type of organization. This year top earners were those working for consulting firms, at $103,520, followed closely by a mere $400 by independent software vendors. Hosting services providers came in slightly below the six-figure threshold, at $96,025.

Hosting providers made the biggest gains based on percentages, at little more than 8 percent year over year, followed by systems integrators (6 percent) and then ISVs (1 percent). All other categories saw a percentage drop from a year ago.

When we look at salaries based on one's role in an organization, business owners got the biggest slice, at $106,507, followed by those who work part time for a partner company, at $103,116. What's interesting here is that year over year, business owners earned less, while those who work part time for a partner company made major strides in earnings.

We break down salaries by job title as well, with vice presidents getting the largest salaries ($122,480) this year, followed by Other C-level executives ($119,057) and then CEOs and/or Chairmen ($114,639). On the low end is sales and marketing, who earned $70,442.

A Partner Competency's Worth
This year, we've got some data on those who've achieved a level of competency within the new Microsoft Partner Network and the results are interesting. Those with the Silver Midmarket Solution Provider Competency earned more than six figures ($107,875), followed by any Gold Competency ($97,297) and Small Business Specialist ($94,374), which edged out by a few hundred bucks the category of "Partners with Microsoft, but not part of the MPN."

But take these numbers for what they're worth: Those with the Gold Midmarket Solution Provider Competency earned the least, at $85,508. (We just report it as we see it, and some things can't be explained.)

Check out the PDF version of this article for salaries within the older Microsoft Certified Partner program, as well as other compensation data that we couldn't fit in the print edition of this report (you can download here).

Salary Dynamics
Since we're a publication aimed at partners, it only makes sense for us to break out salaries based on the types of Microsoft solutions they specialized in. Salaries for those whose companies sold Dynamics products was $93,739, for an improvement of 9 percent over last year. Actually, it's the only category that improved. Salaries for those working for companies selling infrastructure solutions/services went down a bit over 1 percent, to $91,684. Salaries for companies who sold both was $91,110, or lower by 5 percent. (You'll find the supporting chart for those breakdowns only in the PDF version.)


A link to this year's survey was e-mailed to print issue and online newsletter subscribers for which we had e-mail addresses. Within a two-week period in April, we obtained 1,067 responses, which was whittled down to 671 responses after we culled bad responses or responses with missing data.

Speaking of the PDF version, it's there that you'll find gobs more data: salaries by regional break downs (states, major metro areas); salaries based on size of company; salaries based on employee tenure; and how readers rank their satisfaction with their salaries, other compensation provided by their companies and fringe benefits, to name a few.

Your Thoughts on 2011 Partner Salaries
We hope this information offers some perspective on your IT career or helps you with future salary negotiations. Let us know what you think of the results, and if you have an idea for improvements or additions to this survey next year, write to me at [email protected].