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Dynamics Partners Push Vertical-Specific Badge

A few high-profile Microsoft Dynamics partners are marketing their status as holders of an exclusive badge that identifies them as experts in specific industry verticals.

The latest to highlight the badge is I.B.I.S., a multiple Microsoft award-winning ERP and CRM partner based in Norcross, Ga. CEO Andy Vabulas wrote a blog post last week about I.B.I.S. achieving AMR Research Partner Industry recognition as a Certified Microsoft Dynamics VAR for the discrete manufacturing industry.

"While there have been other Microsoft certification programs for VARs, this one is different because it is administered by a well-respected independent resource and the emphasis is on a VAR's ability to meet the customer needs in a specific industry; not just knowing how the software works but able to add real value for the customer," Vabulas wrote.

Microsoft worked with AMR Research, an analyst firm focused on business processes and technology and which is now wholly owned by Gartner, to set up the certifications in the process of overhauling the Microsoft Partner Program into the Microsoft Partner Network. While the MPN includes efforts to illustrate the Microsoft product-expertise depth of partners through the stringent requirements for silver and gold competencies, Microsoft's Dynamics executives also wanted to find a way to point customers to partners with vertical expertise, as well. The program went into effect in March 2010.

According to an AMR page about its Partner Industry Certification System process, the VAR must pay a $1,000 certification fee for each industry certification being pursued. VARs take a self-assessment survey and submit contact information for up to 10 customers in each industry. At least five customers must return satisfaction surveys and the average score has to be 70 out of 100 for the VAR to pass. The certification lasts for two years.

Among partners highlighting AMR industry certifications in announcements and in achievement logos on their company Web sites, several have multiple badges:

In addition to I.B.I.S., companies highlighting discrete manufacturing badges include Streamline Systems, First Tech Direct LLC, eBECS and Ad Ultima NV. Companies showcasing process manufacturing badges include Edgewater Fullscope and Merit Solutions. Professional services badgeholders so far include ConsultCRM and Emerging Solutions. Customer Effective is highlighting a financial services certification and Retail Software Associates is displaying its retail certification from AMR.

Streamline Systems was one of the first partners to achieve the discrete manufacturing badge in May 2010. Streamline Systems Senior Partner Larry Cohn said in a statement at the time, "Microsoft is attempting to differentiate their partners within their large network. Today, 70 percent of their partners are Gold Certified. This does not differentiate one partner from another. Microsoft has established this new certification to differentiate partners in certain industries. We are excited about that differentiation as it enables us to highlight our industry expertise."

Although other changes to the MPN have since substantially cut the percentage of gold Dynamics partners, the AMR badges remain even more of a differentiator.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 30, 2011