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Microsoft Hikes Gold Competency Fee by 38 Percent

Microsoft will raise the fee required for U.S. partners to achieve the gold level of most competencies on Nov. 19 to $5,260.

The new price represents a 38 percent increase over the old fee of $3,800. The fee for a silver competency in the United States remains $1,850. The price hike is global, although prices vary by country. Partners outside the U.S. should be able to find their new prices on their local competency requirement portal pages.

The gold fee for the new Small Business competency will remain at the old price of $3,800. The silver fee for the Small Business competency also remains at a promotional level of $999 through Dec. 31, 2012. Microsoft kept the fees on that new competency lower in part because it is already much higher than the $329 it cost partners to subscribe to the Action Pack and join the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.

The gold fee hike is the first price increase aside from currency adjustments to any of the Microsoft Partner Network's memberships since Microsoft fully introduced a new competency structure in October 2010.

Partners pay the fee once per year, and a partner with multiple gold competencies only has to pay the fee for one competency. There are other costs in attaining Microsoft competencies, such as employee training and testing costs and investments in developing customer case studies.

Microsoft did acknowledge that a price change was coming to the gold competencies a few weeks after the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July and said it would disclose the new price in November.

In an MPN document published in August, "Competency Roadmap 2013," Microsoft offered some reasons that it would be raising the fee:

"Every year, the Microsoft Partner Network reviews the various membership components to ensure that the value of the benefits we provide our most committed partners is appropriately balanced with the cost of delivering the benefits."

The document went on to list some of the benefits that gold competency partners get that Microsoft believes make the competency worth the increase, including the Solution Incentives Program, dedicated tele-partner account specialists and internal use licenses which are much more generous for gold than silver.

In a July whitepaper sponsored by Microsoft, researchers at IDC concluded that for a partner organization with 50 employees and $5 million to $10 million in revenues, the gold competency benefits were worth about $320,000. IDC singled out $125,000 for internal use rights, $83,000 for the included MSDN subscriptions and $37,500 for the Partner Learning Center.

In hindsight, the whitepaper looks like an effort by Microsoft to soften up the channel for a price hike. Nonetheless, we've previously called out the cost-to-benefit ratio of a gold competency as one of the best program deals in the channel at $3,800. The new value calculation will no longer work for some partners at the margins, although holding the silver competency and Small Business gold competency fees steady gives them a place to turn. For partners already in gold or considering gold, though, an additional $1,460 doesn't seem like it will change the overall ROI by much.

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Posted by Scott Bekker on November 01, 2012


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