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Microsoft Eases MPN Deadlines, Requirements

As partners scramble to meet urgent priorities in the face of the public health and economic crisis of the coronavirus, Microsoft took steps this month to remove its Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) program requirements from their growing to-do lists.

"We've heard from many partners that it's challenging to meet requirements and renew existing competencies in the current climate," Microsoft One Commercial Partner Corporate Vice President Gavriella Schuster said in a blog post.

In her second major post on COVID-19, Schuster outlined new extended deadlines for Microsoft competencies, Azure Expert MSP, Azure advanced specializations, Cloud Business Applications scoring and Microsoft Partner Agreement enforcement. Schuster also announced a Teams-related incentive and a major effort to move training, exams and certifications online.

The earlier blog post focused on resources for partners and their customers related to remote work.

The change that should remove a headache for the largest number of Microsoft partners is the competency extension. "To help you focus on supporting your customers, if your competency anniversary date is between January 1 and June 30, 2020, we are extending your existing competency or competencies through your next anniversary date in 2021," Schuster said. Partners will need to go to the Partner Center to qualify for the extension. Information on what exactly partners will need to do was not immediately available.

Azure Expert MSP, an elite set of partners who must meet a more involved set of requirements than competency partners, will also see a relaxing of requirements that is already extended through the end of the calendar year. A scheduled increase in the Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR) requirement has also been extended.

Similarly, partners with Azure advanced specializations with renewal dates before Dec. 31 of this year will have a program anniversary date extension until June 30, 2021. Those specializations include Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure, Linux and Open Source Database Migration to Microsoft Azure, Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure, Modernization of Web Applications to Microsoft Azure and SAP on Microsoft Azure.

On one specific competency, the Dynamics 365 solutions-focused Cloud Business Applications, Microsoft is delaying a major new change in the way partners earn the silver or gold badge. With Cloud Business Applications, Microsoft is introducing a comprehensive partner scoring mechanism called the Partner Contribution Indicators (PCI) score. It takes into account things like new customer revenue, new customer additions, new large-scale deployments, growth in monthly active users and employee certifications. Under PCI, partners scoring 60 to 79 meet requirements for silver, and those scoring 80 to 100 earn gold. The PCI score had been scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1. Now, Microsoft has pushed it back six months to April 1, 2021.

Microsoft is also postponing enforcement of the Microsoft Partner Agreement, which had been scheduled to take effect this month. Under the enforcement phase, partners who had not accepted the agreement would no longer be able to transact. Microsoft has not provided a new date for enforcement to begin.

In the midst of an explosion in Teams usage for all the newly remote workers, a Teams incentive is being expanded for partners. From now through Sept. 30, new or expanded incentives are available to non-FastTrack partners and the lowest qualified entitlement level for FastTrack partners.

In an acknowledgment that partners can no longer do in-person training, visit test sites for exams or visit customers online, Schuster detailed a number of expansions of virtual resources. "We're increasing the number of digital testing centers so certification exams can be done at home, waiving rescheduling fees and extending exam voucher expiration dates," Schuster said. "We are moving hundreds of in-person technical training sessions to virtual platforms so that partners can continue to receive specialized training from local subject matter experts and trainers."

Additionally, partners with advisory hours through competencies or Action Pack can get remote help closing deals from Partner Technical Services, Schuster noted.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 07, 2020


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