The Time for Certification Is Now

What you can do to attain your chosen partnership level, and how Microsoft can help.

At Microsoft Corp., we spend a lot of time talking with and listening to our partners. Over the past year, from my conversations with individuals and groups from partner organizations of all shapes, sizes and specialties, a clear theme has emerged in the certification arena: Many of you already have what it takes to become a Microsoft Certified Partner.

With the busiest re-enrollment period looming on the horizon, now is the time to dot the i's and cross the t's.

We're here to help you through that process. I don't want to oversimplify the process of attaining Certified or Gold Certified status in the Microsoft Partner Program, but I do want to make it clear that the partner teams at Microsoft have invested a lot of time in making the certification ritual as painless as possible. For us, it's a priority.

Achieving your desired level is all about points. The point system is at the heart of the Microsoft Partner Program, one of the key factors in how the program is structured.

Navigating the Competencies
One of the most effective ways to meet the points requirements is attaining competencies. The competencies were developed based on feedback from partners and customers. Here's what we heard: Today's customers expect a partner to specialize rather than trying to be all things to all people. By identifying partners based on specific competencies, Microsoft can more effectively identify your expertise and, ultimately, offer you more connections with customers.

Microsoft has several competencies in effect, many of which you may already be qualified for. These include Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Business Intelligence Solutions, Information Worker Solutions, Integrated E-Business Solutions, Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Software Solutions, Learning Solutions, Microsoft Business Solutions, Networking Infrastructure Solutions and Security Solutions.

In addition, this fall we're launching a number of new competencies. These include Custom Development Solutions, Licensing Solutions, Mobility Solutions and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Hardware Solutions.

Certification Tips and Tricks
Here are some practical tips for navigating the certification program:

  • First, carefully determine the competency that best fits your company's business model and pursue it with vigor. A great place to start is here.
  • Don't wait. Attaining the competency best suited to your company's business model can take up to four months, depending on the training and exams your technical staff needs to complete. You'll be glad you avoided a last-minute rush by identifying the tasks required and beginning sooner rather than later.
  • Begin developing customer references. You'll need three references for each competency you want to declare. A customer reference demonstrates that you have installed the solution—you will input the work you performed for this client, and the client will confirm that you performed the job.
  • Ensure that your primary, secondary and administrative contacts have set their contact preferences to "OK to contact." This will allow Microsoft to contact you regarding special offers and incentives pertaining to competency attainment, go-to-market campaigns and other offers. To update your profile information, go to https://partner.microsoft.com/US and sign in with your Passport account. Then click on "manage your account" in the Member Account box at the top of the page.

Finally, Don't Worry
If you're not sure where to start, don't worry. The Microsoft Partner Program team is offering monthly Web seminars. To determine which one best meets your needs, please visit www.msreadiness.com and search on the key words "partner program" for a rundown on the seminars most appropriate for your certification goals. The left navigation bar of this site also lists courses by competency. In addition, the Microsoft Partner Program team members are here to support you. When you need help, you may reach them at 800-765-7768.

In 2003, we acted on a powerful and compelling vision by launching a new program for Microsoft partners. The program continues to evolve and expand, based on what helps you best serve our mutual customers. This is your program; please continue to let us know what works for you and the areas in which we need to improve. Send your feedback to prd@microsoft.com. Working together, we will continue to build and nurture a world-class program with the goal of exceeding customer expectations.

About the Author

Robert Crissman is general manager of the U.S. Partner Enablement Team at Microsoft Corp.

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