Partner Advocate

Watch Out, I'm a Partner Now

Now that anyone can register to become a Microsoft Partner, how does that affect the partner community?

Nov. 18 was a big day for me; I became a Registered Member of the Microsoft Partner Program. The question is whether that's a good thing for you.

Coworkers and even a Microsoft employee in the Partner Group had been urging me to sign up since taking the helm of Redmond Channel Partner about a month before. I've been covering Microsoft for seven years, but mostly on the product and IT end-user side, so I'd never had a reason to register as a partner.

Unlike, I hope, many of you, I didn't have a flunky to do the registration for me. I had to do it the new economy way, myself and online. Overall, I found the process fairly painless. Oh sure, it required me to generate yet another hated Microsoft Passport account. I use the things rarely and always for some Microsoft program or other. Invariably, I forget my password and the e-mail address I used the last time and end up having to set up a new account. I also ran into your standard online problem of having the registration form hang after I'd entered the maximum amount of information, leaving me in limbo.

But enough of my petty whining. The Microsoft Partner Program asked me good questions about my expertise and business interests, and some of the user interface options were nice, especially being able to associate with an existing partner organization. (I was too impatient to use this option. I think Redmond Channel Partner is now a partner twice over.) The whole process was quick and easy.

Registering felt a little sneaky to me, but I guess it's OK. First, it's a journalistic exercise — necessary research for the job. And, even though Redmond Channel Partner (RCP) isn't peddling Microsoft software directly, we are supporting Microsoft partners as an advocate. I'd say that gives us a legitimate role in this community.

Let me rephrase the question I started with. Of course I think RCP is good for other partners. I hope you agree and make us better by communicating your ideas with us regularly. What I really wonder is whether it's good for existing partners that Microsoft has made it so easy for others to become new partners.

There are about 10 times as many partners in the Microsoft Partner Program now as there were in late 2003, when Microsoft introduced the free Registered Member level. As Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot pointed out in his column in the November issue, the numbers of Certified and Gold Certified Partners are largely unchanged in that timeframe.

The benefits to Microsoft from having all these new partners are clear. Mainly, Microsoft has contact information to convert the best of those organizations to Certified or Gold Certified status.

If Microsoft can spur some of those Registered Members into more valuable relationships, it could lead to more fruitful relationships among all partners. On the other hand, I watched the Microsoft Certification program struggle under the weight of a glut of Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers a few years ago. Many MCSEs felt that a crop of so-called "paper MCSEs" diluted the value of their certifications.

What's your experience been during this period of expansion in the Microsoft partner universe? Have all those new non-certified partners made your partner status less valuable, raised the profile of the Microsoft Partner Program or impacted the market not a whit? I'd like to hear from you at

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.