Partner Advocate

Are Too Many Partners Striking Gold?

Questions loom as Microsoft hints at changes to Partner Program.

As word spreads that Microsoft is working on a reorganization of the Microsoft Partner Program, code-named "Octane," partners are getting anxious about what the changes might mean.

The program's last major overhaul came in the fall of 2003, when Microsoft rolled out the partner competencies and laid the groundwork for unifying its traditional partner program with the Microsoft Business Solutions channel.

At this writing, Microsoft is still working on Octane, but there are other signs that the company is clearly rethinking the Microsoft Partner Program's overall structure. In May, the company reorganized the Worldwide Partner Group. Now three Group Business Leaders report to Corporate Vice President Allison Watson -- one for the Solution Providers Engine, one for the Transactional Channel Engine and one for the ISV Engine. (For details, see "A Change in Climate in Redmond.") Separating out transactional partners such as Large Account Resellers, distributors and direct-market resellers is a big change for Microsoft.

One partner responded to RCP Senior Editor Lee Pender's blog post on the topic by commenting: "It's a pretty good program now. I hope they don't screw it up."

Meanwhile, partners would like to see some other matters addressed. We've heard rumblings from Microsoft Dynamics partners and those who compete with Registered Members in several categories that the Microsoft channel, with 400,000 Registered, Certified and Gold Certified Partners, is getting too crowded.

Now some Gold Certified Partners are grumbling that their program level -- the highest on the partner program pyramid -- is becoming too easy to reach and that the number of new entrants reduces its value.

There's no question that Gold Certified Partners' ranks are growing fast. In 2005, there were 3,500 Gold Certified Partners worldwide. Last year, that had increased 100 percent to 7,000. Now there are 10,000. In fact, there are now nearly as many Gold Certified Partners in the United States alone -- 3,000 -- as there were worldwide in 2005.

Whatever the market's carrying capacity for Gold Certified Partners, we're clearly closer to it now than we were two years ago.

One reader offers this interesting suggestion: Create another program level. "Hopefully, [Microsoft will add] a Platinum partner level, as Gold is nearly a commodity," says Kevin Fream, president of Matrixforce Corp., a Gold Certified Partner based in Tulsa, Okla.

Is the Gold level too crowded? Could a Platinum level be a solution? Tell me at [email protected].

About the Author

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