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MS101 for Microsoft Partners DONT USE THIS ONE

A TS2 pilot program offers a valuable training option for Registered Members and new employees at partner companies.

In recent months, Microsoft's partner training unit has been experimenting with a new way to introduce partners to a wealth of underutilized technical, sales and business resources. Called "MS101 Microsoft Partner," the two-hour, in-person sessions are aimed at helping new partners, primarily Registered Members, become familiar with program benefits, especially self-service resources on the Microsoft Partner Portal and at MS-GearUp.com.

"Spending hours trying to find things on the partner portal is not the best use of your time," Allison Dawson, partner community manager for Microsoft's Mid-Atlantic Region, told a group of about 30 partners gathered in a Bowie, Md., movie theater in October. That pilot session was the first of 18 sessions planned to run at locations nationwide through Dec. 20. (The program's future beyond then is uncertain because after that date, Microsoft's TS2 organization will focus on events preparing the channel for the launches of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.)

The MS101 concept isn't new. Ernie Lou of the Enterprise and Partner Group has been running quarterly events on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus and in Europe and Asia for eight years. Those four-day sessions, modeled after Microsoft's internal employee orientation program, are designed to help enterprise partners get the most out of their Microsoft relationships. The company also adapted the MS101 program into pre-conference sessions for the 2006 and 2007 Worldwide Partner Conferences (WPCs).

The organizers of the new pilot program-Dawson, marketing managers Tina Parkhouse and Eva Skidmore and TS2 content lead Steve Deming-borrowed from past programs, condensing the information to fit their two-hour time slot. Says Deming: "This is really designed to be a high-level overview."

While some Certified and Gold Certified Partner attendees have come away with nuggets of information from the pilot sessions, Parkhouse says the real emphasis is on helping Registered Members use the partner portal and other resources.

Currently, MS101 sessions tend to be scheduled in conjunction with other local TS2 events. The agenda calls for presenters to walk attendees through 10 key resources that every new partner should know. More seasoned partners also learn about five additional resources for expanding their businesses (for the full list, see "The Top 10 ..." and "... and a Bonus 5,").



The Top 10 ...
Attendees at MS101 Microsoft Partner sessions find out about some key Microsoft Partner Program resources. At the basic level, they learn to:
1. Register/renew/review their partner profiles.
2. Subscribe to the Partner & Security newsletters.
3. Attend TS2 events and partner training from MSReadiness.com.
4. Subscribe to the Microsoft Action Pack.
5. Evaluate the Small Business Specialist Community.
6. Install a Demo Showcase or Technology Demonstration Toolkit.
7. Get licensing training on Open Value.
8. Go to MS-GearUp.com for the Sales Tool Kit & Licensing Configurator.
9. Visit Microsoft Incentives.com monthly.
10. Implement a Ready-to-Go Campaign.


Attendees at that first event in Maryland received a gift bag that included the Demo Showcase, a valuable set of customizable online demos.

How You'll Benefit
In terms of resources, the Microsoft Partner Program is among the industry's richest channel programs. It's common for new partners-and even some relatively experienced partners-to either feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of partner benefits or to simply overlook many of them.

The main advantage of MS101 is that Microsoft prioritizes its partner resources, describing key benefits and explaining how to find and obtain them.

Of course, you could probably find much of the same information online. But many people absorb information better at an in-person event than by surfing the Web alone. At the Maryland pilot session, presenters offered many helpful tips and insights, and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

MS101 events are great training opportunities, both for organizations new to the Microsoft Partner Program and for new employees at partner companies. Even the busiest person should be able to spare a few hours out of the office-and ultimately, better understanding the benefits of the resources Microsoft makes available to partners might actually improve employee efficiency.

For Registered Members, it's worth attending just to get the free Demo Showcase, normally available only available to Certified and Gold Certified Partners.

About the Author

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

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