Going Beyond the Gold

Microsoft's Canadian Gold Certified Partners can qualify for even greater recognition.

It's no secret: Many partners -- and even some Microsoft executives -- believe it's become too easy to get Gold Certified.

The Microsoft Partner Program's top tier is also its fastest-growing, expanding from about 10,000 Gold Certified Partners worldwide in mid-2007 to more than 14,425 just one year later.

That's prompted Microsoft to revisit its methods for differentiating partners (see "The New Rules of Partnering with Microsoft," July 2008). Meanwhile, Microsoft Canada already offers a higher bar for partners in that country: The Gold Certified Excellence Program.

The program honors Canadian Gold Certified Partners with four or more competencies. Such recognition can be a valuable distinction in a highly competitive marketplace, says Stuart Crawford, vice president of business development for Calgary-based IT Matters Inc., one of about 80 Canadian partners in the excellence program. "There's a sense among partners that there are too many Gold Certified Partners," Crawford says. "This provides a next level."

And the bar is getting even higher, reflecting Microsoft's increasing emphasis on measuring customer satisfaction (or, in Redmond parlance, "C-Sat"):

  • For excellence-program newcomers: New applicants must now provide 20-plus C-Sat surveys with minimum average scores of 165 for admission.
  • For existing excellence-program members: As of January 2009, partners currently in the program must provide 20-plus C-Sat surveys with minimum average scores of 165 to remain active members.

Microsoft Canada officials review excellence-level partners quarterly, removing any that no longer meet the program's eligibility requirements.

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