In-Depth

The Microsoft Partner Awards

With its choices of categories and countries from which winners come for its annual partner recognitions, Microsoft reveals its priorities and ambitions.

For Quest Software Inc., Dimension Data plc, Intrinsic Technologies and the 66 other partners on stage at the 2009 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July, the Microsoft Partner Awards are about being recognized for a job well done.

Unlike achieving Gold Certified Partner status or adding a Competency, a Microsoft Partner Award is a specific stamp of approval. Microsoft has picked each winner out of its 640,000 partner channel as an example of things done right. Most companies are quick to exploit the honor.

"We're very excited about winning the Microsoft Partner worldwide award again this year," Morten Boel Sigurdsson, CEO of Omada, a Gold Certified Partner, said in a statement released the day the winners were announced in late June. Omada won Security Solutions, Identity and Secure Access Partner of the Year.

Microsoft has its own reasons for naming winners, of course. In the case of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Omada, for example, the company is heavily engaged in fledgling products whose growth Microsoft wants to encourage.

"Omada continues to be a strategic partner for Microsoft delivering advanced enterprise solutions based on Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007 and Forefront Identity Manager 2010, and I'm looking forward to another great year together, providing value to more companies looking for an advanced Identity and Access Management solution," Peter Colsted, regional incubation sales director of Microsoft, said of Omada.

While each Microsoft Partner Award speaks to the excellence of the winner and finalists in each category, looking at all of the awards together provides a powerful and public message of Microsoft's product and business priorities and its assessment of where, geographically, innovation is happening within its channel.

"Partners are the key to igniting business innovation through great technology, as well as helping customers drive down costs."

Allison Watson, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft

In her statement introducing the awards this year, Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group (WPG) Corporate Vice President Allison Watson emphasized the partner sales priority of providing value for customers in a recession. "Partners are the key to igniting business innovation through great technology as well as helping customers drive down costs," Watson said. "Congratulations to the 2009 Partner Award winners, who have demonstrated a superior level of expertise as well as a focus on delivering customer value. We look forward to seeing those partners fulfill their limitless potential as they continue to provide customers with world-class Microsoft solutions."

In 2009, Microsoft expanded the number of categories in which it recognizes partners by nearly 50 percent after keeping the number of categories fairly steady from 2007 to 2008. In 2007, there were 42 categories; in 2008, 47; and in 2009, 69.

Make Way for the New
One of the most noticeable changes in categories is the doubling of Microsoft Dynamics partner recognitions. In an industry that's been hammered by recession, Microsoft is going out of its way to show successful Dynamics partners some recognition. In 2008, there were six winning categories, corresponding to the product areas (AX, CRM, GP, NAV, Point of Sale Solutions and SL). This year, awards went out in all those categories and in another six vertically based Dynamics categories: distribution, financial services, manufacturing, professional services, public sector and retail.

Showing that it's serious about Software plus Services (S+S), and to show that there's some momentum in the channel behind its controversial efforts there, Microsoft added a raft of S+S-related Partner Awards in 2009. There are now Partners of the Year for Digital Agencies, Online Services, S+S Development and S+S Integration. Another new category, Communications Sector Partner of the Year, could be grouped in this category, as well. It went to Comcast Corp., the cable giant which has become one of Microsoft's biggest partners for delivering S+S-style services to small business customers.

Other areas where Microsoft sees growth opportunities and added partner categories included Unified Communications (UC), mobility solutions and the public sector. Cementing UC's place as a heavy bet for Microsoft's future growth, Microsoft added three UC Partner of the Year categories: one for IM/presence, one for messaging and one for voice. The number of mobility categories jumped from one to three. Awards now cover a Mobility Solutions Partner of the Year, a Mobility Solutions Integration Partner of the Year and a Mobility Solutions Business Application Partner of the Year.

With the economy continuing to struggle, one of the only areas of IT spending growth in the next year could be government, due to the stimulus package in the United States and other government spending programs worldwide. This year, Microsoft added three Public Sector awards, up from none in the past. New awards recognize partners in education, government and health.

Also new this year are recognitions for a Large Account Reseller, an additional Learning Solutions award and some competitive awards. One competitive award is for a newly recruited partner; another is for partners who've successfully transitioned customers from Lotus Notes to the Microsoft Exchange/SharePoint platform.

Areas that are continuing to get attention include the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions and Information Worker categories, both mainstays of the Partner Awards. As Microsoft shifts emphasis in the partner program to partners who make money reselling or enhancing S+S, the bread-and-butter networking and deployment partner categories are fading slightly, however. Information Worker is down to seven categories from nine a year ago, while Advanced Infrastructure Solutions is down to four categories from six.

Geographic Statements
While the categories make a statement about Microsoft's business priorities, the geographic locations of the winners also make a statement about where Microsoft sees the action happening in terms of innovation within the channel. The answer, looking at both winners and the broader group of finalists, appears to be in the United States.

Slightly more than half--35, to be exact--of the 69 winners are located in the United States. Just less than half of the 200-plus winners and finalists together are also located in the United States.

The winners and finalists also skew heavily to the English-speaking parts of the world, with about three quarters coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and South Africa (where English is a major government, business and media language).

In all, 16 countries had winners and 32 countries had either a winner or finalist. Western Europe, including the United Kingdom, accounted for 47 winners and finalists; Asia/Pacific for 20. Meanwhile, the much ballyhooed BRIC block of Brazil, Russia, India and China didn't figure heavily in the awards. India had one winner and three finalists; Brazil, two winners and two finalists; and Russia, three finalists. Chinese partners weren't among the finalists or winners.

What the Eclectic Mix Means
What's behind the U.S. and English-speaking dominance of the awards? On the one hand, U.S. partners in particular operate in the most mature and coveted large IT market in the world. Experienced U.S. partners in a long-vibrant industry are likely to generate a disproportionate amount of innovation.

The U.S. subsidiary is indeed outsized. More than a third of the members of the Microsoft Partner Network are in the United States. Adding to that is the visibility bias: with Microsoft's WPG based at corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. Staffed near the top with mostly U.S. executives, the WPG may award what it knows and understands. Meanwhile, almost all Microsoft products are available in beta in English, giving English-speaking partners an obvious leg up for moving into new opportunity areas.

In the end, awarding a partner community of more than 360,000 partners with a dozen basic business models, dozens of products to focus on, dozens more vertical industries and dozens of countries in just 69 categories is going to be eclectic in some way.

The ultimate takeaway, though, is simple: Microsoft wants to use partner examples to encourage its channel to chase new business opportunities. This year, those opportunities seem brightest in S+S, the public sector, UC and mobility solutions.

2009 Microsoft Partner Award Winners and Finalists

Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Active Directory Partner of the Year
Winner: Quest Software Inc., United States
Finalist: Centrify Corp., United States
Finalist: Likewise Software, United States

Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Storage Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: NetApp, United States
Finalist: CommVault Systems Inc., United States
Finalist: Compellent, United States

Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Systems Management Partner of the Year
Winner: CDW Corp., United States
Finalist: Dimension Data plc, Australia
Finalist: Accenture and Avanade Inc., United States

Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Windows Desktop Deployment Partner of the Year
Winner: Compugen Inc., Canada
Finalist: Dimension Data plc, Australia
Finalist: SIVECO Romania, Romania

Business Intelligence Partner of the Year
Winner: Solver, United States
Finalist: BlueGranite Inc., United States
Finalist: Information Management Group Ltd., United Kingdom

Citizenship Partner of the Year
Winner: Koenig Solutions Pvt. Ltd., India
Finalist: Focal Technology Solutions, United States
Finalist: FullArmor, United States

Communications Sector Partner of the Year
Winner: Comcast Corp., United States
Finalist: Equilibrium, United States
Finalist: MetraTech Corp., United States

Custom Development Solutions, Application Infrastructure Development Partner of the Year
Winner: Kiandra System Solutions, Australia
Finalist: Programmer's, Brazil
Finalist: EMC Corp., United States

Custom Development Solutions, Smart Client Development Partner of the Year
Winner: L3, Brazil
Finalist: Iconexa, Chile
Finalist: E Smart Systems, Serbia

Custom Development Solutions, Web Development Partner of the Year
Winner: Catapult Systems Inc., United States
Finalist: Altius Consulting Ltd., United Kingdom
Finalist: Schematic, United States

Data Management Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: Orion Technology, Canada
Finalist: Agilysys Inc., United States
Finalist: Idera, United States

Digital Agencies Partner of the Year
Winner: AKQA, United Kingdom
Finalist: EMC Corp., United Kingdom
Finalist: 2nd Factory, Japan

Distribution Partner of the Year
Winner: Workgroup, South Africa
Finalist: Tech Data, Belgium
Finalist: Esprinet S.p.A., Italy

Enterprise Partner of the Year
Winner: Accenture and Avanade Inc., United States
Finalist: Hewlett-Packard Co., United States
Finalist: Dell Inc., United States

Global ISV Consumer Partner of the Year
Winner: Corel Corp., Canada
Finalist: Nuance Communications Inc., United States
Finalist: Cakewalk Inc., United States

Global ISV Industry Partner of the Year
Winner: OSIsoft Inc., United States
Finalist: Epicor Software Corp., United States
Finalist: SunGard, United States

Global ISV Infrastructure Partner of the Year
Winner: CA Inc., United States
Finalist: Quest Software Inc., United States
Finalist: Citrix Systems Inc., United States

Global ISV Line-of-Business Partner of the Year
Winner: Epicor Software Corp., United States
Finalist: Environmental Systems Research Institute, United States
Finalist: Open Text Corp., Canada

Global ISV Technology Innovation Partner of the Year
Winner: FullArmor, United States
Finalist: Schlumberger Ltd., United States
Finalist: iSoft, Australia

Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: MaximumASP LLC, United States
Finalist: Hostbasket, Belgium
Finalist: 7global, United Kingdom

International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP) Partner of the Year
Winner: L3, Brazil

Information Worker Solutions, Data Visualization Partner of the Year
Winner: ProModel Corp., United States
Finalist: Oculus Info Inc., Canada
Finalist: Shoothill, United Kingdom

Information Worker Solutions, Enterprise Content Management and Forms Development Partner of the Year
Winner: KnowledgeLake Inc., United States
Finalist: Concept Interactive, Canada
Finalist: Open Text Corp., Canada

Information Worker Solutions, Enterprise Project Management Partner of the Year
Winner: EPM Live, United States
Finalist: Siemens AG, Germany
Finalist: Pcubed, United States

Information Worker Solutions, Office Deployment Partner of the Year
Winner: Dimension Data plc, Australia
Finalist: AccTech Systems, South Africa
Finalist: Citrix Systems Inc., United States

Information Worker Solutions, Office Solutions Development Partner of the Year
Winner: CDC Software Corp., Canada
Finalist: MacroView Business Technology, Australia
Finalist: Bitscape IT Solutions, India

Information Worker Solutions, Portals and Collaboration Partner of the Year
Winner: Content and Code, United Kingdom
Finalist: MTS Allstream, Canada
Finalist: Accenture and Avanade Inc., United States

Information Worker Solutions, Search Partner of the Year
Winner: GESFOR OSMOS, Peru
Finalist: Concept Interactive, Canada
Finalist: Caturano and Company, United States

ISV/Software Solutions Innovation Partner of the Year
Winner: Zap, Australia
Finalist: Mamut Software Ltd., Norway
Finalist: Upside Software Inc., Canada

ISV/Software Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: KnowledgeLake Inc., United States
Finalist: Acctech Systems, South Africa
Finalist: OSIsoft Inc., United States

Large Account Reseller Partner of the Year
Winner: Dimension Data plc, Australia
Finalist: CDW Corp., United States
Finalist: Softchoice Corp., Canada

Learning Solutions Impact Partner of the Year
Winner: QA, United Kingdom
Finalist: CompuEducaci—n, Mexico
Finalist: Solartech, United States

Learning Solutions Innovative Partner of the Year
Winner: Netcampus Pty Ltd., South Africa
Finalist: Benchmark/New Horizons Learning, United States
Finalist: NIIT, India

Licensing Solutions, License Delivery Partner of the Year
Winner: DAQUAS, Czech Republic
Finalist: Softmart Management Services Inc., United States
Finalist: Dimension Data plc, Australia

Licensing Solutions, Software Asset Management Partner of the Year
Winner: Dimension Data plc, Australia
Finalist: Phoenix Software, United Kingdom
Finalist: IPR-Insights, Hungary

Microsoft Dynamics Distribution Partner of the Year
Winner: Young & Partners, Belgium
Finalist: Columbus IT, Denmark
Finalist: Lanham Associates, United States

Microsoft Dynamics Financial Services Partner of the Year
Winner: Customer Effective Inc., United States
Finalist: E-consulting, Ukraine
Finalist: IMGROUP, United Kingdom

Microsoft Dynamics Manufacturing Partner of the Year
Winner: Fullscope Inc., United States
Finalist: Columbus IT, Denmark
Finalist: Tectura Corp., Germany

Microsoft Dynamics Professional Services Partner of the Year
Winner: Client Profiles Inc., United States
Finalist: CGS Redmond Technologies LLC, United States
Finalist: Synergy Business Solutions, United States

Microsoft Dynamics Public Sector Partner of the Year
Winner: Infoma Software Consulting GmbH, Germany
Finalist: LINK Development, Egypt
Finalist: GMCS, Russia

Microsoft Dynamics Retail Partner of the Year
Winner: Columbus IT, Denmark
Finalist: PositiveTechnology.com, United States
Finalist: K3 Business Technology Group, United Kingdom

Microsoft Dynamics AX Partner of the Year
Winner: Hitachi Consulting Corp., United States
Finalist: Fullscope Inc., United States
Finalist: Eclipse Computing Pty Ltd., Australia

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner of the Year
Winner: Ascentium, United States
Finalist: Infinity Info Systems, United States
Finalist: CIBER UK, United Kingdom

Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner of the Year
Winner: Cogsdale Corp., Canada
Finalist: Interdyn-Socius, United States
Finalist: ITQAN Al-Bawardi Computers, United Arab Emirates

Microsoft Dynamics NAV Partner of the Year
Winner: Sistemas de Gesti—n, Spain
Finalist: Serenic Software, United States
Finalist: Pleasant Valley Business Solutions LLC, United States

Microsoft Dynamics Point-of-Sale Partner of the Year
Winner: POSitive Technology, United States
Finalist: Retail Technology Experts, United States
Finalist: New West Technologies Southeast, United States

Microsoft Dynamics SL Partner of the Year
Winner: SIS Software, United States
Finalist: Synergy Business Solutions, United States
Finalist: Queue Associates, United States

Mobility Solutions Business Application Partner of the Year
Winner: Client Strategy Group, United States
Finalist: Antenna Software, United States
Finalist: Blink Systems, Brazil

Mobility Solutions Integration Partner of the Year
Winner: Ensyst Pty Ltd., Australia
Finalist: JL Mobile Systems Inc., United States
Finalist: Logotec Engineering SA, Poland

Mobility Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: Spring Wireless, United States
Finalist: Rayonnance Technologies, France
Finalist: ALK Technologies Inc., United Kingdom

Networking Infrastructure Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: Know Technology, United States
Finalist: Kolari, Botswana
Finalist: SecurElement, United States

Newly Recruited Partner of the Year
Winner: AccTech Systems, South Africa
Finalist: 2E2, United Kingdom
Finalist: Infobox, Russia

Notes Transition Partner of the Year
Winner: EMC Corp., United States
Finalist: Quest Software Inc., United States
Finalist: CASAHL Technology Inc., United States

OEM Hardware Solutions, Device Manufacturing Partner of the Year
Winner: Plantronics Inc., United States
Finalist: Fujitsu, Germany

OEM Hardware Solutions, System Building Partner of the Year
Winner: Third Wave Corp., Japan
Finalist: Casper Bilgisayar Sistemleri, Turkey
Finalist: Olidata S.p.A., Italy

Office Business Application Partner of the Year
Winner: OSIsoft Inc., United States
Finalist: triomis GmbH, Germany
Finalist: Diamante, Italy

Online Services Partner of the Year
Winner: PointBridge, United States
Finalist: Business Engineering, United States
Finalist: Wortell Holding BV, Netherlands

Public Sector, Education Partner of the Year
Winner: Datatel Inc., United States
Finalist: RM, United Kingdom
Finalist: Synetrix Holding Ltd., United Kingdom

Public Sector, Government Partner of the Year
Winner: Spenta Consulting S.L., Spain
Finalist: Environmental Systems Research Institute, US
Finalist: Information Strategies, United States

Public Sector, Health Partner of the Year
Winner: iLink Systems Inc., United States
Finalist: Egton Medical Information Systems, United Kingdom
Finalist: CareWorks, United Kingdom

Security Solutions, Identity and Secure Access Partner of the Year
Winner: Omada, Denmark
Finalist: Oxford Computer Group, United Kingdom
Finalist: Certified Security Solutions Inc., United States

Security Solutions, Infrastructure Security Partner of the Year
Winner: Data#3 Ltd., Australia
Finalist: CMS Consulting, Canada
Finalist: Sapphire Technologies, United Kingdom

Small Business Specialist Partner of the Year
Winner: Evolve IT, Australia
Finalist: Bulletproof InfoTech, Canada
Finalist: Quadrasystems.net Pvt Ltd., India

SOA and Business Process Partner of the Year
Winner: Hitachi Consulting UK, formerly known as Edenbrook, UK
Finalist: Xterprise, United States
Finalist: PNMsoft, United Kingdom

Software plus Services Development Partner of the Year
Winner: Mamut Software Ltd., Norway
Finalist: ExactTarget, United States
Finalist: Hyland Software Inc., United States

Software plus Services Integration Partner of the Year
Winner: IDE, Sweden
Finalist: Accelare Inc., United States
Finalist: IT Solution Partners, Netherlands

Unified Communications Solutions, IM/Presence Partner of the Year
Winner: Enabling Technologies Corp., United States
Finalist: Eurodata Systems plc, United Kingdom
Finalist: Preferred One Stop Technologies Ltd., United Kingdom

Unified Communications Solutions, Messaging Partner of the Year
Winner: Janalent, United States
Finalist: Enabling Technologies Corp., United States
Finalist: Apptix, United States

Unified Communications Solutions, Voice Partner of the Year
Winner: Intrinsic Technologies, United States
Finalist: Dimension Data Network Services, United Kingdom
Finalist: Gold Systems Inc., United States