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Channel Watch

Microsoft's Small Business Competency Gets Real

At long last, small business-focused partners will have their own competency in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) next month.

A few months ago, Microsoft announced the decision to create a Small Business Competency among the 30 or so competencies of the MPN.

Previously the category existed as a unique Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC), one of the few carryovers from the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP).

If partners have been slow to pay attention to the latest competency move, it's no wonder. Microsoft has been playing Hamlet with a possible Small Business Competency since the earliest days of planning for the MSPP-to-MPN transition.

The situation started getting official in mid-April when two senior Worldwide Partner executives released some details of the requirements and benefits in blog entries. In other words, Microsoft is definitely serious about introducing the competency, and it's finally time for partners to start planning for it.

Like other competencies there will be two levels:

  • Partners with a Small Business gold competency will get 30 internal use rights (IURs), unlimited pre-sales advisory hours for deals that are more than $3,000, 50 non-deal related or post-sales hours, eligibility for a named Microsoft contact, bill-on-behalf capability for Office 365 and premier listings in the Microsoft PinPoint and Office 365 marketplaces.

  • Partners with a Small Business silver competency will get 15 IURs, 20 technical advisory hours and prioritized Pinpoint and Office 365 listings.

Members of the SBSC will recognize that some of those changes are definite upgrades. At press time, documentation on the Microsoft Partner Portal hadn't been updated. We're tracking down more details, but it seems a pretty safe bet that partners will be paying more for the new privileges.

Because the IUR benefits are slightly scaled down from the 25/100 license targets of other silver/gold competencies, we'd expect the cost of enrollment to be much more than the $329 that U.S. SBSC partners paid for their Action Pack Solution Provider subscriptions, but possibly less than the $1,850 and $3,800 costs of other silver and gold competencies. (Ed's Update: The details are in, and the price is temporarily in the middle of the range. Ultimately, the silver and gold competencies will cost the same as others, but a temporary promotion has silver at $999. See "MPN Small Business Competency: More Benefits, Bigger Price Tag" for details.)

Even with a bigger price tag, though, the Small Business Competency would still be one of the best bargains in tech, and the silver and gold logos should be a prestige boost for partners focused on small business.

At last count, Microsoft had about 20,000 members in the SBSC. Microsoft executives expect the Small Business Competency to quickly become the most popular competency in the MPN. Seems like a safe bet.

What's your take as the competency goes from idea to reality? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

More Columns by Scott Bekker:

About the Author

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

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