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In-Depth

Top 5 Parts of the Microsoft Partner Network, Rated by Partners

WEB EXCLUSIVE: In a recent survey, partners reveal the most important reasons they align themselves with Microsoft.

Product quality, customer demand and access to Internal Use Rights (IURs) are among the most important reasons to ally with Microsoft, according to a recent Redmond Channel Partner survey of Microsoft partners.

RCP surveyed partners in late May and June about which parts of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) are the most critical. We asked, "Please rate the following factors and Microsoft Partner Network benefits on their importance to your business." Up for a rating on a five-point scale were a dozen features of the MPN and other reasons to partner with Microsoft.

The list included Microsoft product quality, customer demand for Microsoft products, IURs, market development funds (MDFs), margin/referral fees on cloud products, short-term margin promotions on Microsoft products, personalized account management, privileged access to product support teams, leads, training, sales and marketing materials, and the self-service partner portal.

By MPN membership level, 24 percent of respondents had at least one Gold Competency, 15 percent had at least a Silver Competency, 23 percent were Action Pack subscribers, 19 percent were MPN Community Members and 19 percent were partners who did not participate in the MPN.

Of least importance to readers' businesses are the short-term margin promotions on Microsoft products. These are the "pop-up" promotions that appear right before the end of a quarter or near the end of the fiscal year to goose sales. The unpredictable nature of the promotions and their often limited funding mean these noisy affairs don't figure heavily in most partners' business plans.

Also rated low by partners were MDFs, followed by margin/referral fees on cloud products and leads. To be clear, partners weren't saying that they wouldn't value more MDFs, margins or leads. They were answering instead that the amounts of money and the number of leads Microsoft currently doles out are not large enough to be important to their businesses.

What are the top five features of the MPN or elements of selling Microsoft-based solutions that do make a difference for partners in their current form? Here's what's working, according to the survey.

5. Self-Service Partner Portal
Microsoft puts a lot of effort, personnel and resources into the self-service partner portal for the MPN, and readers tell us they're getting good use out of it. Recent efforts to streamline training for MPN administrators within partner companies provide an example of Microsoft's ongoing investments in improving the value of the portal.

4. Training
On a related note, readers rated Microsoft's training materials and programs as a useful and important part of the MPN for their businesses.

3. Internal Use Rights
IURs consist of test software and test accounts intended to get partners familiar with Microsoft products so they can better sell and support them. Microsoft offers partners many different IUR packages, but they break down roughly into three tiers. Action Pack subscribers get roughly enough IURs to run a 10-person business. Silver Competency partners get enough to run a 25-person partner business. Gold Competency partners get enough to run a 100-person partner business. In any case, IURs are one of the highest-rated benefits in the MPN, according to the RCP survey.

2. Customers' Demand for Microsoft Products
Partners like to lead their customers to the best solutions, but the sales are smoothest when the products they recommend are the ones that customers already want. Existing customer demand for Microsoft products is one of the top benefits of being a Microsoft partner, according to the survey.

1. Microsoft Product Quality
The undisputed king of Microsoft partner benefits is unrelated to any MPN program or feature. It's the quality of Microsoft products themselves, readers say. As one Gold Competency partner from Illinois put it, "They seem to take their time with updates and don't always jump into the latest technology trends, but it always seems they get involved later with a quality product that keeps them sailing along."

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About the Author

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