Microsoft Announces EMS Competency, Other MPN Changes

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Microsoft's laser-focus on cloud is apparent in many of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) tweaks planned for FY '16.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, unveiled some significant changes to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) during Wednesday's keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), including major additions and adjustments to the cloud competencies and some potentially popular changes to certifications.

Cloud Competencies
Microsoft will launch an Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) competency this fall, joining the three cloud competencies Microsoft launched over the last year. The competency fits Microsoft's increasing companywide emphasis on EMS as a strategic product.

Schuster, the general manager of the MPN, said in an interview that the EMS competency will have some logical appeal to partners with certain other competencies.

"A lot of the identity partners will roll into the EMS competency because of the Active Directory work," she said. "We're seeing a lot of crossover with Office 365 partners, who are taking the training and certification now, who I believe would end up in the EMS competency, as well as some of our CRM partners, because there's a lot of tie-in to when you go to do that single authentication and the app integration and so on. As we move forward with the Surface and the devices and Windows 10, you'll see a big tie-in there, as well, because obviously it's about managing all of their devices."

Microsoft is also lowering the revenue thresholds for the Cloud Platform silver competency, which focuses on Azure, and the Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions silver competency, an Office 365-oriented competency. In another effort to make competencies more accessible, ISVs will qualify for the silver level in cloud competencies if they have a certified application.

Microsoft will be killing two unpopular elements of the MPN competencies related to certifications -- the requirement that partners assign unique Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) to each competency and the need for salespeople to pass assessment requirements.

"We want to move them away from the tracking and administration and we want to lower the overhead associated with partnering with us," Schuster said. "The unique MCPs per competency really precludes our smaller partners from participating in multiple competencies. That's been a huge tracking requirement because if you lose one person, then you have to remember which competency you had them against."

It was also a tracking burden for larger partners, who might have 150 MCPs in a spreadsheet. "I don't know how much that's serving them, and I don't know how much that's serving us or our customers," Schuster said.

Meanwhile, with the faster pace of Microsoft's product release cycle, the certification framework is getting creaky. "We're actually moving to a mechanism of continuous education and going to a badging strategy," Schuster said. "Skills badges are more of a lightweight, low-friction way of bringing along the technologists that like more tangible, earlier milestones."

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About the Author

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