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Microsoft Centers Cloud in Major Partner Program Revamp

Microsoft is planning a major cloud-focused facelift for its partner program this fall that will significantly impact the more than 400,000 organizations in its ranks.

On Oct. 3, 2022, the existing Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, announced Rodney Clark, Microsoft channel chief and head of channel sales, in a blog post and media call on Wednesday.

This is the biggest change to Microsoft's partner program since 2009, when it replaced the earlier Microsoft Partner Program with the current Microsoft Partner Network. Since its launch, the MPN has undergone multiple reorgs and revamps, including the formation of One Commercial Partner (OCP), a channel-facing organization.

Tellingly, Microsoft has raised the profile of its 7-year-old Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partner model steadily in recent years. Clark characterized the coming switch to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program as a reflection of current IT tailwinds that point to ever-growing cloud adoption among enterprises.

"This announcement is about more than a name; this change better reflects the enormous and ongoing transition of business operations to the cloud, and how Microsoft intends to support partners in the future," he wrote. "It aligns our partners' go-to-market motions with the way customers buy today."

MPN Gold and Silver Badges Will Be Retired
The new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will aim to drive and promote partners' proficiency in six technology areas, per Clark's post:

  • Data & AI (Azure)
  • Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
  • Business Applications
  • Modern Work
  • Security

Partners can choose to get certified in one or more of the above areas.

Importantly, legacy competencies, as well as the Gold and Silver badges that partners used to differentiate their expertise levels under the MPN, will no longer be valid in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Under the new program, Microsoft will measure partners' expertise in their chosen fields using a new "partner capability score" (PCS) that takes into account their number of new customers, deployments and certifications, as well as their overall growth. The maximum PCS score an organization can get is 100.

As of Wednesday, existing partners can view their current PCS score by signing into the Partner Center and viewing their dashboard. Customers will not be able to see partners' PCS scores, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

There will be two expertise levels for partners in the new program, each with their own badges. The "solutions partner level" is open to partners that earn a PCS of 70 or higher. The next level, which Clark described as "specializations and expert programs," is open to partners that demonstrate "deep technical expertise and experience in specific technical scenarios under each solution area."

"These two designations clearly and immediately validate a partner's capability to meet specific and evolving customer requirements and give customers an easier way to identify partners with technical capabilities, knowledge and a history of delivering innovative solutions in specific areas," Clark said. "They also provide a roadmap for helping build partner capability and guiding the way we invest in partners."

'IUR' No More, and Other Benefits Changes
Microsoft is slightly tweaking its partner benefits program in the run-up to the Oct. 3 switch. For instance, partners will continue to earn licenses to run Microsoft products in-house, but that benefit's name will change from "internal use rights" to simply "product benefits."

Partners have the option to renew their current benefits, but they will also be able to access new benefits that are "customized to meet their unique needs based on their business focus." A Microsoft spokesperson provided the following information about the options available to partners once the new program kicks in:

Legacy competencies and associated badges will no longer be valid after September 30, 2022. However, partners will retain legacy benefits (benefits received based on the competency they held on September 30, 2022), until their next anniversary date.

On a partner's next anniversary date after October 3, 2022, they will have the following options:

  • Maintain a solutions partner designation if they have attained one. To receive the solutions partner designation benefits they will pay the annual fee. Annual fees for solutions partner designation will be aligned to the legacy gold competency fees.
  • Retain their legacy silver or gold competency benefits and pay an annual fee. Annual fees for legacy silver or gold competency benefits will be aligned to the legacy silver and gold competency fees.

Clark assured partners that they shouldn't expect their incentive eligibility to change within the next investments and incentives program year (which spans October 2022 to September 2023).

"Beyond gaining access to the previously mentioned dashboard [to check their PCS score], there are no immediate changes for partners," Clark said. "And prior to October 2022, there will be no impact to partners' business or program status -- including anniversary dates -- and no reduction in benefits."

Microsoft's roadmap for changes related to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program switch is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and AWSInsider.net, and the editorial director of Converge360.

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