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WPC: Microsoft Launches Partner Network, Gold Level Will Be Gone

Allison Watson formally launched the new Microsoft Partner Network on Monday at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). The new network will eliminate the longstanding and popular Gold Certified level in the Microsoft Partner Program, as well as the Certified and Registered Member levels.

The new program will have four main partner "landing areas": Advanced, Standard, Subscriber, and Communities and QuickStarts. Microsoft will continue the use of the Microsoft Competencies, but is paring the list substantially from 17 competencies and 46 specializations now to about 30 in the near future. The Competency system will also encompass some previously free-standing programs, such as the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.

The name "Microsoft Partner Network" became official immediately, but partners will have some time to make adjustments.

"You have a full 18 months to understand where you want to go so you can make the plans [that will help] you get there," said Watson, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. Using Gold Certified partner Quilogy as an example, Watson said Quilogy would be able to migrate to the new competencies in the next year, then would re-enroll into the new program at a new level next year.

In an interview, Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network, provided more detail on the four levels of the new program, which will take effect some time in Microsoft's 2011 fiscal year.

Advanced will replace Gold. Bennani said the Advanced level will be more exclusive than the current Gold level, but Advanced status will come with specific commitments from Microsoft. Those include both partner account management, at least at the telePAM level, and opportunity support.

"That's a much bigger extension of contact with partners," Bennani said. "This is best-in-class. [Partners at this level can say,] 'I am the best partner in CRM based on customer evidence, Customer Satisfaction, a case study and participating in training.'"

The Standard level will be for partners who achieve a competency. "They'll get into brand. We'll align incentives. This is the point where coverage for opportunities will start," Bennani said.

The Subscriber level is an evolution of the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription and Empower programs and will cover a large portion of the existing Registered Member community.

The Communities and QuickStarts will be very basic. "This is a toe in the water. [For example, someone who says,] 'I'm an individual interested in Windows 7.' We're going to be very simple and clean on what we ask them to do there," Bennani said. The only requirements to enroll at that level will be an e-mail address, the role in the organization and the name of the company.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 13, 2009 at 11:58 AM