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The 5%: Microsoft Pushes Silver as an Exclusive Club for Partners

Facing questions about the value of the silver competency from partners, Microsoft is starting to push the achievement as an exclusive club that will represent only about 5 percent of Microsoft's entire partner ecosystem.

"You've heard the number often quoted [for Microsoft partners] of 640,000 organizations today. Only 5 percent of that community is silver," said Karl Noakes, general manager of Microsoft Partner Strategy and Programs, during the Microsoft Partner Network Interactive Leadership Forum last week.

Company executives caution that the partner re-enrollment process is in full swing, and actual figures for how many partners will pursue silver competencies versus gold or other customer-facing brands, such as Small Business Specialist, are difficult to predict. However, the 5 percent figure is a design goal of the MPN.

By comparison, the company is aiming for about 1 percent to 2 percent of partners to earn a gold competency. If those numbers are borne out by actual re-enrollments, partners with a silver competency would be among the top 6 percent or 7 percent of all Microsoft partners.

Noakes and other senior Microsoft channel executives were responding to attitudes like the one expressed in this anonymous question that was displayed during the forum: "With the new competency alignment in the Microsoft Partner Network, we are being downgraded from gold to silver, which makes us look bad to our customers. Everyone knows silver is second-best."

Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network, said, "Gold Certified and Certified in the Microsoft Partner Program does not equal gold and silver [competencies] in the Microsoft Partner Network. They're apples and oranges."

"Silver is tougher than Gold Certified was in most areas," Bennani said. "You asked us for differentiation and also to raise the bar because you felt the gold brand, the old Gold Certified, had become diluted. So we did -- we even made silver a tougher thing than what was Certified."

(Ed's Note: For more news from the Microsoft Partner Network Interactive Leadership Forum, click here.)

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM