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Microsoft To Split UC Competency in October

In one of the first major changes to the competency setup since fully launching the Microsoft Partner Network in November, Microsoft will split the Unified Communications competency into two this October.

The new competencies will be a Messaging competency focused on Microsoft Exchange and a Communications competency focused on Microsoft Lync, according to a blog post Wednesday that unveiled the change.

"One of the most vocal pieces of feedback I received at [the 2010 Worldwide Partner Conference], through advisory councils, 1:1 discussions, etc. is you felt that the Unified Communications competency wasn't arming you with the best branding or tools to help you differentiate your offerings to customers," wrote Ian Hameroff, group product manager for Exchange Partner Marketing, in the post.

"I took this feedback to heart and worked with many key stakeholders within the Exchange and Lync business groups, as well as our Worldwide Partner Group, to see what we could do to address this feedback," Hameroff wrote.

The change will take the current list of competencies from 28 plus the Small Business Specialist Community designation to 29 plus SBSC.

According to a chart posted by Eric Ligman on his Microsoft SMS&P Partner Community blog, assessments for the two new competencies will become available sometime between the October launch and December of this year. The assessments will be voluntary until May 2012, when they become mandatory.

One partner whose company has already attained the new MPN Gold Competency for Unified Communications acknowledged the change would be an administrative headache but anticipated that doubling down on the competency achievement effort would be well worth it.

Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing for Seattle-based Azaleos Corp., said, "As a partner it will cause me a little bit of extra work and anguish because today, for example, I was able to fulfill that Unified Communications competency by pooling my Exchange and my Lync guys together. In the future, I'll have to have four certified Lync guys and another separate four certified Exchange guys. In the case of Azaleos, it will be a little extra cost for the testing and a little extra cost for running people through that process," he said. A consolation is that Azaleos' competency doesn't expire until February, so the company has some time to get new requirements out of the way at a relatively leisurely pace.

Hearing about the change on Wednesday, Gode said he was neither surprised nor overly worried about the administrative side. "I actually think it's a good thing. It does a better job of highlighting on a per-partner basis who has got the true expertise and who are the wannabes. It's going to be best for the customer. There's going to be a slightly shorter list of partners, especially on the Lync side, and customers can say, 'Aha, these are the true experts.'"

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 26, 2011 at 11:58 AM


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