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Is Microsoft Cracking Down on 'Gold Certified' Partners?

Earlier this month, Eric Ligman keyed in an uncharacteristically menacing blog entry reminding Microsoft partners that they shouldn't be using the retired Microsoft Certified and Microsoft Gold Certified partner logos.

"To answer a question I received from a couple of partners this week and last week, yes, those email/web messages that you received saying they are from me advising you that you need to remove any and all 'Microsoft Gold Certified partner' or 'Microsoft Certified partner' logos that you still have on your websites, in your tweets, in your new press releases, etc. right away really are coming directly from me," wrote Ligman, the director of Partner Experience for Microsoft Corp.

"Also, yes, when you see the phrase, 'you are out of compliance with the Microsoft Partner Network program guidelines' in those messages, it means exactly that, you are out of compliance and need to address these items right away," Ligman wrote in the entry, which featured large red "X"s over the outdated logos.

Given that there were rumblings among Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group executives last year about policing the partner logos more aggressively, I wondered if Ligman's post was part of a broader effort to eliminate all use of the Gold Certified and Certified logos.

Microsoft stopped issuing new Certified and Gold Certified partner designations by November 2010 and all grandfathered authorization of the logos ended nearly four months ago on Nov. 1, 2011. Partners now earn either "Gold" or "Silver" for their expertise in specific competencies; there are no longer broad company-level partner certifications.

I e-mailed Ligman, a genuinely nice guy, asking for an interview about his new role as a logo enforcer. Microsoft's PR agency redirected me to Karl Noakes, who spoke to me by phone from the back of a taxi in Paris, where he was meeting with partners this week.

Noakes, general manager of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Strategy and Programs, said there's no coordinated effort to get partners compliant on logos. The Ligman e-mails, and some of his own, are one-off notes related to specific partner sites or communications that they happen to notice.

"We work with our partners on trust. There's a set of policies and brand guidelines that they sign up for, and we trust that they'll honor those," Noakes said. "I think we're on track, and we're pretty pleased with the uptake on the new logos."

Noakes isn't sure how many of Microsoft's formerly tens of thousands of Certified and Gold Certified partners are still using old logos. "We haven't gone out there and quantified it; there's no easy way to do that," he said. Generally, though, he added, "I don't see it as a particular problem."

Meanwhile, Ligman abandoned sticks and returned to his usual emphasis on carrots this week with a post pulling together different existing resources to help partners promote themselves when they achieve Gold and Silver competencies.

Of course, anytime you're promoting new competencies, we'd like to hear about it.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM