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Microsoft Kills Training Requirements for Some Dynamics Partners

Microsoft this week removed training from the requirements of gold and silver competencies for partners focused on certain Dynamics products.

The move is a major reversal for Microsoft's Dynamics organization, which spent the last few years ratcheting up training and other requirements in a way that strained the resources of smaller Dynamics partner organizations.

Effective immediately, Microsoft is eliminating the technical, pre-sales and sales certification/exam requirements for partners focused on the Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV, SL, RMS and C5 products. Training requirements remain in effect for Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM partners. Other requirements for gold and silver, such as minimum license revenues, customer retention metrics, customer references and participation in Microsoft's customer satisfaction survey, remain in place for all Dynamics partners.

"Since the Dynamics SMB partners have been on a performance path for the competency for years, and since we are asking these same partners to invest in additional training and certifications for Office 365 and Azure as they continue to move their business into the cloud, we made the decision to shift resources previously spent on creation of exams and assessments instead toward the creation of more training and readiness content, as partners have told us they require a broader variety of training to optimize and grow their businesses and shift to the cloud," said Jeff Edwards, director of worldwide ERP partner strategy at Microsoft, in an e-mail to RCP.

"By making the change now, we're able to give partners flexibility to use their readiness time and money on investments in key areas -- this could be Office 365 training, training on a new vertical product created by one of our ISVs, or non-technical, sales, marketing and business transformation training that has been created by Microsoft," Edwards said.

The move comes as Microsoft also prepares to launch its first-ever cloud competencies on Sept 29 -- Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions, Cloud Productivity and Cloud Platform. Those competencies are similar in that there will be no training requirement for partners to reach the silver competency level. However, the cloud competencies are built from pre-existing Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) cloud programs that were light on training requirements to start with.

The message conveyed with the introduction of the cloud competencies at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July was that Microsoft wanted partners to invest in business model changes and sales readiness for the cloud, and didn't want to tie partners up with burdensome technical hurdles.

The Dynamics ERP and CRM competencies, on the other hand, always carried heavier training requirements than the rest of the MPN competency structure. For example, while most gold competencies required a partner to field four unique Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs), the gold competencies in Dynamics required six MCPs.

Edwards said much of the Dynamics NAV, GP and SL readiness content has already been moved online in what he called "bite-sized components" such as the "How Do I...?" series of videos. Those videos have received more than 100,000 views already, he said.

"The amount of money and resources dedicated to training and readiness for these product lines is at its highest level in years. We're confident partners will continue to utilize these offerings to ensure their resources remain competent on the latest ERP technologies," Edwards said.

Steve Endow, a Microsoft MVP and owner of Precipio Services, posted word of the change to his blog at Dynamics GP Land on Wednesday after receiving an announcement from Microsoft about it.

"I have mixed feelings about this change. A few years ago, Microsoft made such a big push for requiring Dynamics GP certification, and requiring all partners to have several certified consultants on staff. That produced dramatic changes in the partner channel that affected a lot of people. Eventually things settled down and the exams and certifications became routine," Endow wrote.

"This announcement appears to be a 180-degree shift from that prior strategy, and completely abandons exams and certifications. While this may open the market back up to smaller partners, I now wonder if consulting quality may decrease as a result. But this assumes that the exams and certifications mattered and actually improved consulting quality -- I don't know how we could measure or assess that," he wrote.

An open question is whether a Dynamics CRM Online cloud competency planned for later in Microsoft's 2015 fiscal year would share the same low bar of training of the other cloud competencies. The Dynamics announcement this week doesn't shed much light on that question. Some Dynamics training requirements are now reduced and MPN planners are leaning toward light training with the other cloud competencies, but the on-premise Dynamics CRM competency's training requirements have not been reduced.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 14, 2014