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MPN Changes: More Advanced Specializations, Security Competency, Higher Competency Bars

Significant tweaks are coming to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) in the coming months, including more challenging competency requirements, advanced specializations, a new security competency and some additional benefits.

"To prepare you for new opportunities today and into the future, we are making large investments in many aspects of our partner business, with the Microsoft Partner Network as your entry point for partnership with Microsoft and with other partners," said Toby Richards, general manager of Partner Go-to-Market & Programs in Microsoft's One Commercial Partner organization.

Richards outlined the changes in a recent blog post that serves as a preview for topics Microsoft will discuss at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas in mid-July. The Microsoft 2020 fiscal year begins on July 1, and that's traditionally the time of year when Microsoft makes the biggest adjustments to its partner programs.

The blog post was vague about the changing requirements for competencies, but Richards' comments suggested partners can expect higher bars for both the gold and silver tiers. "As cloud technologies advance, partner capabilities must keep pace," Richards wrote. "With this in mind, we are updating the requirements for several competencies to better reflect the market and more demanding customer expectations."

In a hint of things to come, he pointed to changes announced in April on the business application side. At that time, Microsoft announced the coming retirement of the Cloud CRM competency, as well as big increases in the bar for attaining competencies, including the Cloud Business Applications competency that Microsoft is steering Cloud CRM partners toward. For example, partners going for a silver competency in Cloud Business Applications need five different employees to pass exams; partners reaching for a gold competency need 15 different employees.

The specific requirement changes for other competencies will take effect in July and will be communicated directly to affected partners, Richards said.

Even as the Cloud CRM competency is going away, Microsoft will add a new Security competency, covering a critical area of customer need. The new competency will be available in July and will be designed for partners delivering security-related services on Azure and Microsoft 365.

Microsoft will also be expanding its advanced specializations for partners with certain gold competencies. The recent example is the SAP on Azure advanced specialization for the Cloud Platform competency. In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release more advanced specializations for partners, including Azure Stack, server migration, security and teamwork.

Richards also teased but did not detail additional benefits for competency partners. In addition to the flagship benefit of internal use rights for Microsoft products, competency partners will also have access to enablement and go-to-market benefits within their competencies. Richards also reaffirmed Microsoft's emphasis on the co-sell program, hinting that there may be more integrations between co-sell and competencies.

Microsoft also plans to provide go-to-market services that are tied to specific partner activities, such as creating a business profile in the Microsoft Partner Center for referrals, publishing and transacting an app or service in the marketplace, and attaining a first competency or renewing an existing competency.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 04, 2019