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Microsoft Postpones More Deadlines To Ease Bureaucratic Burdens on Partners

As the global pandemic drags on, partners facing Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) renewal deadlines for competencies and advanced specializations in the first half of this year are getting a one-year extension.

During a Microsoft "State of the Partner Ecosystem" session on Wednesday for channel media, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president for Microsoft One Commercial Partner, detailed the ongoing adjustments that have been made to MPN deadlines since last March.

"To make sure our partners were getting what they need, we adjusted the deadlines and requirements related to MPN partner programs, the competency extensions, training and exam deadlines, and in fact, we just announced more extensions," Schuster said.

One new extension covers partners with competencies that have anniversary dates between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year. Those partners are eligible for a one-year competency extension that will last through the next anniversary date in 2022. According to Microsoft, partners will be able to find information specific to their organizations in the Partner Center starting this month. Because of a similar extension last year, that means some partners will be able to maintain their competency for two consecutive years by paying their competency fees but not having to deal with other competency requirements.

A major exception is the Cloud Business Applications competency, which has a distinct Partner Contribution Indicators (PCI) scoring system. While some concessions are being made for those partners, many will still need to meet some adjusted requirements for the new scoring system.

Partners with advanced specializations will also be eligible for a one-year extension into 2022 if their anniversary date falls between Jan. 1 and June 30 of 2021. Those partners must retain the underlying gold competency, in most cases by paying the competency fee to renew but without having to meet other normal renewal requirements.

Schuster also touted the success of other programs that Microsoft launched last year to help partners directly or to spur business among their customers during the pandemic and its associated business downturn.

Highlights from those efforts included:

  • Virtual training opportunities delivered by Microsoft and its partners. "Since July, our partners have delivered more than 6,500 workshops worldwide across Azure, business applications and the modern work and security solution areas," Schuster said.
  • Trials for remote work-related products. "We extended new offers and trials they could take to their customers for Microsoft 365, Windows Virtual Desktop and Teams," she said. "In fact, with Teams, CSP partners enabled tens of thousands of new organizations to get started with Teams through COVID-response trials, and we've seen significant conversion of those trials as the period ends."
  • Digital-on-demand marketing content for partners. "Without sellers in the field, our partners struggled. They needed to get creative with how they were reaching their customers. So our co-branded marketing content has really helped our partners step up their digital marketing."

As far as what else may be necessary, Schuster struck a positive note: "Hopefully the world will return to normal soon."

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 11, 2021