In the first material change to its partner network in 15 years, Microsoft is replacing the Microsoft Partner Network with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme. Here’s what you need to know
What did Microsoft announce at March’s State of the Partner Ecosystem?
Microsoft is making four big changes to its partner programme that will affect all 400,000+ organisations currently delivering Microsoft products and services to customers around the world:
1 Cessation of the Microsoft Partner Network and its Silver and Gold badges;
2 Introduction of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme with two qualifying levels: a solutions partner level, for partners that meet specific standards; and a specialisation/expert level, which enables solutions partners to highlight additional expertise in specific areas.
3 Application of partner designations to six solution areas aligned with the Microsoft Cloud: Data & AI (Azure); Infrastructure (Azure); Digital & App Innovation (Azure); Business Applications; Modern Work; and Security.
4 Introduction of a partner capability score, a new framework for evaluating partners and tracking their proficiency in the six solution areas listed above based on their performance in four areas: certifications, added customers, successful deployments and overall growth.
Who qualifies for the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme?
All existing partners have the opportunity to transition into the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme with a base membership and then qualify for solutions partner and specialisation/expert levels by meeting certain standards, measured by their partner capability score.
To attain a solutions partner designation, for example, partners will need to earn a partner capability score of at least 70 points (out of an available 100 points) across the four measurement areas that contribute to that score (i.e. certifications, added customers, successful deployments and overall growth).
Partners can gain badges in one of the six solution areas, e.g. Data & AI, or in multiple areas. In time, Microsoft aims to introduce additional recognition for partners who invest incrementally across all six solution areas.
What does this mean for existing partner benefits?
Microsoft says that partners will be able to renew the benefits they’re currently using, while also taking advantage of new benefits packages customised according to their business focus; they will continue to receive internal use rights licences (IURs), including on-premises licences, cloud service subscriptions and Azure credits, although IURs will now be called ‘Product Benefits’; a partner’s incentive eligibility will be unchanged for the 2023 investments and incentives program year, which runs from October 2022 to September 2023; and during this period, Microsoft says it will continue to recognise partner commitment and growth with programmatic incentives under the Microsoft Commercial Incentives program.
Q. When will the changes come into effect?
The name change from Microsoft Partner Network to Microsoft Cloud Partner Program and the introduction of the six new solutions partner designations will take place on October 3, 2023. Existing Silver and Gold badges will no longer be used/valid after September 30.
However, partners won’t have to make the transition immediately, as Microsoft is giving them the option to renew into the Microsoft Cloud Partner programme from October or extend for another year through the Microsoft Partner Network, effectively giving partners 18 months to transition.
Q. What should you do now?
Microsoft is encouraging partners to prepare for the transition immediately by vising the Partner Centre and seeing how legacy competencies match up with the six new solutions partner designations and by accessing their own dashboard to see their progress toward a solutions partner designation.