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October 3, 2022 | Andrew Murphy

How to Navigate the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program

Microsoft has provided a lengthy on-ramp to the major changes ahead, but partners should start reviewing the requirements now so they can make good business decisions.

MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED many new changes for partners throughout the last year, beginning with the Microsoft New Commerce Experience rollout, a multistage investment in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program to help partners better support their customers’ digital transformation initiatives. Now, the Microsoft Partner Network will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP) in October.

This most recent change to the company’s partner program is intended to simplify partnering choices for customers, and the change signifies a significant shift in the company’s partner program, focusing on partner growth and customer outcomes, and bringing with it an entirely new partner benefits program.

The life of a managed service provider (MSP) can be one of insanity, especially when trying to keep up with the latest changes from Microsoft. The transition from the Microsoft Partner Network to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is thankfully not happening overnight, allowing partners to achieve new requirements from the new program while continuing to reap the benefits of their current competency and incentive programs.

Let’s explore in more detail:

Impact on Partners

The MCPP is the newest program created to track, measure success, and reward Solutions Partners across six different designation groups. These groups are designed to help identify broad technical capabilities and experience in high-demand Microsoft Cloud solution areas and showcase the ability to deliver successful customer outcomes. This change will mean different things for partners currently enrolled in Silver and Gold Competencies versus those striving to meet Competency requirements.

Action Pack will remain, so moving from Competencies to Solutions Partner will likely be the most significant change for partners, as “Solutions Partner” designations come with a new set of qualification requirements. Organizations will need to earn a partner capability score of at least 70 points out of the 100 possible points (including at least 1 point in all categories and subcategories) across the four measurement areas to obtain a Solutions Partner designation.

By October 2022, all legacy Competencies will be invalid, replaced with the new Solutions Partner designations. It’s important to note that those enrolled in the old benefits program as of Sept. 30, 2022, can continue to pay for legacy Microsoft Partner Network benefits at their next renewal whether or not they qualify for a Solutions Partner designation. Though benefits such as Internal Use Rights (IURs) will continue, grandfathered incentives under the legacy program are slated to end Oct. 3, 2023.

Silver partners may feel this transition the most, as the new program fees are aligned with Gold, but the year-long transition allows partners to discover if the new benchmarks are worth the investment.

The Transition Process

While the changes to the program can seem daunting to partners, there is no need to lose sleep over the transition (we’ve already lost enough sleep as it is). Microsoft has provided a lengthy on-ramp to the changes to ensure partners don’t feel rushed, but we recommend partners start soon to ensure they understand the requirements and have time to make the best business decisions for their organization and customers.

Partners should begin by establishing a clear understanding of the changes. During this process, it is often helpful to connect with a partner that can provide tailored guidance and help answer any questions about the transition and benchmark scores. An experienced and dedicated Microsoft Indirect Provider should be able to bring you through a consultative process that helps you uncover the best path forward for your business, along with helping to navigate additional changes as the program continues to evolve. Indirect Providers shouldn’t just help you navigate the requirements, they should also be co-investing in programs that help you grow your business and create successful outcomes for your customers.

Whether it be the New Commerce Experience or the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, these transitions are an important reminder that MSPs need a true partner now more than ever to help navigate the ever-evolving world of Microsoft. Microsoft partners can benefit from the transition if they play their cards right and rely on their CSP properly, especially because every partner will be in a different circumstance.

ANDREW MURPHY is AppRiver director of product marketing and Microsoft GTM programs. He has 20-plus years of experience in partner-focused technology sales and marketing, helping customers and partners solve complex business problems. He began his career in 2001, working with technology teams at large insurance and financial services companies. Murphy joined Zix in 2006 to help solve email security challenges for customers, VARs, and MSPs across the country. After taking on sales leadership positions at Zix, Andrew became the director of product marketing for Zix|AppRiver in 2020 and is now focused heavily on ensuring AppRiver and OpenText partners have the knowledge, tools, and coaching to successfully grow and manage their Microsoft business portfolios.

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