IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

An Insider’s Look at the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program

Microsoft has an all-new partner program. Channel pros should review the new Solutions Partner designations and the partner capability score requirements to determine how to proceed. By Geoffrey Oldmixon
Reader ROI: 
THE NEW MICROSOFT Cloud Partner Program puts a heavy emphasis on Azure sales, specialized skills, and customer success.
SMALLER MSPs may be challenged to meet the new partner capability score requirements, particularly around net-new customers.
MSPS THAT DO MEET the Solutions Partner requirements should pursue specializations and upskill staff.

LAST MARCH, Microsoft gave its partners a six-months’ notice: The Microsoft Partner Network would be “evolving” to become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP).

In the months that followed, the channel has been abuzz with speculation, rumination, and even a little dread about what it all will mean for preexisting Gold- and Silver-level partners (and those who had aspired to become one).

In October, MCPP went live. For some, the new partner program—one that emphasizes Azure sales—represents a real uphill challenge. For others, it represents opportunity.

Either way, there’s a new benefits structure to be aware of, and there will be new goals to set if MSPs want to differentiate themselves using partner “specializations.” The first step will be determining where you stand and how you’ll proceed.

A Partner Program to Elevate Azure

When then Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Channel Sales Rodney Clark announced “the next step” in the company’s partner program and the introduction of MCPP in a press briefing last March, he noted, “This change better reflects the enormous and ongoing transition of business operations to the cloud, and how Microsoft intends to support partners in the future.”

“Nobody pulled the rug out. Partners were told six months prior.”—Dave Seibert, CIO, IT Innovators

MCPP retires the old Gold and Silver competency partner designations and creates a single “Solutions Partner” designation based on just six areas of Microsoft’s cloud portfolio (boiled down from 19 preexisting competencies): Azure Data & AI, Azure Digital & App Innovation, Azure Infrastructure, Business Applications, Modern Work, and Security.

Each Solutions Partner designation also has specializations a partner can pursue. For instance, within the Business Applications designation, partners can earn specializations in Microsoft Low Code Application Development and Small and Midsize Business Management.

At the Inspire partner conference in July, newly named Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen extolled the virtues of the new designations. “You can differentiate your company with a specialization, the highest technical accomplishment for a solution area,” Dezen said. “This creates incremental value to customers as they search for the right partners to meet their transformation needs.”

To qualify as a Solutions Partner, MSPs will be required to have earned a “partner capability score“ of at least 70 (out of 100) based on metrics in three categories (with at least one point in each category):

  • Performance—Measured by net-new customers. Each net-new customer is worth 2 points (for a maximum of 20 points over a 12-month period). Customers who “churn” will impact the score by a reduction of 2 points.
  • Skilling—Partners can make up additional points by attaining intermediate or advanced certifications in various competency areas.
  • Customer Success—Measured by a) customer usage growth (30 points awarded for 2,000 monthly average user growth in trailing 12 months); and b) the number of successful deployments (25 points awarded for 10 new deployments in the trailing 12 months).

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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