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Microsoft Adds Partner Competencies, Improves Partnering Tools

At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis, Microsoft Corporation expanded its Microsoft Partner Competency offerings, introduced a specialization for Small Business Server, and improved partnering tools to streamline the application process and to obtain resources.

The company calls some of these programs "new," but some of the new offerings, such as Custom Development Solutions and OEM Hardware have been ill-kept secrets, having been listed on the Microsoft Partner site for a few weeks. Those offerings are new only in respect to registered members being not being able to apply to those programs until recently. According to a Microsoft press release, the program continues to "evolve" and change.

The Custom Development Solutions competency is aimed at partners who build software solutions. The competency offers three specializations:

  • Advanced Infrastructure Development, for those who develop software and manage the business processes under which those projects reside.
  • Smart Client Development, for those developing specifically for Office or Windows platforms.
  • Web Development, for those building Web-enabled programs.

The Mobility Solutions competency targets ISVs and systems integrators involved in developing mobile device systems, primarily those that are Windows Mobile-based. No specializations are available for this competency.

Partners who want to show expertise in navigating the complex landscape of software licensing and asset management have their own competency: Licensing Solutions. The program has two specializations, License Delivery (volume licensing) and Software Asset Management (includes expertise in IT compliance issues).

Finally, among the so-called "new" competencies is the OEM Hardware Solutions, for desktop and server builders. It comes with two specializations: System Builder, for those who build systems preinstalled with Microsoft software, and Device Manufacturer, for companies who manufacture Microsoft-based hardware devices used in computer parts, peripherals or accessories.

Microsoft also acknowledged its large base of Small Business implementers with a specialization that so far defies categorization among the current Partner Competency domain. The Small Business Specialist recognizes partners who can claim expertise in providing software and services to small business customers using the company's Small Business Server 2003. The requirements to obtain the specialization are less stringent that a typical competency: registration, passage of an exam and an assessment, and subscription to Microsoft Action Pack or Microsoft Empower for ISVs software products.

According to Microsoft, the company has also renamed two competencies. Microsoft Business Intelligence, which targets SQL Server experts, will be renamed Data Management Solutions and will have two specializations: Database Management and Business Intelligence. Microsoft Integrated E-Business Solutions Competency will be renamed Business Process and Integration, which the company says it renamed "to better reflect its support for partners that are integrating systems and providing interoperability services."

Microsoft says it also made some strides in improving its Partner membership management tools. Competencies were tough to apply for from a systems standpoint, admitted Robert Crissman, Microsoft's general manager for partner enablement , who said the online process was cumbersome and duplicative. With that in mind, Microsoft last year "grandfathered" Gold and Certified partners into the program , but that won't be the case this year, he says. All partners will have to have the appropriate number of points from sales, customer evidence and the like.

But Crissman said that the registration process has been vastly streamlined, with approval taking much less time. "It takes just a few hours, versus 10, 20 or 30" with the old tool, he says. He thinks they'll be able to get about 90 percent of those who were grandfathered into the program last year to rejoin the program.

New resource tool offerings include a Partner Learning Center, which centralizes training information, to be rolled out later this year; a vertical market resource center; and Response Management for Partners, a tool for Gold and Certified partners who want a more direct method of discussing customer and partner issues with Microsoft.

For an earlier story, see "MS To Unveil New Competencies at Partner Conference" by Becky Nagel at http://rcpmag.com/news/article.aspx?editorialsid=6779.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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