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Microsoft, Best Buy Partner Up on Certification

More than 300 Best Buy employees now certified under training and certification program, jointly developed with Microsoft.

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy has trained 300 Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) on its way to a goal of 900 MCPs as it ramps up its services capabilities for a major push into small business sales.

The Microsoft Training business unit unveiled the numbers on Thursday to highlight the adoption of its certifications by a major retailer.

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s partner organization called attention to Best Buy’s efforts to play by Microsoft certification rules when the Minneapolis-based company became the first national retailer to attain Gold Certified Partner status.

Best Buy is doing the training within its Best Buy for Business division. At the store level, Best Buy for Business consists of a kiosk, employees and some business-focused IT equipment. Outside the stores, Best Buy for Business reaches out to customers through a Web site, an outbound sales calling operation and field sales agents. The goal is to leverage Best Buy’s store foot traffic and name recognition to grow beyond the home electronics and home office markets into small business IT sales and services.

At last count, Best Buy for Business hung its shingle inside about 115 stores. The company plans to double the number of locations with Best Buy for Business components this calendar year, and eventually the retail giant hopes to sell servers, networking gear and services to small businesses from nearly all of its 940 North American outlets.

According to Microsoft, the Best Buy for Business unit has trained more than 300 sales and service experts to the MCP level since starting the training last year. All of the Best Buy for Business store-based Business Technology Specialists and field-based Business Technology Consultants must pass an MCP exam covering Windows Small Business Server 2003, which is a key product of Best Buy for Business.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad, the black-and-white Volkswagon-driving “Special Agents” who help with on-site small business implementations in the Best Buy for Business operation, are also getting some of the MCP training. There are about 12,000 Geek Squad employees.

By the end of 2006, Best Buy plans on having more than 900 employees complete their MCPs, according to Microsoft. The figure is consistent with statements Best Buy executives have made to financial analysts in recent months.

Best Buy for Business is setting up its own learning portal, incorporating Microsoft’s next generation of certifications, for use by its employees later this year. Meanwhile, the company is also requiring some employees to earn the more involved Microsoft Certified System Engineer certification.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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