Microsoft has officially launched a new partner program regime, a simpler framework that groups partners into categories and differentiates them based on their specific areas of expertise.
Also under the new regime, the software giant has introduced a 'points system' for channel partners to attain a certification status.
Previously, Microsoft was administering around 50 different channel programs. The program would begin on 23 April and partners would have until January 2005 to meet the new requirements.
Under the framework, partners are grouped as Microsoft Gold Certified, Certified and Registered members. Within these groups were 'competency' requirements that categorised each partner and allowed them to differentiate their skills, said Kerstin Baxter, director partner group at Microsoft Australia.
National rather than 'state-based' certifications were also introduced under the new regime, which was something that Microsoft channel partners had been requesting for a while, Baxter said.
Baxter said the old partner program was 'too enterprise focused' and the new regime would recognise partners that made an impact in specialised areas. 'Regional partners also didn't necessarily get the same recognition as the [city] CBD partners,' Baxter said.
There were approximately 800 certified partners under the old program and 'you couldn't necessarily differentiate the partners', she said. Having an area of competency would allow partners to differentiate themselves, Baxter continued.
Within each competency category, partners must be able to demonstrate three customer reference sites within a 12-month period.
First, Networking Infrastructure partners must specialise in Windows server and SBS deployments and were required to have two infrastructure-focused Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs).
Advanced Infrastructure partners were required to have two MCSE, MCSD or MCDBAs with specific MCP exams; Business Intelligence Solutions partners must have expertise in data warehouse and BI and have two BI-focused MCPs.
Integrated E-Business Solutions partners or internet and web application specialists must have e-business focused MCPs; Information Worker Productivity partners must have two IW-focused MCPs; Security Solutions partners must have two MCSE, MCSD or MCDBAs and complete one ISA exam.
ISV partners must complete product certifications run by 'Veritest'. Other partners were grouped into Microsoft Business Solutions partners who specialised in CRM, ERP and POS markets, OEM hardware for OEM and system builders and Licensing Solutions for software fulfilment licensing and software asset management partners.
Under the new points system, partners earned points that determined their final certification status. To become 'Gold Certified' partners must earn 120 points by developing one competency and meet partner terms and conditions. Gold partners would also receive their own account manager.
'Certified' partners must earn 50 points by employing two certified staff or one tested application if they are an ISV partner, said Baxter. These partners must pay an annual membership fee of $3,950. Registered members do not require points. Later in the year, partners would also be able to accumulate points based on customer satisfaction and licence revenue.