By Rodney Clark – Corporate Vice President, Channel Sales and Channel Chief
The Microsoft Partner Network is comprised of more than 400,000 global organizations and these partners are essential to how Microsoft delivers innovative products and services to customers around the world. This deep relationship between Microsoft and our partners spans more than 30 years, and in that time frame our partners have provided unique solutions across numerous industries, helping countless customers succeed in an ever-changing world. They especially have played a pivotal role in helping businesses adapt amidst the pandemic. As things continue to change and evolve, we are committed to investing in and delivering what partners need to innovate, grow their businesses and deliver on the promise of digital transformation for customers across organizations and industries.
To continue enabling partners — and by extension their customers — for success, we are focused on three major commitment areas:
- Strengthening our digital capability. We are providing well-defined guidelines and resources for partners across our digital experiences to navigate building solutions more effortlessly, going-to-market, and selling with Microsoft. By aligning partner experiences across the commercial marketplace, Partner Center, and the Microsoft Partner Network, we’re making it easier for everyone to engage and collaborate.
- Deepening partner technical capabilities. Equipping partners to better meet customer needs by investing in and accelerating our joint capability. We’re supporting partners on their readiness journeys by helping them gain advanced specializations and deep technical training across solution areas including business applications, Azure and security, compliance and identity. We’ve specifically committed to a 250% year-over-year (YOY) increase in spending in this area.
- Streamlining engagement between Microsoft and our partners. We are sharing more opportunities and enhancing the commercial marketplace as well as Partner Center, making it easier for partners to engage with us and drive profitability. In July 2021, for example, we lowered our marketplace transaction fee from 20% to 3% . Through these reductions, partners can invest even more deeply in their own growth plans.
The next step
Today, as a part of our investment in the cloud as a strategic lever for innovation and growth, and as a reflection of our continued commitment to partners, we are announcing that effective October 2022, we are changing the name of our partner program from “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.”
This announcement is about more than a name; 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. It aligns our partners’ go-to-market motions with the way customers buy today.
The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is for all partners in our ecosystem, whether they build and sell services, software solutions or devices, and is focused on proficiency in six solution areas aligned with the Microsoft Cloud:
- Data & AI (Azure)
- Infrastructure (Azure)
- Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
- Business Applications
- Modern Work
We’re also evolving the way we categorize partner capability and measure success. To help customers better understand a partner’s capabilities, we’re offering two qualifying levels:
- The solutions partner level is a designation that is based on meeting specific requirements across what we call the partner capability score (see below) for each solution area.
- Specializations and expert programs will give solutions partners a way to differentiate their organizations and demonstrate deep technical expertise and experience in specific technical scenarios under each solution area.
These two designations clearly and immediately validate a partner’s capability to meet specific and evolving customer requirements and give customers an easier way to identify partners with technical capabilities, knowledge and a history of delivering innovative solutions in specific areas. They also provide a road map for helping build partner capability and guiding the way we invest in partners.
Investment in partner growth and success requires a robust, objective measurement of progress against a partner’s chosen solution areas. As noted above, to quantify that progress, we’ve developed the partner capability score, a holistic framework for measuring partner performance, skilling and customer success. The partner capability score evaluates a partner based on their certifications, added customers, successful deployments and overall growth.
To attain a solutions partner designation, partners will need to earn a partner capability score of at least 70 points (out of an available 100 points) across the four measurement areas. Starting today, all partners can access their dashboard in the Partner Center to see their progress toward a solutions partner designation.
Time to transition
We know change can take time, so we’re approaching the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program launch with considerable support for our partners, as well as ample time for them to adjust. The full timeline of changes can be found at this link.
Beyond gaining access to the previously mentioned dashboard, there are no immediate changes for partners. And prior to October 2022, there will be no impact to partners’ business or program status — including anniversary dates — and no reduction in benefits.
In fact, we are investing more in our benefits program to ensure that every partner has a chance to participate in the opportunity to grow and accelerate. We’re updating benefits to ensure that:
- Partners will be able to renew the benefits they’re currently using, while also taking advantage of new benefits packages customized to meet their unique needs based on their business focus.
- Partners will continue to receive internal use rights licenses (IURs), including on-premises licenses, cloud service subscriptions and Azure credits, although IURs will be now called “Product Benefits.”
- No partner’s incentive eligibility will change in the 2023 investments and incentives program year, which runs from October 2022 to September 2023.
During this time, we’ll also continue to recognize partner commitment and growth with programmatic incentives as part of our Microsoft Commercial Incentives program.
Accelerating partner growth
Customer needs are constantly evolving, which is why we are announcing this evolution now and preparing for the changes it will bring.