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v-jillarmour
Community Manager

Evolving the Microsoft Partner Network programs

Building on our 30-year relationship with partners, we're evolving to help grow your business and meet customer's changing needs.

 

Starting October 2022, the new solutions partner designations will help identify your broad technical capabilities and experience in high-demand Microsoft Cloud solution areas. They'll also showcase your demonstrated ability to deliver successful customer outcomes.  

 

Success is measured by performance, skilling, and customer success. 

 

Nothing changes today. You have time to prepare and assess the new program. 

We want to help you grow your business and to recognize your success and continued commitment to our partnership.  

 

By attaining solutions partner designations, you'll demonstrate your organization's breadth of capabilities to deliver customer success in the solution areas where we see customer demand and where you can scale to meet customer needs. 

 

More info HERE

48 REPLIES 48
SaschaT
Visitor 1

Having read the anouncments, all supporting information and this whole disussion here I am still not sure if I understand the part regarding the renewal of legacy compentencies correctly.


We hold Gold compentencies and meet the (now old) requirements for renewing them. But our renewal window only opens on 8 Oct 2022, so we cannot renew it by 30 Sep 2022. And we will not be able to meet the requirements for the new solutions areas by then (if ever). 

 

From the announcement:

 

October 3, 2022, to the partner's next anniversary date:

  • Legacy competencies and associated badging will no longer be valid, but partners that have a competency by September 30, 2022, will continue to receive legacy benefits until their next anniversary date. After that time, we'll provide options for them to continue to purchase legacy benefits.

 

On the partner's first anniversary date after October 3, 2022:

  • Partners who don't meet the requirements for a solutions partner designation but who renewed a competency by September 30, 2022, will have the option to continue to pay the fee to retain their legacy benefits.

 

The first statement says, that we continue to receive our benefits until the first anniversary date (8 Oct 22). After this, we can purchase these legacy benefits.

-> For the same price as a Gold compentency right now, or will there be a different pricing?

 

But the second statement says, the on our first anniversary date (8 Oct 22) we can only pay "the" fee (again, which fee?) to retain the legacy benefits, if we renewed our compentency by 30 Sep 22 (which we can't). For me, this contradicts the first statement.

 

Maybe @v-jillarmour you can clarify this for me.

BennyRossaer
Level 3 Contributor

2 points of concern for me here - we work in the SMB / Small-SMB market:

- Indirect Resellers who are now Silver Partner and receive incentives, will have to pay a much higher fee (+/- 4000 EUR instead of +/- 1500 EUR) to become a Solutions Partner and keep receiving rebates.   For many small resellers, their incentives cover the +/- 1500 EUR yearly fee of Silver Partner.  In the new program this will no longer be the case, meaning smaller resellers might abandon their partner status and buy an Action Pack instead.  Since they won't receive incentives anymore, this will put even more pressure on front-end pricing and margin (which is a race to the bottom as it is). 

- For the Net New Customers requirement, clients with < 10 FTE's don't count, which is a blow to resellers focussing on this segment.

 

Anything that can be done about these points? 

Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

@v-jillarmour is there any word on when the incentive requirements are going to be adjusted for the new MPN program? And what the new incentive MPN requirements are going to be?

 

Many incentive programs like Microsoft Commerce Incentives, Cloud Solution Provider - Indirect Reseller, and Online Services Usage - Microsoft 365 require the partner to have a silver or gold MPN membership to qualify for the incentives. Since the new designations have much higher requirements than some of the old silver competencies, if the incentives are going to continue requiring a competency/designation, a lot of companies are going to be excluded from incentives going forward.

 

v-jillarmour
Community Manager

@Matt_H 

 

YOUR INQUIRY:

"is there any word on when the incentive requirements are going to be adjusted for the new MPN program? And what the new incentive MPN requirements are going to be?"

 

RESPONSE:

Microsoft has not publicly announced the details of the FY23 investments and incentives for partners. We have provided guidance on the options as partners plan for the upcoming program changes.

 

For partners who have a legacy competency, they have options to continue attaining partner incentives.

October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023:

Option 1: Attain a solutions partner designation. Meet the requirements and immediately become eligible for incentives.

Option 2: Purchase legacy benefits (benefits you received based on the legacy competency you held on September 30, 2022), package. This option could apply if:

Legacy competency is renewed by September 30, 2022.Solutions partner designation is not attained. You can continue to be eligible for incentives until your first anniversary after September 30, 2022, or later (until October 1, 2023) if you choose to purchase a legacy benefits package on your anniversary date.

Double incentives will not be possible.

 

October 1, 2023, and beyond: Attaining a solutions partner designation will be required to be eligible for incentives. Legacy competencies and legacy benefits will no longer be recognized as eligible criteria for incentives, unless otherwise stated in applicable incentive program terms.

v-jillarmour
Community Manager

@Matt_H I've inquired internally, waiting for a response. Thanks for your question! I'll let you know as soon as I can get to someone! 

KKirby
Level 3 Contributor

So the new program removes Gold & Silver designations and puts partners into a smaller number of categories (six) that have a much broader range of services, which means that partners are no longer seen as experts in a particular specialist area and the are in a much bigger pool of partners with the same designation. Why would partners agree to such a watered down program. And there is no direct grandfathering of Gold to Expert in the new program, meaning that partners will have to spend a lot of time and money gaining new certifications in order to qualify to be part of this new watered down program?? That really does not make any sense. Quite apart from the fact that it appears Microsoft is throwing away the legacy investment that loyal partners of many years, even decades have shown, now they are being asked to adopt new certifications to qualify for a program in which there is LESS differentiation for them than before. AND they are being asked to do so in under six months at considerable additional cost.  Does that make any sense? to anyone? Not one single partner I have spoken to is on board with the new program.     

kkirby@techassoc.com
Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

I broadly agree with you, but just to play a little devil's advocate:

 

The current competencies are Byzantine to comprehend. Customers can't easily tell which competency relates to what ability. Other than seeing that we're silver or gold, the thing(s) we're silver or gold in are meaningless for the most part. I think streamlining to 6 major ones with more understandable names is good here.

 

There are still specializations and expert programs, thought there isn't much information about them currently. For example, Modern Work has: Adoption and Change Management, Calling for Microsoft Teams, Customer Solutions for Microsoft Teams, Meetings and Meeting Rooms for Microsoft Teams, and Teamwork Deployment.

 

Partners don't need to agree or be onboard. Microsoft is going to do what Microsoft decides to do. Having said that, they invested a lot over the years in building up their partner community, but they don't seem nearly as interested lately in maintaining that investment with some of the recent changes like this, the poorly-executed NCE, and kicking out smaller direct CSPs.

 

 

KKirby
Level 3 Contributor

Hi Matt,  Actually I disagree with you that customers can't tell what competency relates to ability. For example Project & Portfolio Management. For customers looking for a specialist in this area the PPM competency is exactly the ability that customers are looking for and need. In the new program this  gets lumped into Business Applications, but then a PPM partner is in a much bigger pool of partners in BizApps and there is no differentiation at all.  And in fact a PPM partner has skills that cut across 3 of the new categories - for example PowerBI is the reporting tool of choice for PPM deployments but that's not taken into account when mapping skills from PPM Gold into the new program. In fact it means a Gold PPM partner today has skills and certifications fragmented across 3 of the new solution categories and means that the 70 score may not be reached in any of them.  And now it means that even achieving Expert level in Business Applications is so much more onerous (and costly) that the effort required to do so across 3 solution categories is simply not tenable. Far from making it simpler, Microsoft have made it considerably harder to manage for partners. 

And in fact your comment about Modern Work is a lovely example - Most customers will simply look for a partner with skills in "Teams" rather than a set of narrower sub categories.   And what does Modern Work mean to customers. Most simply don't understand it.  Our own research with customers and within the broader partner communities with which I am involved bear this out.   Whilst internally we understand the alignment to Microsoft's internally designated workloads, the reality is that this was really only ever an internal categorisation and most customers just don't understand it and remain product aligned.  So if you talk to customers about products and benefits they get it straight away, if you start talking to them about Modern Work or BizApps you can see the eyes glaze over!  And this is the problem - partner designations need to mean something to customers, not just to partners and Microsoft alone, and that seems to have been missed in the consideration of this new program. Designations have to be customer focused to be meaningful and of value.  Once the perceived value is removed then partners will lose interest. 

I do agree with you though that in recent years Microsoft seem to have stopped listening to partners or consulting with them, and the debacle over IUR benefits, NCE, direct CSP's, and the new Partner Center being full of bugs since its inception a couple of years ago means that this is just another example of such an initiative that hasn't been properly thought through, sadly. 

 

In the interests of transparency as well as being CEO of a Microsoft Partner business, I am a consultant working with technology companies and provide advice and services around building partner programs and member communities. I am a Consulting member of the American Society of Association Executives as well as a Former Worldwide President of IAMCP (and International Treasurer for IAMCP for many years), and a member of the IDC Partner Channel Advisory Forum. 

kkirby@techassoc.com
Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

Kirby,

 

Other points of view are always interesting. Particularly when they are that well presented. I'm in the SMB section of the market.

 

Regarding PPM competency, the naming is great. The requirements, not so much. The current requirements for PPM are for 2 or 4 individuals to pass Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate. I don't believe MS-700 has anything at all related to Project in it. Interestingly, I believe MS-700 is also the requirement for the SharePoint competency (possibly in combination with MS-100), as well as the actual Teams competency. So passing the Teams Administrator Associate test qualifies someone for Project, Teams, and SharePoint competencies. I'm not saying the new system will be better. I'm just saying the current/old one does have all sorts of issues.

 

Two competencies whose names aren't so clear are "Cloud Productivity: and "Windows and Devices". I don't think it is particularly clear that Cloud Productivity equals broad experience in the Office 365 suite of products or that Windows and Devices equals knowledge of Intune deployment and management.  I do agree that Modern Work is no clearer than Cloud Productivity or Windows and Devices in expressing that experience and ability.

 

It is interesting that they broke up Azure into 3 distinct designations (Infrastructure, Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation) but didn't see any need to do that for M365 (Modern Work) or Power Platform (Business Applications). I'm guessing that the specializations and expert programs are supposed to provide the distinctions within the designations. If so, it would be helpful if more specializations were currently available. Right now it seems very much work-in-progress.

 

I really hope that with this change Microsoft has gotten all of the major partner-oriented changes out of their system. Between forcing direct CSPs to go indirect, NCE, and this there has been a lot of change in the past year that takes resources away from actually selling, implementing, and supporting the products for customers.

JASA1976
Level 6 Contributor

I'm in agreement that the competency requirements at the moment are misaligned and need to have something done, but I think part of the problem is that Microsoft discontinued a number of exams such as those for SharePoint. To be able to continue the Collaboration competency they seem to have opted for the exam closest which was then MS-700 which is also the requirement for the Communication competency, so get one get the other, but in reality are unrelated for most partners or customers.

 

If Advanced Specializations and Expert level programs are going to be the main way ti create distinctions between partners then I think Microsoft needs to up the game on what they class as Modern Work as we have no expert level program.

Also what about if your customers aren't on the journey to the cloud for whatever reason. We still have customers deploying using SCCM for example or large on-premises infrastructure not suitable for Azure that gives us nothing in the way of recognition.

Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

I mostly agree with that.

 

Regarding the advanced specializations and expert level programs, Modern Work currently has 6 Advanced specializations: Adoption and Change Management, Calling for Microsoft Teams, Custom Solutions for Microsoft Teams, Meetings and Meeting Rooms for Microsoft Teams, Modernize Endpoints, and Teamwork Deployment. However, none of them are particularly attainable by a SMB-focused shop as they all require a minimum of 2,500 monthly active usage growth in the past 12 months (and most are 5,000 or 10,000).

 

KKirby
Level 3 Contributor

I agree on the certs for PPM - that's because MS retired a number of exams directly related to Microsoft Project & Project Server/Online and never replaced them - Huge mistake. Ironically I had several discussions with people at Microsoft on this just over a year ago including Catherin Mikhlin who is now one of the 3 architects of the new program. I won't go into details but suffice to say that despite asking they completely ignored my advice and its now apparent that they went down an entirely different route, completely ignoring PPM (again) whcih is sad.   However PPM is not the only competency affected by this change in a similar way and the fact that you will now have to score more than zero in ALL of the sub-categories is going to put a real burden on partners.  Kind feels like being back at school where you'll be marked against your homework.  There are so many things in the new program they feel "broken" already that I'm really not sure how Microsoft will fix it, or perhaps they'll just be content to lose loyal partners of 30 years standing and move on.  I've often said that the MPN program is a little like being in a marriage.  You agree on some things, disagree on others, sometimes you fall out and then make up again.  But this really does feel like one side has "cheated" on the other, and I can quite easily see divorce on the horizon. I'm certainly not the only one voicing an opinion on this, although I may be more visible than many!  

kkirby@techassoc.com
Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

1) Something seems to be broken with how our progress is being calculated for CSP claiming types. We are a gold small and midmarket cloud solutions and silver cloud productivity. The old SMB competency shows we have double digit positive net new customers acquired. Under the new solutions partner Modern Work - SMB, it is showing we have a double digit negative net customer adds. It also shows 0 deployments and 0 usage growth, both of which are very wrong. How do we get our situation looked at and fixed?

 

2) The Solutions Partner Benefits Guide says that all of the designations get "Dynamics 365 Partner Sandbox" licenses for CRM and Operations. The Business Applications designation also gets normal, non-partner-sandbox licenses. For a Modern Work partner, how do these Partner Sandbox licenses compare to our existing Customer Engagement Plan licenses? Are they effectively the same, so the net change will be reducing from 60 to 25 CRM licenses, but gaining 25 Operations? Or are they really Sandbox-only licenses so we'll effectively have to start paying for Sales if we want to continue using it? I don't see Marketing specifically mentioned. Is it still included in the "Dynamics 365 Partner Sandbox"?

 

3) The legacy Enterprise Mobility Management competency had a SMB partner option. The way the new Security requirements are structured, I don't see how it would be possible to obtain by servicing SMB customers. EM+S is at least as relevant for SMB's as for enterprises. Security really needs an SMB option path like Modern Work.

 

4) With these changes, the main thing that a customer will be assured of when contacting a Microsoft partner, is that the people they are talking to are very skilled at selling more licenses. They might be technically competent, but not necessarily. They may support their customers well, but not necessarily. They will be very good at selling every last additional license, though.

 

5) Is there any better place to communicate with Microsoft about the above points than here? 

 

Thank you.

v-jillarmour
Community Manager

Hello @Matt_H I have inquired within and gathered a few responses for you:

 

1. For data integrity questions, you should contact support. Support will track and flag any bugs to engineering.

 

2. The Dynamics 365 Partner Sandbox products are indeed sandbox-only licenses for dev/test use scenarios. Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement has been announced to be retired as a SKU since 2019 (Administer Dynamics 365 customer engagement apps | Microsoft Docs). However, note that all partners can seek to renew their existing benefits as per the FAQ.

 

3. Thank you for the feedback and we will pass it along to our security designation team.

 

4. N/A

 

5. If you are a managed partner, you could start with your PDM, but if you are not managed, you should review the resources and then contact support.

 

I hope you find this helpful! 

 

Matt_H
Level 5 Contributor

2) I thought the renewal of existing benefits was only valid until October and after that the only choice would be to lose existing benefits and take the new ones? If we renew in December, we'll still be able to renew the existing benefits?

 

3) Some more related feedback:

          a. Security and Modern Work - Enterprise only counts CPOR, not CSP, which doesn't make sense.

          b. Modern Work - SMB does count CSP, but only takes the higher of CPOR or CSP, so if 80% of customers are CSP and 20% are CPOR, those CPOR customers are ignored (or vice versa).  Doesn't make sense either.

 

Thank you.

v-jillarmour
Community Manager

@Matt_H 

 

2) Correct. This is outlined in the first paragraph of the Benefits Guide (https://assetsprod.microsoft.com/mpn/en-us/benefits-guide-learn-more-about-updated-benefits.pdf).

jcmarko
Level 2 Contributor

There are two interesting paragraphs that I just read in the FAQ:

 

On your next anniversary date after October 3, 2022, you will have the following options:
• Maintain a solutions partner designation if you have attained one. To receive the solutions partner designation benefits you will pay the annual fee. Annual fees for solutions partner designation will be aligned to the legacy gold competency fees.
• Retain your legacy silver or gold competency benefits and pay an annual fee. Annual fees for legacy silver or gold competency benefits will be aligned to the legacy silver and gold competency fees.


I have a legacy competency and will not attain a solutions partner designation. What is the process?


Competencies and associated badges will no longer be valid after September 30, 2022. You will continue to receive legacy benefits (benefits you received based on the competency you held on September 30, 2022), for legacy competencies until your next anniversary date. After that time there will be an option to continue to purchase legacy benefits.

 

So, does this mean if we don't qualify for the crazy requirements for the new program, we can still retain our benefits but just have to pay what we've been normally paying as a Silver or Gold partner now?

 

Joe

KKirby
Level 3 Contributor

Hi Joe, Yes that's correct, and its the first step in the the way that Microsoft are finally removing the IUR benefits previously associated with Partner status and getting Partners to pay for IUR licences instead. Its a typical accountants approach.  If Microsoft thinks they are going to sneak this past the noses of their Partner community I think they're in for a big shock.  And removal of benefits from the Partner status level makes no sense at all. Most partners won't make it to the equivalent expert level (Gold in old money) because the requirements are so a) complex b) ridiculous.  It means most partners will "ditch" the badging, maintain some level of benefit at lower cost. This "de-valuing" of the program and status level is clearly flawed but time will tell whether Microsoft is able to turn this one around. They've given both partners and themselves a hugely ambitious timescale to do so. (now just 5 months). The clock is ticking! 

kkirby@techassoc.com
jcmarko
Level 2 Contributor

You're definitely right...this has the fingerprints of accountants all over it.  

 

I know our company will definitely NOT make it to the new expert level -- we're just not big enough. Revenue over everything else, I guess.

 

We're still going to sell the platform and products -- because they're one of the best platforms out there -- but I value long-term, value-added relationships with my current and future clients. Not just looking at everything as a transaction.

 

My biggest concern is the creation of two classes of partners now -- the ones like you said will keep some level of benefit and the others that have such huge pockets and resources these changes don't matter. This really feels like it is going to show that the SMB customer just doesn't matter. Then there they go to a competitor.

 

We'll see how all of this shakes out. Pretty disappointing.

 

Joe

JASA1976
Level 6 Contributor

1) If you think that something in the partner center is broken, which is fairly often in our case, then you need to open a support request from within the portal. Don't expect a quick fix, and what will probably happen is that instead of fixing an underlying issue you'll get told to raise another support request once you have actually reached the requirements and they will then override.

 

2) Yes you'll need to start paying for licenses, which financially is a big hit for all us partners that won't be doing the Business Apps route.

 

3) I think all need an SMB path, but for security you can get 40 points just from qualifications.

 

4) Doesn't have to be license sales as PAL's and CPOR count, but get where you are coming from on this with the changes seeming to all be about license sales.

 

5) You can try on here raising concerns, but from what happened with NCE it seem Microsoft are using the monopoly they built to force this on partners rather than listen to concerns