Microsoft’s State of the Partner Ecosystem took place today, where the company officially announced the evolution of the “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program”, and will be in effect from October 2022. This marks the first material change to Microsoft Partner Network in 15 years.
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.
Beyond the name, the programmatic changes better reflects the ongoing transition of business operations to the cloud, the way customers buy today, and how Microsoft intends to support partners in the future. It aligns Microsoft partners’ go-to-market motions with the way customers buy today.
The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program covers all partners in the company’s ecosystem, whether they build and sell services, software solutions or devices. The Program is focused on proficiency in six solution areas aligned with the Microsoft Cloud, which includes Data and AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital and App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work and Security.
The new program marks a shift to two qualifying levels to help customers better understand a partner’s capabilities.
Strengthening Digital Capability
Microsoft is providing well-defined guidelines and resources for partners across its 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, the company is 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 joint capability, Microsoft is 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. The company is committed to a 250% year-over-year (YOY) increase in spending in this area.
Streamlining Engagement with Partners
Microsoft is offering more opportunities and enhancing the commercial marketplace as well as Partner Center, making it easier for partners to engage with it and drive profitability. In July 2021, for example, The company lowered its marketplace transaction fee from 20% to 3%. Through these reductions, partners can invest even more deeply in their own growth plans.
As a part of its investment in the cloud as a strategic lever for innovation and growth, and as a reflection of its continued commitment to partners, Microsoft announced changing the name of its partner program from “Microsoft Partner Network” to the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program,” effective October 2022.
Microsoft is also evolving the way it categorizes partner capability and measure success. To help customers better understand a partner’s capabilities, the company is offering two qualifying levels: The Solutions Partner and the Specializations and expert programs.
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 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.
To quantify the progress, Microsoft has 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
The company is approaching the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program launch with considerable support for its partners, as well as ample time for them to adjust.
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.
Microsoft is investing more in its benefits program to ensure that every partner has a chance to participate in the opportunity to grow and accelerate.