Feb 18,2021

A behind-the-scenes look at judging the Impact Awards

Microsoft has always been a partner led company.   The key to success in market, is our robust, dedicated, and talented partner channel.   We are immensely grateful for these partnerships.  Each year we show our appreciation by recognizing those that go above and beyond to deliver impact.  Our annual Impact Awards recognize are most innovative, forward-thinking thought leaders.

There is a lot that goes into the partner awards, from planning the award categories, selecting judges, and ensuring there is a fair and consistent process to select the winners. Canada receives hundreds of award submissions each year from our partners, and we’d like to share with your just how we do it.

To help partners differentiate themselves when submitting an Impact Award, we’ve provided 3 key tips. But first, let’s start at the start – selecting our award categories.

Award Categories – Keeping it Simple

We have simplified the partners awards to map to business impact and the Microsoft Global Award system;  making it more intuitive to align your nominations.

Within the Impact Award Rules document, you will see that for each award category, we specify which of the Global Inspire award categories we will be pulling submissions for that award category. When a partner submits a nomination for the Global Inspire Award Category, they will also be entered into the corresponding Canada Impact Award category, as outlined in the rules document.

For example, Business Applications may have nine (9) award categories for the Global Inspire awards. Canada will collect nominations from all nine categories and use those submissions for judging our one Canada Impact Award. To get a clear understanding of the mapping, please refer to the Impact Award rules.

The judging teams

A judging team is selected for each award. There are 70-80 different judges involved in the awards process, with subject matter experts reviewing each category. This team is selected to provide varied views, from different organizational teams within Microsoft, and to remove any potential biases. The judging team is kept confidential internally (and externally of course), to protect the integrity of the process.

The formula to select a winner

Award criteria are clearly defined for judges with pre-determined weighting for each.  This is documented in the Impact Award Contest Rules. Partners have full visibility into submission requirements and the weighting for each award criteria.

The Canada Partner of the Year award follows a similar process in Canada. The criteria are laid out in the Global Inspire Partner of the Year award rules, and those criteria are weighted locally.

Judging process

Judges are in place,  the process is well defined, now let the judging begin! Each judge reviews each eligible partner entries and a score is calculated. The top scores are then collected and reviewed by the judging team. Competition is tough.  When a tiebreaker is needed, the judges will consider other factors with empirical results or data points that align to Microsoft priorities.  For example, partner growth year over year or number of certifications (if applicable to award).   

3 Tips to increase your chances of winning an Impact Award

Now that you understand the process, how do you take that information and position yourself as a top candidate for the upcoming Impact Awards. Here are 3 of our top tips to submit an award-winning nomination.

1. Select the best award category for your company

Focus on innovation.  Focus on differentiation.  Focus on Impact. What have you delivered in the last 12 months that sets you apart from your competitors?  It could be an industry-specific or horizontal solution, that solved a customer challenge.   Share quantitative and qualitative results.

Repeatability of solution is valued.  How does your solution scale?   How are you amplifying the impact?

Showcase customer impact.  Is there a published/external case study or story that you can provide or include a link to?  Those additional resources provide credibility.

For inspiration check out the 2020 Impact Award Winners:  Impact Awards Yearbook.

2. Read the rules and descriptions – all of it

Match your nomination to the award requirements.  Read the award description, and determine the objective, and map your submission to what Microsoft is focused on driving with our partners.

Answer all the questions! For the Impact Awards, this means looking at both the Global Inspire Award Rules as well as the Impact Award Rules. By covering both perspectives, it should put you in a good position of showing up well for both awards.

It’s difficult for the judges to score something that is not included in the submission.

3. Leverage the help of a storyteller

Tell your Story!   Poorly written, poorly organized, or confusing entries, don’t perform well.  The judging team may not know the partner and needs to rely on information presented. Its up to the partner to make sure there is no doubt that their amazing solution and results should go to the top of the (nomination) pile. You may have an award-winning solution, but if you don’t present it as such, your chances are diminished. Involve others in your company to proofread submissions.  Leverage the diversity and strengths in your organization, including a storyteller.

You may consider hiring a marketer or writer to create your story and submission. Gail Mercer-MacKay, Chief Storyteller, Mercer-MacKay, is a 25+ year veteran in the Microsoft partner channel and has written hundreds of award submissions for partners. Her company has created a free award planning tool to help you plan out your award response.

Click here to learn about the Canada Impact Awards and prepare to submit your nomination. Good luck!