Parri Munsell Sr. Director SCI Partner Marketing

Counter cyber threats as a Solutions partner for Security

This is the fourth blog in a series exploring the evolution of the Microsoft Partner Network into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Earlier entries introduce the changes and explore the new solutions partner designations for Business Applications , Modern Work and Azure-related solutions partner designations on the Microsoft Partner Blog.

The transition from the Microsoft Partner Network into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is designed to better reflect today’s technological landscape. We’re continuing to help partners explore the new solution partner designations that come with this change, and today’s focus area is especially grounded in the current state of our digital world. The Solutions partner for Security designation denotes partners who have the skills to protect customers from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks—whether in a remote, hybrid, or cloud environment.

Like the other new solution partner designations, this label maps to an existing partner solution area and will replace the current system of gold and silver competencies. These changes simplify the way partners differentiate themselves, aligning designations to six solution areas focused on the Microsoft Cloud and how customers purchase so that customers will have an easier time identifying those partners who have the specific capabilities they are looking for. The realigned designations will continue to come with exclusive partner benefits and feature new investments focused on the latest cloud technologies.

Below, you’ll find specifics on the requirements, benefits, and resources relevant to becoming a Solutions partner for Security. The “Important dates to know” section will be especially helpful as you plan your path toward the October 3 general availability date.

Introducing the new security designation

Facing a rise in security threats and new vulnerabilities that come with remote or hybrid workforce, many customers are seeking cybersecurity expertise that goes beyond their in-house capabilities. The new Solutions partner for Security designation is a key differentiator that can help you quickly connect with customers seeking Microsoft 365 mobility and security services. Corresponding to the Security solution area, this indicator marks partners who specialize in implementing, managing, and monitoring Security and compliance solutions for customer cloud and hybrid environments.  Planning, deploying, and managing Microsoft 365 mobility and Security services to keep enterprise customers secure, compliant, and connected.

There are two legacy competencies that map to the new Security designation:

  • Security
  • Enterprise Mobility Management

This designation comes with all the benefits you’re familiar with, like go-to-market services, Technical Presales & Deployment advisory hours and technical support incidents, as well as unique product benefits designed specifically for security such as System Center product licenses. To learn more about solutions partner benefits, please visit the benefits guide on the Microsoft partner website.

Understanding the partner capability score

To earn this solutions partner designation, you must earn 70 points across the three categories listed in the table below. These categories are:

  • Performance​: Measured by net customer adds
  • Skilling​: Demonstrates your dedication to skilling and training with intermediate and advanced certifications
  • Customer success​: Measured by usage growth and the number of solution deployments

This new scoring is designed to ensure that designations are achievable regardless of organization size, with a model that capitalizes on a partner’s strengths and rewards partners in areas of growth. The performance and customer success categories demonstrate your experience leading successful customer engagements, providing visibility into deepening and recurring business with existing customers, along with new customer adds. For this designation, points can be earned through Microsoft 365 and/or Microsoft Azure customer adds, usage, and deployments. Many of the applicable certifications for this designation are also brand new, making this area a great entry point for partners of all tenures.

Global and MPN partner admins can view the new dashboard in Partner Center to see how your organization is progressing toward a solutions partner designation. Existing partners who meet these requirements from October 3 will automatically attain the Solutions partner for Security designation and receive customer-facing badging. Then, at your next anniversary date, you’ll pay the fee and have the option to choose whether to move to the updated solutions partner designation benefits or retain your legacy competency benefits.

“We have invested some time looking into the new solutions partner Security designation. We see the new solutions partner designation as a way to leverage our unique abilities and be clearer to customers and prospects as to how we stand out from the crowd. We were really pleased to see we qualified immediately for Modern Work and are within touching distance of getting our points to achieve the Security designation. The new solutions partner dashboard in Microsoft Partner Center is very clear on our status quo with qualifying criteria and giving us clear guidance on how we can achieve more points, through certifications, customers adds and success, and performance. The dashboard is much improved over the previous one and clearer for partners on what they need to do to get over the line and achieve the right points for the designation.” – Chris Dunning, Founder and CEO, TechQuarters

Understanding specializations

After you attain a solutions partner designation, you can further differentiate your deep technical expertise and experience with specializations (currently called “advanced specializations”). To streamline and simplify partner programs and identification, partners who have earned a specialization in a particular topic will now be referred to as “partners with a specialization” or “specialists.”

The specializations for this solution area are:

  • Cloud Security
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Information Protection and Governance
  • Threat Protection

After you earn a specialization or expert designation, you will have access to benefits that include a customer-facing badge to display on your business profile in the Microsoft AppSource partner gallery, prioritization ranking in the commercial marketplace, evaluation for active cooperative selling opportunities with Microsoft field sellers, and more. We’re also introducing new, incremental product benefits to further accelerate your business. Incremental benefits for specialization and expert programs are available only with solutions partner benefits and cannot be added to existing competency benefits. 

To learn more about solutions partner benefits, please visit the benefits guide on the Microsoft partner website.

Important dates to know

In working towards Solutions partner for Security, the key dates to track are:

  • September 30, 2022: The last date to renew a competency. From October 3, current competencies will no longer be valid; however, the benefits associated with these competencies will continue until your next renewal date. 
  • October 3, 2022: Solutions partner designations are available to attain. If you meet the requirements, you will attain solutions partner designation immediately and receive the customer-facing badging. We will continue to make benefits available to you to help you earn solutions partner designations. Competencies and associated badging will no longer be valid, but partners that obtained a competency by September 30, 2022, will continue to receive the benefits related to that competency until their next renewal date.
  • On a partner’s first renewal date after October 3, 2022: Partners who attain a solutions partner designation can choose to move to the updated solutions partner benefits or retain their legacy benefits, and pay the corresponding fee. 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.

See our infographic to help plan your transition to the new designations, read partners’ frequently  asked questions, and the solutions partner benefits guide. Additional resources specific to the Solutions partner Security designation are available here: aka.ms/Solutionspartner.Security. If your organization plans to pursue the Solutions partner for Security, check out the Security Partner Sales Acceleration Program

I look forward to how this new designation will help partners reach customers with solutions that keep them secure, compliant, and connected. My colleagues will continue to share insights on our evolution into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program right here on the partner blog as we make progress together.