Recently, we made a decision to modify the release timeline for partner program changes that were announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July 2013.  I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about how these changes reflect a simpler, more measured approach.
We heard your feedback and are responding
When you choose to partner with us, our commitment is to help make it the best business decision you can make. We continually strive to offer a world-class commercial partner program, resources and experiences to allow your organization to pursue new business opportunities with minimal disruption. Since WPC, we received a lot of feedback that more time was needed to prepare for cloud mainstreaming and that we must approach these changes more simply – both were core to this decision.
What’s changing and when?
We have divided what was announced in July at WPC into two program releases in calendar year 2014, one in February and one in late Q3 calendar year.  How that impacts you depends on your level of partnership and business model.
Coming in February 2014
  • Mainstreamed Internal Use Rights for Microsoft cloud services: Today, only members of our cloud incubation programs (Cloud Essentials, Cloud Accelerate, etc.) have internal use rights for Microsoft cloud services like Office365, Windows Intune, Azure and CRM Online. We are very excited to announce that in February, we will offer cloud Internal Use Rights (IUR) benefits to all partners in a competency or subscribing to Microsoft Action Pack.

  • Revamped Microsoft Action Pack subscription (MAPs): We are launching a brand new cloud-focused version of MAPs that gives partners more choice and provides content and training organized and optimized for specific partner business models like hosting, application development, custom services, managed services, reselling and device design and development.

  • Cloud Essentials Retires: Complementing the launch of a new MAPs, we are retiring the Cloud Essentials program. Net new enrollment into Cloud Essentials will stop with the February 2014 release.  Cloud IUR rights for existing Cloud Essentials partners will extend until June 30, 2014 – at that time all partners must transition into either the new MAPs or a competency to continue to use our Cloud IUR.

  • New Intelligent Systems competency: One of the most exciting new business opportunities is related to the commercial “internet of things”, a true devices-and-services opportunity.  IDC continues to track the intelligent systems opportunity.  According to Gartner, Microsoft is positioned very strongly here, and to help our partners capitalize on this we are launching a new Intelligent Systems competency.

  • Digital Marketing competency evolves to Digital Advertising: Last year we modified the Digital Marketing competency to focus on agencies and advertising partners. Digital marketing is a broad and potentially misleading term, so for clarity and focus we are completing the transition by changing the name and updating the requirements to better reflect these critical partners.

  • Application track for Collaboration & Content competency: Most of our solution competencies have an application track that enables partners to qualify via a tested application as opposed to accredited people.  Our SharePoint business has a large partner ecosystem focused on applications that we need to further support, highlight and more appropriately qualify more via our Microsoft Platform Ready engine.

  • Standard updates to requirements: To ensure that partners have the most current Microsoft skills and applications to successfully sell and deliver our technologies we will continue to update relevant exams, accreditation and application requirements and retire old ones. Details will be included in an updated Disclosure Guide.
Coming late Q3 of 2014
  • Remaining Incubation cloud programs will be retiring: Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs will phase out at this time.  We will allow new partners to join these programs until this time to enable partners to continue to earn cloud accelerator incentives. Please keep in mind that for new partners to get Cloud IUR after the February release, they will need to earn these rights via MAPs or by earning a competency. 

  • Infrastructure competencies merging: The existing Server Platform, Management & Virtualization and Identity & Access competencies will merge to become the new “Datacenter” competency as announced at WPC in July.  This change is designed to help partners deliver on the Microsoft Cloud OS strategy.  We will offer new training content to prepare for this in February, giving you much more time to prepare.

  • Business Intelligence becomes Data Analytics: The Business Intelligence competency will change to Data Analytics, signaling the increased emphasis on Big Data scenarios. This is not just a name change as we will introduce new requirements as well.  Training material will be made available during the first half of 2014, giving you more time to prepare.

  • Hosting competency retiring, hosting tracks launching: Per hosting partner feedback, the current Hosting competency does not effectively support their needs. In response, we will offer unique hosting tracks within the following core competencies – Datacenter, Messaging, Communications and Data Platform. This allows us to recognize hosters more precisely for the solution/service offered – what matters most to customers – while introducing requirements and benefits that are more relevant and tailored – what matters most to these partners.

  • Mobility competency retiring: With nearly all devices becoming “mobile” and with the rapid shift to smartphones, we will retire the Mobility competency and transition current partners into the Application Development or the Devices and Deployment competency appropriately.
Need more details?
You can access details via the Disclosure Guide on the Microsoft Partner Network Portal.  This document will be updated regularly to ensure you have the details you need.
Our partner ecosystem has always been and continues to be our greatest asset and differentiator in the market, and as a company, we are committed to working closely with our partners to bring the next wave of devices and services to market.
Thank you for your continued partnership and I encourage those who are still considering joining the Microsoft Partner Network to join in as it’s a great time to be a Microsoft partner!
P.S.  For more information on these changes, please refer to Top Partner FAQ: Change to the Microsoft Partner Network Program Release. If you would like personal assistance, work with our support teams here. Please Note: You must sign in to the Microsoft Partner Network to access.
To continue to get the news first, please ensure that your contact information, specifically your email address, is current on the Microsoft Partner Network portal.