Recently, Microsoft made a decision to modify the release timeline for partner program changes, in a bid to reflect a simpler, more measured approach.
Originally announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July 2013, Microsoft Partner Network GM Julie Bennani insists the tech giant has heard partner feedback and is responding.
"When you choose to partner with us, our commitment is to help make it the best business decision you can make," Bennani says.
"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."
Microsoft has 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.
Bennani says how that impacts partners depends on their level of partnership and business model.
Coming in February 2014
Mainstreamed Internal Use Rights for Microsoft cloud services:
Today, only members of Microsoft's cloud incubation programs (Cloud Essentials, Cloud Accelerate, etc.) have internal use rights for Microsoft cloud services like Office365, Windows Intune, Azure and CRM Online.
In February, the company will now 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):
Microsoft is launching a brand new cloud-focused version of MAPs that gives partners more choice and provides content and training organised and optimised 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, Microsoft is 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.
Digital Marketing competency evolves to Digital Advertising:
Last year Microsoft modified the Digital Marketing competency to focus on agencies and advertising partners.
According to Bennani, digital marketing is a broad and potentially misleading term, so for clarity and focus the company is 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 the company's solution competencies have an application track that enables partners to qualify via a tested application as opposed to accredited people.
Microsoft's SharePoint business has a large partner ecosystem focused on applications that Bennani claims the company needs 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 the company's technologies Redmond will continue to update relevant exams, accreditation and application requirements and retire old ones.
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. Microsoft will allow new partners to join these programs until this time to enable partners to continue to earn cloud accelerator incentives.
Infrastructure competencies merging:
The existing Server Platform, Management & Virtualisation 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 according to Bennani.
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 insists Bennani, as Redmond plans to introduce new requirements as well.
Training material will be made available during the first half of 2014 as a result.
Hosting competency retiring, hosting tracks launching:
Per hosting partner feedback, Bennani claims the current Hosting competency does not effectively support their needs. In response, Microsoft will offer unique hosting tracks within the following core competencies - Data centre, Messaging, Communications and Data Analytics.
Mobility competency retiring:
With nearly all devices becoming “mobile” and with the rapid shift to smartphones, Microsoft will retire the Mobility competency and transition current partners into the Application Development or the Devices and Deployment competency appropriately.
For more details visit the Microsoft Partner Network Portal by clicking here