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Microsoft is updating its Partner Program (MPN) - this is what it means for Microsoft Certified Professionals

  • Microsoft
  • Cloud Partner Program
  • Certifications
  • Published by: André Hammer on Nov 07, 2022
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If you’re a Microsoft professional and haven’t been keeping up on this news - this article is for you. We will take a deep dive into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, and understand how it impacts skilling and certification requirements for Microsoft Partners.

There is a lot of excitement about the big announcement from Microsoft which started implementation this fall from Oct 3, 2022, as Microsoft prepares for one of the biggest cloud-focused facelifts it has done in its partner program since 2009. With this update, “Microsoft Partner Network” will be known as the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program” for all its partners in the ecosystem. All eyes are on this update as it is expected to significantly impact more than 400,000 organizations and Microsoft professionals in its ranks.

Though, this isn’t the first time Microsoft is changing its partner program. Since its launch, the MPN has undergone multiple re-structures and re-vamps, including the formation of One Commercial Partner (OCP) - a channel-facing organization. But this new update in Microsoft’s Partner Program is a more significant one. It promises to give those who join, access to never seen before tools, resources, and more, not just to help Microsoft partners grow their businesses, but also to better track their own professional and organizational growth.

The changes by Microsoft in its Partner Program are being seen as bold moves by its community. To better understand how these moves may impact you, it pays to first understand what prompted Microsoft to make these moves.

1) Microsoft wanted to simplify the partner competencies mechanism

As part of a new model, Microsoft is simplifying its partner programs by replacing its 19 competencies with partner designations in 6 solution areas on Microsoft Cloud:

  • Data & AI (Azure)
  • Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
  • Business Applications
  • Modern Work
  • Security

These designations are meant to assist its partner in demonstrating their capability of delivering customer satisfaction in each of these solution areas. The solutions partner designation will be the first opportunity for partners to set themselves apart from the competition.

2) Microsoft wanted to increase transparency with its new Partner Capability Scoring Mechanism

To quantify a partner’s progress in their chosen solution area, Microsoft has developed the partner capability score, wherein their success is measured by 3 main parameters - performance, skilling, and customer success. To help you succeed, the intended changes are designed to expand your capabilities in providing innovative, customer-centric, and trusted solutions, connecting with customers, and garnering new business. The partner capability score evaluates a partner based on their certifications, added customers, successful deployments, and overall growth.

In order to attain a solutions partner designation, a Microsoft Partner needs to earn at least 70 points out of the available 100 points across the three parameters:

  1. Performance: Measured by net customer adds.
  2. Skilling: Verifies and demonstrates your dedication to skilling and training. Points are awarded to each person on your team with specified certifications.
  3. Customer success: Measured by usage growth and a number of successful deployments.

3) Microsoft needed a better way to define its Partner capabilities and success

There are two qualifying levels that will help in improving the way the partner capability is categorized and success is measured:

  1. The solutions partner: A designation level based on the fulfillment of specific requirements across the partner capability score for each area of the partner solution.
  2. Specializations and expert programs: This designation level will give you, as a solution partner, a way to differentiate your organization from the rest. Moreover, it demonstrates the technical expertise and experience of a Microsoft professional in specific technical cases under each solution area.

The two levels of designation clearly validate a partner’s capability to meet specific and evolving customer solution requirements. Consequently, customers can easily identify partners having technical knowledge and innovative solutions in specific areas. The good news is that as partners acquire the new designations in October 2022, they’ll have the option of moving to new benefits or staying put with their old benefits.

4) Microsoft’s dashboard for Partners needed an overhaul

Microsoft’s technology, community and services have come a long way since Microsoft released its partner program in 2009. Of course, its dashboard needed more than just an update to meet the needs and demands of its partners in 2022. With the new interface, Partners will now be able to access a dashboard in the Partner Center that tracks their progress towards each of the new solutions partner designations and also shows how they can take steps to improve their performance scores under each solution area. Partners will be able to renew the benefits they’re currently using, while also taking advantage of new benefits packages customized to meet their unique needs based on their business focus.

5) Microsoft wanted to provide ‘Product Benefits’ - a new name for Internal Use Rights or IURs

Benefits for solutions partners have been upgraded to ensure they are relevant to the partner’s organization, business development, and increasing customer reach. Under the new program, the partners will continue to receive IURs, including on-premises licenses for software such as SQL Server, Windows Server, and System Center. In addition, they will also receive cloud service subscriptions, Azure credits, and allowances for Windows 365, Microsoft Viva, Project & Visio Online, Windows IoT, and more

Are you an existing Microsoft Partner? Here is what hasn’t changed for you

Thanks to the tough competition from AWS, and the rapidly shifting cloud space - customer cloud needs are constantly evolving. In fact, MPN is being seen as one of Microsoft’s bigger moves to stay relevant and useful to its community by putting customer value at the center of its partner program. However, if you’re an existing Partner, don’t let these changes overwhelm you as there are no immediate changes for partners.

  • The incentive eligibility of the partners will not change in the 2023 investments and incentives program year. The year runs from October 2022 to September 2023.
  • Partners will have at least six months before the changes actually manifest themselves in October 2022.
  • The benefits that are aligned with the competencies already attained by the partners today will not be taken away from them by Microsoft.
  • Before October 2022, there will be no impact on partners’ business or program status, including anniversary dates or any reduction in benefits.
  • Microsoft will continue to provide its programmatic incentives under its Microsoft Commercial Incentives program.

How does it impact certification requirements for Microsoft Certified Partners?

MPN requires organizations and professionals to earn relevant credentials as prerequisites to learn about relevant designations and competencies. In turn, these competencies let them demonstrate their areas of technical capability.

Want to know the specifics of it? Here’s a simple table that will help you understand which prerequisites you might be missing or need to complete altogether.

Solutions Partner Designation

Required Competencies

Required

Prerequisites

Intermediate Skills Requirements

Infrastructure (Azure)

Cloud Platform; Data Center

Any 1 certification of -

AZ-700 / AZ-600 / AZ-800+AZ-801

Data & AI (Azure)

App Integration; Data Analytics; Data Platform

Any 1 certification of -

DP-300 / AI-102 / DP-100 / DP-203 / PL-300

Digital & App Innovation (Azure / Power Platform)

Application Development; App Integration; DevOps

Any 1 certification of -

AZ-204 / PL-400

Modern Work (M365)

Cloud Productivity; Collaboration; Communications; Messaging; Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions; Windows and Devices

Up to 4 certifications of -

MS-900 / MD-101 / MS-203 / MS-700 / MS-600

Security

Enterprise Mobility Management; Security

Any 1 certification of -

SC-200 / SC-300 / SC-400

Business Applications (Dynamics365 / Power Platform)

Cloud Business Applications; Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP); Project Portfolio Management

Any 1 certification of -

MB-300+MB-310 / MB-300+MB-340 / MB-300+MB-500 / MB-300+MB-330 /

MB-300+MB-320 / PL-200+MB-230 / PL-200+MB-210 / PL-200+MB-240 / MB-800 /

MB-200+MB-400 / PL-200+MB-220 / PL-100 / PL-300 / PL-200 / PL-400

Besides the prerequisites, you must also achieve specific Intermediate and Advanced level certifications. Wondering which one is for you? We can help you find the best and shortest way to achieve designations that are right for you. Alternatively, you can learn about the intermediate- and advanced-level certification requirements here.

With the upcoming changes in Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, securing relevant certifications will only become more important for Microsoft professionals. Overall this update looks like it is a step in the right direction for Microsoft’s long-term plan to keep its solution partners more service-oriented and client-focused while implementing cloud technologies. Its goal is to offer as many cloud technologies as possible while aligning the rewards for its Partners towards providing better services and generating results for the end customers. With this opportunity, partners will find themselves in a better position to not just grow the client’s business faster, but also grow as a professional during the process.

What it means for Microsoft Certified Professionals

Not all the partners are excited about the new updates. With the new skilling requirements, Microsoft Partners are worried that achieving designations will become more difficult for them. They are feeling forced to invest time and money into their education and certification to attract good clients who by the way will be better equipped now to judge the partner's capabilities before engaging.

But does this really mean your chances to earn and keep partner designations are grim? Not if you have a professional training partner on your side to help you clear your staff’s certifications with ease.

Enter Readynez

Readynez is one of the world’s leading IT training & staffing service providers. Our area of expertise is to help companies bridge their IT skills gap by providing them with the necessary staff training to earn the right certifications. We bring with us a solid experience and a proven teaching methodology that we have devised while working with 1000+ companies around the world helping them with their IT staffing and training requirements.

And of course, Microsoft has been one of our core focuses all these years. We have also been keeping a close eye on the proceedings with Microsoft’s Partner Program. In fact, we’re already working with many Microsoft Partners from around the world not just to adapt to the shifting environment but to thrive by helping their staff earn relevant certifications and reach their target designations with ease.

If you’re a Microsoft Partner looking to stay on top of Microsoft’s skilling requirements, we would highly encourage you to learn more about Microsoft preparatory training courses here, or get in touch with our support team to discuss your organization’s skilling goals and challenges. We’re happy to design a custom learning path for your IT staff as per your overall business goals.

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Microsoft is updating its Partner Program (MPN) - this is what it means for Microsoft Certified Professionals

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