I'll miss Gold Partner status in the Microsoft Partner Program I think.
It's not that my company LobsterPot Solutions will no longer qualify for Gold status, but that the Program is changing. It's becoming the Microsoft Partner Network instead. These changes are rolling out at the moment, and October 2010 is the day when the big switch is being made. And I should make it clear that I don't work for Microsoft, and I can't guarantee that there aren't mistakes in what I'm writing.
Under the Partner Program, partners could earn points by having customer references, employing MCPs, and various other things. If you reached 50 points, this meant the Microsoft Certified Partner brand could be used, but if you reached 120 points, the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner brand would apply. For LobsterPot, we enrolled in the program when it became clear we would have the 50 points, but surprisingly quickly reached 120. Within the program, we have "competencies" in Business Intelligence, Data Management, Web Development and in Learning Solutions. But we specialise in the first two. Always happy to provide some Web Development or Training, that's very much part of the business, but the core is SQL Server.
Under the Partner Network, the points system is being removed, and the tiers will be put on the Competencies, rather than the overall membership. LobsterPot will no longer be a Gold Certified Partner, but will be a Partner with Advanced Competency. And getting an Advanced Competency is becoming much harder than before.
There will still be Standard Competencies, which have similar requirements to the current set of competencies under the Partner Program. Typically, these require two MCPs and three Customer References. And the MCPs could contribute to other competencies, so that a two-man shop could easily pick up a number of competencies if they're working in that area.
But the goal will be the Advanced Competencies. These require four MCPs (although an MCM counts as two), and these MCPs must have passed the higher-level certifications such as MCITP or MCPD. Furthermore, these MCPs cannot contribute to more than one Advanced Competency. So to have three Advanced Competencies, twelve different MCPs would be required. The number of customer references required has gone up from three to five. And there are other requirements such as an amount of revenue (dependent on a number of factors which I believe are still unclear).
Do I like the idea of losing Gold Partner status? No – I think "Microsoft Gold Certified Partner" is a strong brand, and it's a shame to lose that.
Do I like the idea of having an Advanced Competency that differentiates LobsterPot from other companies that only have Standard Competencies? Yes! This should mean that potential clients have an easier time of realising that we're more interested in giving someone a BI solution than giving them a pretty web site – but that we can do both if needed.
My conclusion is that it's generally a positive move, but I have had to make a bigger effort to make sure enough of my staff have MCITP, and it's a shame that we're not large enough to pick up the Advanced Competency in both BI and Data.
For more information, please go to http://partner.microsoft.com, which should be regarded as the authority on all this.