Microsoft’s channel strategy met with mixed emotions

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Partner claims: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer

Microsoft’s channel strategy has been met by its partners with mixed emotions.

Some have described the strategy, which was put in place 18 months ago, as a  way to wake up “lazier resellers” , but others have claimed that its ethics have been disrupted, and the strategy is just a means for the company to bleed money from its partners.

Speaking to ChannelBiz UK last week, Janet Gibbons, director of partner strategy, said the channel was the “greatest asset” Microsoft had.

She said that the strategy had been updated following channel feedback but the company had refrained from doing this earlier as it feared it would “disrupt the channel.”

However, according to some partners this is exactly what it has done.

One company told ChannelBiz UK: “The new channel ideals have disrupted our work ethics and made it much harder to stay afloat. Bigger resellers are ok – they have the cash to spend  on these new fancy things – but we don’t. We were happy as we were. The way I see it is Mircosoft is saying the less cash you spend, the less we’ll do for you.

“A one-to-one helper would be great but we’ll never get that,” the partner said. “Like the country today – the rich will get richer and the poor poorer.”

One of the biggest changes Ms Gibbons highlighted was the way partners were certified.

Previously, partners were given two types of certification: Gold Certified and Microsoft certified.  However,  once partners had achieved gold status, “they had it forever, even if the company changed.”

This method was described as “unfair” by a separate, larger reseller, which told ChannelBiz UK: “The channel strategy is something we were asking Microsoft to update years ago.

“We didn’t find it fair that smaller partners could keep their statuses despite not investing in anything new.

“We work hard and train our staff constantly to keep in with new technology but we didn’t feel as though it was recognised by the company at all,” the reseller said. “Now, with this new approach we can make sure we stay one step ahead of smaller, and to put it harshly, lazier resellers that sat on their Gold certification for too long.”

The partner told us it was pleased with Microsoft’s new programme, which goes by the name of “Competencies.”

This works by allowing partners to choose from either a Gold or Silver certification and choose a Competency from an area they specialise in, for example ISV.

Microsoft currently offers 29 of these including its most recently added small business option.

Gold status is awarded to companies which pass Microsoft exams in their chosen areas, which Microsoft says in turn shows their commitment. By taking on this commitment Microsoft then rewards partners with incentives such as more software licenses for the business.

Some are also given a named contact who they can call with any problems

“We’ve got the cash to invest and finally we’re being rewarded by Microsoft for doing so,” one channel partner told us, while another said: “It’s great that Microsoft has updated it’s channel offerings. We’re happy to comply with whatever we need to do. We get the support we require so there’s not much more we can say on the matter.”

Another, larger partner told us: “There’s not too much to say on the matter. If you want to remain Microsoft accredited then you must pay the price for it. Lots of vendors have similar programmes in place so there’s no need for people to be up in arms about it. It’s simple. If you don’t invest you don’t get the business and we’re happy to put money into training and gaining more certificates.”

However, smaller partners are struggling. One said that the new channel infrastructure came as a bit of a shock to us when it was first announced 18 months ago.

“Microsoft said at the time the changes would benefit their partners but to be honest it has made it harder,” the partner said. “The new competencies mean we have to pay out more to achieve a status that is seen as “acceptable” in the channel.”

“We have to send our staff to do exams, which we of course have to pay for and also means time out of the office for them.

“We can understand why it is doing this but in tight times it really wasn’t what we needed,” the partner said.

A spokesperson for Microsoft said to ChannelBiz UK: “Microsoft listens regularly to the feedback provided by its channel partners – in fact partner (and customer) feedback was at the heart of the changes made when we launched the Microsoft Partner Network some 18 months ago. MPN aims to recognise partners who are well positioned to service the needs of customers based on up-to-date technical, sales and commercial skills – irrespective of partner size. The programme will continue to evolve – based again on customer and partner feedback – as well as the introduction of new technologies and business models. This includes consideration for large and small partners alike.”

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