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Redmond, Wash.— Sticking to the channel roadmap
it unveiled last October, Microsoft Corp. is expected to open its Microsoft Competencies
and Partner Points
components for participation in April, marking a major milestone in its overhauled channel strategy for the next decade.

The components are meant to help partners identify their areas of expertise clearly, making it easier to position themselves with customers and to better align their business with Microsoft’s marketing initiatives and business groups, said Allison Watson, Vice President of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Sales and Marketing Group.

To achieve a competency, partners must meet technical certification requirements and provide verifiable references of recent solutions implemented for customers. Partner Points are designed to create a level playing field for solutions partners regardless of all size, and can be earned in a variety of ways, including Microsoft Premier Certified Professional certifications, tested Microsoft-based solutions, customer satisfaction, unit sales of Microsoft learning products, distributed licenses, and partner conference attendance. Points can also be earned by achieving a Microsoft Solution Competency.

The new channel structure consolidates the existing cornucopia of partner offerings and is intended to make it easier for customers to identify partners’ areas of proficiency, said Kevin Wueste, Microsoft’s General Manager of Partner Strategy.

Currently, Microsoft has 694,000 partners worldwide. As the previously announced three-tier partner structure is implemented over the next 18 months, Wueste expects about 4,000 partners at the Gold level, 35,000 at the Certified tier, and the rest participating at the Registered tier. To achieve Gold status, 120 points are required, with 50 points and no points required for the Certified and Registered levels, respectively.

Partners can qualify for 11 different competencies, said Wueste. Eight will be available immediately with three others slated for later in 2004. They are:

  • Networking Infrastructure
  • Advanced Infrastructure
  • Security
  • Integrated E-Business
  • Business Intelligence
  • Information Work Productivity
  • ISV/Software Solutions
  • Learning Solutions
  • Business Solutions (late 2004)
  • System Builder (available later)
  • Licensing (available later)

    “What we’re trying to do is drive a single framework for how partners deal with Microsoft,” said Wueste. “Our goal is a single point at Microsoft for each partner. We won’t get that done on day one, but these programs are a huge move in right direction.”