I’m sure in your travels in the field of IT, you have seen or heard of companies being called a “Microsoft Partner”. If you were like me, you had no idea what that really meant. Was it something a company got by just paying Microsoft to be in it? Was it something earned? What did the “Gold Partner” or “Silver Partner” mean? Let me take a few paragraphs to quickly explain it.
From the Microsoft site: “When you join the Microsoft Partner Network, you receive a set of core benefits that can help you save time and money while you strengthen your capabilities, better serve customers, and build connections to reach your full business potential. You’ll be able to make the most of your unique expertise with support for all stages of your business cycle. And as you increase your commitment to your Microsoft partner relationship, Microsoft recognizes you with higher-value benefits.” So basically, you get free software, expert guidance from Microsoft consultants, referrals, and training. More details at Microsoft Partner Network Core Benefits at a Glance.
There are different partnership levels. Until this year, there were two levels: “Microsoft Gold Certified Partner” or “Microsoft Certified Partner” (these levels were applied to the company). Now, partners have the ability to achieve gold competencies and silver competencies which are named based on how customers buy (and identifies partners’ core capabilities and expertise). So you will see names like “Microsoft Partner, Gold, Server Platform” or “Microsoft Partner, Silver, Business Intelligence”. A company can obtain multiple competences, of which there are 29 that are listed here. So there are no longer “gold” or “silver” company-level designations. Instead, it’s all based on competencies. Here are the requirements for obtaining a competency. These competencies get you additional beneifts, such as with a silver competency you receive 5 Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Premium with MSDN subscriptions and gold competency gets you 10 subscriptions.
Note you can be a Microsoft partner without having to obtain a competency. One reason to do that would be to receive discounted software, as explained here. Also, if a company focuses on the needs of small business customers, there is another designation called Microsoft Small Business Specialist.
So what does a Microsoft Partner mean to you or your company? Well, if you are not working for a consulting company, it really does not mean much, other than it will help your company in evaluating consulting companies that you may want to hire. However, if you work or want to work for a consulting company, it could be a big deal. If you have Microsoft certifications, you will be more attractive to a consulting company as it would help them to reach a competency. And having competencies will help the consulting company obtain more Microsoft partner benefits as well as attract more clients.