Microsoft locks down certification overhaul

Microsoft Australia has formally announced the expected changes to its partner certification strategy (as reported last week in ARN).

As of the first of January next year, the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider brand will be scrapped in favour of the "Microsoft Certified Partner" brand, in response to the variety of organisations seeking certification as the Internet industry changes. There will be no change in the certification fees, and no extra requirements for certification that did not already exist under the MCSP brand.

"We understand the existing program does not necessarily reflect the pace of change in the industry," said Jane Huxley, director, enterprise partner group, at Microsoft Australia.

"The term solution provider did not represent all of our partners. The fact that we don't have a direct-selling model means we spend a significant amount of investment on our partner strategy," she said.

While a change in brand name will mean little to the 636 Microsoft Certified Solution Providers in Australia, partners may be interested in taking on a new scheme Microsoft is touting as a way of standing out in the crowd.

From January 1st onward, Microsoft partners will be offered a differentiated level of certification for their specific niche via a scheme called Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. A Gold partner is one that meets an extended set of criteria, based on a customer reference requirement and a minimum number of certified technicians requirement.

"For example, Gold certification for e-commerce solution providers requires a minimum of four MCSP or MCSD certified technicians and a minimum of three local customer references upon enrolment," said Huxley. She expects 10 per cent of Microsoft's partners worldwide to achieve this status. The four tracks announced so far in the Gold certification scheme are E-Commerce Solutions, Hosting and Application Services, Enterprise Systems and Support Services, with more to be announced next year.

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