Changes in the offing for mcsps

Microsoft will announce a restructure of its Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP) program next month, at a partner conference in Hobart.

After a similar restructure of Microsoft's certification process in the US earlier this year, Microsoft Australia officials said that similar changes are on the way for Australian partners, but are being tight-lipped about exactly what the changes will involve.

In the US, the blanket MCSP certification program that covered all Microsoft partners has been modified and partners now undertake separate certification programs based on their type of business. Microsoft Australia network solutions group spokesman Philip Meyer said the reforms were part of an international program, so in many ways the Australian operation of Microsoft is expected to follow the US example.

The changes will be announced at Fusion, a conference for Microsoft partners being held in Hobart from 19 - 21 of November. Normally the conference is reserved for certified partners, but apparently potential partners are also invited this year, Meyer said.

In line with the expected changes to the certification process, the conference is being split into strands such as application service providers, e-commerce and desktop management.

"My understanding is that there is going to be a change away from the Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider (MCSP) brand," said Meyer. "Many of our partners thought they were being grouped under a term that didn't apply to their business. The words "solution provider" suggests somebody who provides a complete solution, but our partners vary from developers to consultants to manufacturers and all kinds of businesses - so I would guess the general brand will be something like "Certified Partner", but I'm not sure what the exact term will be."

Meyer suggested the change in branding would also mean a change in how a partner is certified and the pricing structure of certification, but said these issues were still being finalised at present.

In the meantime, Meyer and his team are doing a roadshow around the country, encouraging Microsoft's ASP and ISP partners to take advantage of a new scheme to direct customers onto partners more efficiently.

"We have been under constant bombardment by small business customers wanting to know about which companies could host their Windows 2000, Windows media, Frontpage or Exchange platforms," said Meyer. "Microsoft decided to start an Internet site where partners could be listed free of charge under what Microsoft services they could provide, and where we could direct customer enquiries."

Partners are encouraged to contact Microsoft's Internet Services Network (www.microsoft.com/Australia/isn/) with a brief explanation of their capabilities, and a link to a Web site that contains their information. After verification, their business can then be added to the list.

"Some of our smaller partners need awareness," said Meyer. "They may have some unique offerings that more recognised players don't offer, so we want to help provide that awareness."

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