Microsoft Channel Program Hits Some Speed Bumps

massive channel reorganization

Due to some bumps in the road, Microsoft is reworking the enrollment tool that partners use to input their data -- data that Microsoft requires in order to designate their status.

The revised tool should be up and running December 20, according to Allison Watson, vice president of worldwide partner sales and marketing. Microsoft needs such information as customer references and technical certifications to ascertain their partnership status.

The new program theoretically brings thousands of partners into one, variable fold by separating partners into Gold, Certified and Registered designations. Partners earn points toward these designations in any one of 11 competencies.

But entering their data into Microsoft's system has proved problematic.

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Watson confirmed solution provider reports that the tool is confusing to use. "We had tested it with enough partners to launch it and the early feedback was good. It was not until a large group started using it that we realized we had these issues," she said.

For example with the older system, partners could easily enter their technical certifications. Privacy laws, however, forced a revamp, and the newer tool is hard to navigate, she said.

Watson said the tool will become dramatically simpler to use, reducing re-enrollment time by up to 85 percent.

One way to earn points is to drive specific dollar amounts of Microsoft product revenue. But partners on the Microsoft classic side of the fence -- those that deal with traditional Microsoft products like Windows,Office and SQL Server rather than the more recent Microsoft Business Solutions products -- said the company could not track revenue numbers for them.

"They could not figure out how to do that, at least on the Classic side," said one East coast solution provider. That's because the widespread distribution of those Classic products makes it hard to tell if a given partner influenced the sale. MBS products, which sell through a much narrower channel, are easier to track.

The upshot: Microsoft grandfathered that East coast partner into the program at its current level until the Redmond, Wash., vendor can sort out that issue.

Watson confirmed that revenue tracking has been a problem, but one that Microsoft can and will address. In the mean time, partners hoping to use that criterion to regain their current status will retain their current levels until Microsoft can work with them and sort through the revenue.

"We can track Microsoft revenue, but we are waiting to launch our system builder and licensing competencies to do that," Watson told CRN. Those last two competencies will launch next year.

Also in the pipeline: The promised Channel Builder tool to help partners find other partners with which to work will launch for Gold and Certified solution providers January 10. It will be expanded later to Registered member partners, she said.

And the competitive hot line Microsoft also promised -- to help partners get reinforcements from Microsoft to close deals that might otherwise be lost to alternative technology platforms -- will launch at the end of January, she said.