By: Dann Anthony Maurno
A “sunset into the clouds” sounds downright pretty. Or, for Microsoft partners, including those with the CRM competency, it may sound like more changes ahead. Microsoft announced on its partner blog that it will sunset 12 of its Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) competencies in favor of cloud competencies.
The moves are aimed at “[helping] partners find greater success,” wrote Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Worldwide Partner Group. She remarked that Microsoft has evolved as a company in pace with the evolution of technology, and:
Nowhere is this evolution more apparent today than in cloud services. Customer expectations of technology have changed. They’re looking for instant, on-demand delivery that’s cost-effective and provides a fast ramp to results without compromising quality. Customers are turning to the cloud to meet these expectations.
Thus, Microsoft is streamlining its Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and “[focusing] our efforts and investment on building successful cloud practices together.”
Over the next 18 months, Microsoft will retire some competencies, including Customer Relationship Management, and add new ones, leaving a list of competencies that will “better align your Silver and Gold competency recognition with the current and future needs of our shared customers.”
Microsoft has allowed for an 18-month transition. Competency changes won’t take effect until January 30, 2018. According to an FAQ document released by Microsoft, partners must renew the retiring competencies on or before their anniversary dates or before October 30th, 2016 (whichever comes first). July 30th, 2016 is the last day to sign up for a retiring competency. For a retiring competency, partners can continue to use their benefits (including internal use rights IURs), through January 30th, 2018.
Out with the old, in with the new and cloudy
The 12 retiring competencies include:
|Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Devices and Deployment
Identity and Access
Midmarket Solutions Provider
Software Asset Management (SAM)
Does this mean CRM and midmarket businesses are no longer relevant? Of course they are, but new competencies will replace these. Microsoft’s Interactive MPN Evolution Guide invites partners to find their way from sunsetting to new competencies. We experimented with a few of the sunsetting competencies, and these are the results:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM). You are encouraged to shift to a cloud competency, and are directed to a page that details that competency. Among the benefits they list:
- Eligibility for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online services advisor incentives
- Additional Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise with MSDN subscriptions
- A Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online demo tenant
- Midmarket solution provider. “You play a key role with small and midmarket customers by providing cloud and hybrid solutions that are in demand,” soothes the Evolution Guide. So you are guided to the Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency. If you meet the performance requirement, you can earn silver status without taking any exams. Benefits include:
- Additional Office 365 Internal Use Rights (IUR) licenses
- Eligibility for Active Use incentives
- Access to unlimited Signature Cloud Support
- Increased exposure and leads through priority placement in Pinpoint
- Hosting. This appears to be a change in semantics, only. For partners offering solutions through the Solution Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA), Microsoft’s Cloud Platform competency “is designed to help customers find partners who host Microsoft solutions in a 3rd party cloud,” like the existing competency. Those with hosting competencies will not be required to take any assessments or exams.
Suppose you’re not cloud?
Microsoft seems to be of two minds where cloud competency is concerned. Among the FAQs is the very fair question, “My business is focused more on consulting than selling a cloud solution. It looks like the only way I can be a partner is to sell a cloud product. Is this true?” To which Microsoft replies:
No. There are different competencies available for partners who are not yet ready to sell or transact in the cloud…Even though we’re retiring some of our competencies, the remaining cloud and hybrid competencies will provide you with the tools, support, and resources you need to deliver hybrid and cloud solutions to our mutual customers.
So no; you won’t be obliged to sell cloud products. But your competencies will be in hybrid solutions at least.
And, frankly, it would be foolish to fight it. Panorama Consulting Solutions found in May 2015 that software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud implementations of ERP were sharply on the rise over 2014.
“Basically, SaaS adoption was up exponentially this year over last year – from 4 percent to 33 percent,” Panorama president Eric Kimberling told us. He observed as well that that is a sign of customers finally taking advantage of all of the deployment options in the marketplace. “That speaks to some of Microsoft’s strategies behind the cloud and the way it’s providing different deployment options for Dynamics customers,” he observed.
Schuster wrote that, because it is critical for Microsoft to evolve along with customer demands, “we remain relentless in our commitment to helping you, our partners, regardless of where you sit in this journey, so that you can be successful now and into the future.”
So you will move to the cloud, and you will be helped. Relentlessly.