Back in 2011, we were delighted to announce we had been named a Microsoft Gold Partner – a title we’re proud to hold today. However, if you’ve ever seen reference to the Microsoft Partner Network and its various levels of distinction (Silver, Gold etc.) and wondered what that means, you’re not alone.
The Partner Network is Microsoft’s recognition and reward of quality. For companies that are part of the network – be they Microsoft product vendors or independent software developers like harmon.ie – Microsoft provides a whole range of support, previews and perks. However, far more important is what the Partner Network means if you’re investigating a certain product or tool. Should you be worried if someone is selling a Microsoft related service but doesn’t have Microsoft accreditation, for instance?
What does being a partner involve?
To be a Microsoft Partner, a company needs to provide Microsoft related products or services – either by directly reselling them or by offering tools that enhance existing Microsoft software. Partners work in a whole range of fields – from education to government to the private sector and beyond and they can specialize in any Microsoft product – from SharePoint to Dynamics CRM to Power BI and so on.
Signing up to become a basic partner is fairly straightforward. However, to become a certified Gold Partner, a company needs to do a lot more.
- They must pass a whole range of tests
- They must submit five customer references
- They need to earn 120 partner points
- They need four qualified Microsoft Certified Trainers who have each passed at least one certification exam issued by Microsoft. Partners need at least two colleagues who have passed Microsoft’s sales and marketing assessments and at least one employee who has completed the licensing overview assessment
Why go to all that trouble? Well, Microsoft realizes that companies who have these (and other, specialist competencies) should be providing their customers – i.e. you - with a high level of support and satisfaction, and that means more Microsoft products get sold. In return, Partners can expect a whole raft of benefits including:
- Advanced and exclusive access to many Microsoft tools and utilities
- The possibility of attending specialist training programs to keep employees at the cutting edge
- Access to continuous technical support
- Free licenses and reduced costs for many different tools, depending on whether they’re Gold, Silver, Action Pack or Network Member
- Being the first to hear new information, tips and insights from Redmond, Microsoft’s head office
So how does this benefit you?
Microsoft has a vision to become "customer obsessed" under CEO Satya Nadella. The Partner Network helps them contribute towards this goal, by helping reach out to organizations and individuals through the power of their extensive network. Let’s see how the Partner Network, and the more advanced levels in particular, help you.
- You get better support
Microsoft Partners get 24 hour, seven days a week access to Microsoft support. If a system has gone down or you’re undergoing a major issue, the Partner will be able to provide you with advice direct from Microsoft.
- You get up to the minute advice
Microsoft Partners are close to Microsoft. This means they find out about the latest news and plans from the corporation and can therefore give you the best advice for the future. For instance, they might be able to tell you where Microsoft is planning on investing more money in the coming years, whether it’s wise to buy licenses for a product now or hold off for a few months because a newer, better product is being released.
- You get real expertise
Microsoft Partners, especially if they have Gold or Silver competencies, need to know their stuff. A company won’t become a Gold Partner simply by being a reasonably good all-rounder; Microsoft wants to see real, in-depth knowledge on a specific field or area. Gold and Silver Partners show innovation, they truly understand their field and are at the cutting edge when it comes to extending and developing Microsoft products.
- They’re better trained and better tooled
Because Microsoft Partners get access to the latest training and tools, all that knowledge and power gets fed back to you, the customer.
Choose the right Partner for your needs
For each of the hundreds of products, tools and services that Microsoft has created over the years, there are many more companies that resell or enhance these further. Since there are so many companies of all sizes with offerings that can sometimes feel quite similar, it can be confusing to decide which company is the ‘real deal’ and who should be avoided.
The Microsoft Partner Network is a basic guarantee that the company has at least some level of quality. And of course, Action Pack, Silver and Gold Partner levels offer you a stronger assurance of the quality of that Partner’s offering.
Whatever your needs, the Partner Network is all about helping you make the best choices with the most confidence.