Microsoft aims to empower Its Partners
Microsoft has always been known for delivering better value proposition to its Channel Community through the adoption of strategic approach, which has helped the company to distinguish itself from other competing vendors. Working in this direction, recently, Microsoft has come out with the Small Business Specialist program, a unique initiative to create greater business opportunities for partners that specialize in providing solutions and services to the small-business segment. According to Microsoft, the partners who enroll themselves for this program will have access to training and resources specifically designed for them, including marketing materials and special promotional offers.
Currently, Microsoft plans to recruit, enable and activate 100 small business specialist partners, across top 13 cities in the next ten to twelve months. To reach out to system integrators, VARs, system builders and the retail channel, Microsoft is organizing a 3-city event, called “Small Business is Big Businesses”. This is a worldwide initiative which Microsoft is now rolling out in India. The cities being covered are Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Commenting on this initiative, Rajeev Mittal, Group Director, Small and Medium Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) Group, Microsoft, says, “We are committed to helping small businesses around the world so that they can become more efficient and better serve their customers through the use of technology. While we have been offering solutions that have been custom-made for small businesses, Small Business Specialist Program is a significant step that will help our partners, create greater opportunities to address the needs of customers in this segment. We will be looking at enrolling both existing and new partners, who focus on addressing this customer segment.”
The program will not only help partners to differentiate themselves as small business solution experts, but will also enable small business customers to quickly identify technology partners best suited to support them.
The Small Business Specialist Program will add value to the full spectrum of partners that service the small-business segment, including the following:
Registered Members: The new offering is optimized for Registered Members that have demonstrated their expertise and are looking for Microsoft to recognize their skills and unique business models tailored specifically for small-business customers.
Certified and Gold Certified Partners: For Certified and Gold Certified Microsoft partners, this designation will help further differentiate their solution specialty to the small-business market.
System Builders: Registered system builders that join the Small Business Specialist Program will be provided with a clear roadmap for moving up to the OEM Hardware Solutions Competency with a System Builder specialization at the Certified or Gold Certified levels as their hardware sales grow.
Criteria to be a Specialist Partner
According to Rajeev in order to be a part of this program, Partners must qualify as Small and Medium Business Specialists and should have proven competency in marketing, selling, planning and building solutions for small and medium businesses. All active Microsoft Partner Program participants who meet the requirements are eligible to enroll online in the Small and Medium Business Specialist Community. The Partner organization must be a Certified Partner or a Gold Certified Partner, or a Registered Member that has a current subscription to Microsoft Action Pack or currently enrolled in Empower for ISVs.
To qualify as a SMB Specialist, partner organization must employ at least one individual who has passed the following test:
SMB Sales and Marketing Skills Assessment
® This scenario-based sales skills assessment is designed to test the knowledge in selling Microsoft solutions within the small and medium business market.
® The partner will be tested on how well they understand the dynamics and dependencies of the small and medium business market, as well as the value to SMB’s of several software solutions.
® Finally, the test will be conducted on the Microsoft Genuine Windows Advantage program and the appropriate software licensing programs for the small and medium business market.
Apart from that, in order to qualify as a SMB Specialist, partner organization must employ at least one individual who has passed one of the following technical exams:
Microsoft Exam 74-134 – Preinstalling Microsoft Products Using the OPK
® This Partner Competency exam validates that individuals in a partner environment are efficient and capable of deploying multifaceted IT solutions to their customer with skills across multiple Microsoft products and technologies.
® A candidate for this exam should have experience in installing Microsoft operating systems and applications using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK).
® Microsoft Exam 70-282 – Designing, Deploying and Managing a Network Solution for Small- and Medium-Sized Business
® This credential is designed for IT professionals working in or consulting with small- and medium-sized businesses that use Windows Small Business Server 2003 and the Microsoft Servers.
Microsoft promises to deliver lots of benefits to those partners who become a part of this program. Some of the benefits are as follows:
® Access to premium content and resources on the Microsoft Partner Program website, including special training and readiness opportunities related to Microsoft SMB offerings.
® Use of the SMB Specialist logo for print and online advertising and marketing.
® SMB Specialist listing in the Microsoft Resource Directory, a one-stop website that enables customers worldwide to find technology partners who offer products, services and solutions based on Microsoft technologies.
® Access to exclusive SMB Specialist Private Managed Newsgroups.
® Microsoft also connects these partners with Small Business customers through its website “Merabusiness.com”, which is a comprehensive resource centre for Small Business customers for finding he right IT solution for their needs.
® In addition, in India, they will be covered under the Microsoft’s Security guidance centre and they also get branding collateral and a set of Microsoft Press Books for their in-house learning library.
Empowering the Channel Community
Microsoft has a vast array of Partner Readiness Programs that help build up the knowledge repository of channel partner engaged in a business relationship with Microsoft. The company provides partners with an opportunity to participate in self-paced online learning programs as well as classroom-based delivery mechanisms. Microsoft Partners engaged in the Program have an opportunity to access the Partner Learning Centre (PLC) that hosts an extensive set of learning opportunities on products and solutions that address the small business customer segment. One can avail of sales and technical readiness sessions on the PLC. Microsoft also conducts Hands-on Lab sessions for products like Small Business Server, which is a core offering for small business customers. One of the requirements for attaining SBSC designation is that organizations must have at least one MCP clear the 70-282 or 70-134 exams.
In the end…
These channel initiatives by Microsoft will be instrumental in helping the channel community in developing their business process by creating more visibility, opportunity and demand in the small business segment and getting broader recognition among customers as small-business experts, thus helping them in the expansion of their customer base.
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