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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The New Cloud Productivity Competency for Office 365 Partners


Well, it's WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference) time again and that means changes to the Microsoft Partner Network.  Most years we see several new and changing competencies and this year is no different.  With Microsoft's recent focus on cloud and the phenomenal success of Office 365, however, it should be no surprise that the Cloud Partner programs (Cloud Deployment and Cloud Accelerate / Essentials) are being revised retired.

None of this should be a shock... we've heard rumblings since late 2013 that changes were coming.  In November, Julie Bennani (General Manager, Microsoft Partner Network) released the timeline for some of the changes announced at WPC in 2013 (see Partner Program Updates. What you need to know).  Included was the retirement of the Cloud Essentials, Accelerate and Deployment programs.  In January, a Technet article (see Cloud Program Update: Your Questions, Answered) clarified some of the reasons for the changes and how the retirement of the programs would work and how Partners would be affected.

In a post titled "Making Cloud core to the MPN Program", this week at WPC 2014, Gavriella Schuster (General Manager, Worldwide Partner Group) confirmed the program update and announced some significant changes that will simplify partnering with Microsoft for public and private cloud while providing additional resources at the same time.  Unfortunately, some of the differentiation for top Office 365 partners is falling by the wayside as a result... as her article title suggests, cloud is now core to the MPN program and Microsoft will be expecting more and more partners to get on the cloud bandwagon.

Here's a summary of what's new and changed:

Program Benefits Requirements Description
Action Pack5 seats of E3

5 seats Intune
Partner account

Action Pack Purchase for $475
Replaces the Cloud Essentials program.  Phone support, trial invites, delegated admin.
Silver Cloud Productivity Competency25 seats of E3

25 seats Intune
One Office 365 tech

One messaging tech

Customer reference

Deployed Office 365 active use requirement
Roughly replaces Cloud Accelerate.  Office 365 demo tenant, Signature Cloud Support, trial invites, delegated admin, etc.  Switch from assigned seats sold to active use as metric.
Gold Cloud Productivity Competency100 seats E3

100 seats Intune

EMS

Direct PAM
Two Office 365 techs

Two messaging techs

Customer reference

Deployed Office 365 active use requirement

Additional program fee
Roughly replaces Cloud Deployment.  Same as Silver but adds more internal rights, Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) and direct-to-partner support by a tele-partner account manager (tPAM).

One of the big challenges for partners working with Microsoft on funding offers (BIF) like the enterprise E3 $40/seat FY2013 offer and more recently the watered-down FastTrack Office 365 offer has been the deployed seat metric.  It looks like the competencies are going to use a similar metric for now until Microsoft can come up with a good way to accurately measure "active use" of the service.  Right now they judge deployment using the number of assigned seats... just due to lack of a better metric.

The Office 365 Marketplace and Pinpoint still have the existing filters (Cloud Deployment, Top Cloud Experts, Cloud Accelerate, etc.) but I would guess those will be replaced by a simpler "Cloud Productivity" filter or such at some point.  When that happens those companies that have fought hard for their premium cloud designations may be a bit unhappy.  Hopefully the additional resources like EMS and Signature Phone Support being provided offset the loss though.

More information and links to additional material can be had at Cloud is our core - Build a profitable cloud business on the Partner Network site.  See a good breakdown of the specific benefits and requirements between the Silver and Gold competencies at Cloud Productivity, also on the Partner Network site.

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