Calling All Microsoft MSP Partners: Major Changes On The Horizon In A Rapidly Evolving Cloud First World

Calling All Microsoft MSP Partners: Major Changes On The Horizon In A Rapidly Evolving Cloud First World

By Matthew Vulpis

In one month, the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), which was established in 2009, and today has over 400,000 participating organizations, will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCCP) in what is arguably the most significant change to one of the largest MSP support platforms in the world.

While the MPN, which was preceded by the Microsoft Partner Program (MPP), has been continually evolving with new offerings and reorganizations, the transition to MCCP is a major step for all partners, most notably MSPs who have already been reselling Azure and other cloud services. A post by Microsoft put it this way a few months ago: “This deep relationship between Microsoft and our partners spans more than 30 years, and in that time frame our partners have provided unique solutions across numerous industries, helping countless customers succeed in an ever-changing world. They especially have played a pivotal role in helping businesses adapt amidst the pandemic. As things continue to change and evolve, we are committed to investing in and delivering what partners need to innovate, grow their businesses, and deliver on the promise of digital transformation for customers across organizations and industries.”

“So many of us in the dynamic IT services industry have come to rely on Microsoft,” said Nikki Meyer, CVP of Vendor Global Alliances for Pax8, one of the fastest growing cloud marketplace companies in the world, serving more than 24,000 MSPs who, in turn, are serving nearly a quarter million Small and Midsize Businesses (SMBs). “We have been preparing for this re-alignment throughout 2022 with a focus on ensuring our partners, who rely on our consolidated billing, automated provisioning, and PSA integrations can take full advantage of Microsoft’s new approach, with no disruption to operations, and opportunities to attract more customers who are increasingly relying on cloud services.”

Meyer, who was a senior executive at Microsoft before joining Pax8, explained that this is about much more than a name change. “MCCP is a reflection of Microsoft’s vision and investment in cloud services, and their recognition of the overall modernization of IT across the entire digital supply chain,” Meyer said. “Way beyond the end-of-life for MPN Gold and Silver status, the MCPP is truly about driving new proficiencies in a cloud-first world as more discovery, procurement, delivery and management of technology is happening online, through marketplaces like ours.”

The new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will aim to drive and promote partners' proficiency in six technology areas:

  1. Data & AI (Azure)
  2. Infrastructure (Azure)
  3. Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
  4. Business Applications
  5. Modern Work
  6. Security

“We are ready to help our partners in being certified across each of these critical disciplines, by growing their capabilities and attracting new customers so that they can more easily and quickly drive up their Partner Capability Score which will unlock many benefits as gold and silver badges give way to this new paradigm,” Meyer said.

There will be two expertise levels for partners in the new program, each with their own badges. The "solutions partner level" is open to partners that earn a PCS of 70 or higher. The next level, described by Microsoft as “specializations and expert programs," is open to partners that demonstrate "deep technical expertise and experience in specific technical scenarios under each solution area."

The changes to the economics of doing business with Microsoft are significant. For example, partners will continue to earn licenses to run Microsoft products in-house, but that benefit's name will change from "internal use rights" to simply "product benefits."

Partners have the option to renew their current benefits, but they will also be able to access new benefits that are "customized to meet their unique needs based on their business focus,” Microsoft said.

Legacy competencies and associated badges will no longer be valid after September 30, 2022. However, partners will retain legacy benefits (benefits received based on the competency they held on September 30, 2022), until their next anniversary date.

On a partner's next anniversary date after October 3, 2022, they will have the following options:

  • Maintain a solutions partner designation if they have attained one. To receive the solutions partner designation benefits they will pay the annual fee. Annual fees for solutions partner designation will be aligned to the legacy gold competency fees.
  • Retain their legacy silver or gold competency benefits and pay an annual fee. Annual fees for legacy silver or gold competency benefits will be aligned to the legacy silver and gold competency fees.

“Pax8 is committed to delivering the latest changes and updates to the program so that our rapidly growing base of MSP partners can maximize its available features, benefits, and opportunities, with the bonus of flowing these changes through our platform, which dramatically simplifies the transition,” Meyer said. “We are assisting our partner community by ensuring Silver and Gold partners assess their current standing among the new solutions designations to determine the best way forward.”

Meyer explained that this moment in Microsoft’s own evolution can also become a moment in the evolution of MSPs who are increasingly expanding their offerings, for example adding “OT” to “IT” when they roll out IoT implementation and management services. “We’ve consistently scouted out, tested, validated, and introduced new revenue-generating services MSPs can provide, including most recently expanding our cyber security category in our marketplace. Beyond evolutionary, we enjoy nothing more than to bring revolutionary value-added services to our partners, by offering not just our simplification and optimization marketplace and platform to our partners, but education and inspiration to them as well.”

Microsoft is evolving the way they categorize partner capability and measure success. This will be done with two qualifying levels:

  • The solutions partner level is the core designation level (shown above), based on meeting specific requirements aligned to Microsoft’s new partner capability score for each solution area. The partner capability score is Microsoft’s framework for measuring partner performance, skilling, and customer success. To attain a solutions partner designation, partners will need to earn a partner capability score of at least 70 points across the measurement areas.
  • Specializations and expert programs exist within each of the solutions partner designations and will give partners a way to demonstrate deep technical expertise and experience under each solution area. To achieve this level, Microsoft will have different requirements in addition to the core solutions partner designation

To prepare partners for these changes, Pax8 is hosting a webinar focused on the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program on September 7, 2022, from 9–10:30 a.m. MST. During this webinar, experts from Pax8 and Microsoft will deep-dive into the new program and answer live questions around these expected changes.

Edited by Erik Linask
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