Making sense of the new Microsoft solution designations
Change is inevitable. Microsoft Partners are transforming how they demonstrate their capabilities. Transforming how customers can match the competencies they are looking for in a managed service provider with the needs of their next project.
Atech works in the same way – continually finding new ways to simplify our clients’ IT stack and maximise ROI.
With that in mind, we thought we’d clear up some of the existing accreditations and what they mean. We’ll also hone in on what is next on the horizon for Microsoft Gold Partners and customers.
What is a Microsoft Gold and Silver Partner?
Until this point, most customers have been able to identify Microsoft Partners and distinguish between them based on their Microsoft competencies (otherwise known as their accreditations or competencies).
These Microsoft’ competencies’ are attained by passing required exams and skills validation, meeting specific performance requirements, and paying an annual fee for Silver or Gold competency level.
This does not mean that Microsoft competencies could be attained by simply paying the annual fee. A range of criteria would need to be met first. The partner would then gain an invitation to earn the competency and then advertise their achievement to customers.
Microsoft Silver and Gold competencies were divided into four main categories, including:
- App and Infrastructure
- Business Applications
- Data and AI
- Modern Workplace and Security
What’s coming next for MS Partners?
Gold and Silver Partner competency requirements are changing. From 1st October 2022, Microsoft Partners will now be graded by their capability scores across six solution designations. The capability score is determined based on;
- Performance: measured by metrics such as net customer adds.
- Skilling: a company’s dedication to upskilling and training existing employees. Points are awarded to staff members accredited with specified certifications.
- Customer success: based on customer usage growth and the number of successful deployments.
Solutions designations are assigned via a points system. Qualifying firms need to earn at least 70 points (including points in each of the above subcategories) out of a possible score of 100.
The new competency scoring system amalgamates achievements in a way that (one might argue) is more holistic. Perhaps the new system also makes it ever so slightly more challenging to attain than Gold & Silver statuses.
What are Microsoft Advanced Specializations?
Let’s look at some of the other competencies that customers have been guided by when choosing a Microsoft Partner. Advanced Specializations signal areas of expertise that differ from Silver and Gold certifications in that they are based on a partner’s expanded reach. Advanced specialisation status is measured by a brand’s success in going above and beyond Microsoft’s core capabilities to bring about better business outcomes.
At this level, standards are exacting – companies must provide adequate figures demonstrating their proven successes in meeting and scaling better customer outcomes for their audiences. The outcomes are independently verified and audited.
Atech is proud to have achieved Microsoft Advanced Specialization in Azure Virtual Desktop, Identity & Access Management, and Threat Protection. Read more about our accreditations here.
Azure Expert MSP
Azure Expert MSPs are Microsoft’s foremost trusted managed services provider partners. In an independent audit of managed service offerings (encompassing reviews of people, processes, and technologies), Azure Expert MSPs meets the highest delivery standards set in the industry. Azure Expert MSP verification is proof of excellence in both customer service and technical expertise.
However, other changes launched earlier this year already signalled customer centricity. With NCE (New Commerce Experience), customers have more choice in how they purchase licensing. Businesses have the freedom to control spending in alignment with their overall objectives and expansion plans. In our view, the flexibility this offers is highly desirable for mid-market organisations, who need flexibility and agility to grow fast.
NCE centres around seat-based offers. So, no matter the size of your business, you will retain the right to choose only the features your organisation wants and needs. These improvements to Microsoft MSP certification provide enterprise solutions for non-enterprise companies. It’s also significantly easier to purchase more business solutions as your company grows.
NCE offers choice and transparency in purchasing, ensuring the customer gets the best possible ROI. Atech shares these same values and always takes a customer-centric approach to our work. If you want to find out more about the changes, we’ve got another article on the topic here. Bear in mind, however, that NCE relates to how a customer procures licensing in a way which aligns most closely to their business requirements. We’re mentioning it here, because we see NCE in the context of the changes to Gold and Silver competencies: customer centricity is at the heart of the change. This means more flexibility and choice in how you procure licences. The new solution designations mean more granularity and rigour to how Partners signal their capabilities – which means it’s easier for customers to assess and identify their ideal Partner.
What these accreditation changes mean for our customers
The adjustments to Microsoft’s accreditation criteria help to create a more streamlined and cost-efficient journey for the end customer. At Atech, we focus on enterprise IT problem-solving using advanced tech. Therefore, our business ethos matches Microsoft’s updated list of certification requirements. While the programme has become tougher and more rigorous, the benefits are clear for customers. Solutions designations create more value in the various designation areas and make it easier for customers to get a more nuanced view when assessing service and solution providers.
We envision that the changes in designation criteria will bring the following benefits to our customers:
Outcome #1: Simplified customer choice for services
All Solutions Partner designations will be aligned to Microsoft Cloud and split into the following six disciplines:
- Data and AI
- Digital and App Innovation
- Modern Workplace
- Security Applications
- Business Applications
Outcome #2: Holistic organisational measurement criteria
A partner’s capability score will measure performance, skilling, and customer success. These KPI metrics closely align with the everyday practices of modern companies. Customers are assured that capabilities have been independently assessed and scored according to standardised criteria. The capability score makes it easier for customers to compare different providers and make their selection based on fit.
An evolving set of competencies
By attaining these new solution designations, we will continue to demonstrate our vast range of capabilities. If you are interested in understanding what specific capability scores we have in a solution area that is relevant for your particular business requirements, we are happy to have a chat. We deliver customer success time and time again in the following solution areas:
- Solutions Partner for Modern Work. These include what we previously knew as competency areas in cloud productivity, collaboration, communications, messaging, small and mid-market cloud solutions and Windows and devices.
- Solutions Partner for Infrastructure (Azure) are Partners who in the ‘old world’ had Silver and Gold competencies in cloud platform and data center. This solution designation tracks deployments, consumption, certifications, all of which prove our capabilities in driving cloud transformation for our customers.
- Solutions Partners for Data and AI have competencies in application integration, data analytics and data platform.
- Solutions Partners for Digital and App Innovation (Azure) includes for example application development, application integration and DevOps.
- Solutions Partner for Security. This solutions partner area now includes not only Security Gold competency, but also enterprise mobility management. It translates as proven customer success in Microsoft 365, including Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Defender for Office 365, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, Microsoft Defender for Identity, Microsoft Information Protection and Intune. Additionally, customer associations with relevant Azure products including Sentinel, Azure Defender, Network Security, Identity and Access. Over half of Atech’s Partner Capability Score consists of points earned in Security.
- In addition to these, customers can continue to consider suitability and fit by the other Microsoft-specific awards and specialisations that the Partner holds. In Atech’s case, being named Microsoft Partner of The Year finalists for Modern Endpoint Management places Atech in the top 4 Partners globally in this category.
Where there’s customer demand for digital transformation, there’s Atech
Here at Atech, we believe the Microsoft solution designation changes echo our mission to expand access to ideal-fit IT solutions to all types of businesses. Some of the earned solution designations also bring about them a set of benefits for the partner, such as sandboxes, test credits and more, all of which mean that there is more than meets the capability eye. Solutions designations widen the scope of what we can offer our customers and mean that we are constantly scanning the tech horizon on your behalf, to deliver truly innovative solutions and services for our customers.
With our 15+ years of experience as IT managed service providers, we understand how businesses need IT solutions that can assure their future successes.
We put our customers at the heart of everything we do. So, we look forward to seeing how quickly the changes start to create positive outcomes for both customers and Atech as a Microsoft MSP and SOC Partner.
Get in touch to learn more about our advanced skills and capabilities and how they can help you realise your business’s full potential in IT systems.