Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER clip_image001and RSS clip_image002
Global Partner Experience Lead
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

 

Since the very inception of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community many years ago and for every year since then, it has been my absolute pleasure to work with all of the Partners dedicated to serving the needs of the SMB segment and help communicate the efforts Microsoft is making around the SMB market.  During this time, there have been people that, with each passing year, will ask or make statements along the lines of, “Microsoft is moving away from the SMB market,” or “Microsoft is killing off the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.” 

For those of you that have followed me for awhile, you know that one of the commitments I have made to you is that I will always strive to bring you the RIGHT answers to the questions you have.  With this commitment comes the understanding that if I am going to bring you the RIGHT answers, that almost guarantees that at some point, I am going to bring you an answer that you do not like; however, it will be the right answer.  For some of you, today is that day.

The fate of SBSC has been signed, sealed, and is now being delivered.  The answer to, “Can you believe it?  The end of SBSC and a shift away from the SMB market,” is: “No, don’t believe anyone that tells you that!”  The Microsoft SBSC designation is absolutely living on and Microsoft’s commitment to the SMB Market, and the Partners around the world that serve this market, is as strong as ever, if not stronger! 

We’ve worked diligently to ensure that we have solid opportunities for our SMB focused Partners to partner with Microsoft, no matter their size.  (Sorry competitors, this is the RIGHT answer to the question, even though you may not like it)  I wanted to be sure to bring the RIGHT answer to these questions to you, to ensure you had them and there is no misunderstanding or thoughts that we hid it in a footnote somewhere.

With the announcement of the new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), we explained how some things would be changing as we move into the new program and recently, we launched several MPN webcasts to describe more about the Microsoft Partner network as well as conducting a live Q&A session online.  One of the items you may have heard in there is an expansion in focus on the SMB market for our Partners through the introduction of two new Competencies and two new Advanced Competencies for Partners focusing on the SMB market.  Now, Partners focusing on serving the SMB market around the world can partner with Microsoft in even more ways and at more levels, for those that choose to:

  • Small Business Specialist Community (Same as before)
  • Small Business Solution Provider Competency (New in MPN)
  • Small Business Solution Provider Advanced Competency (New in MPN)
  • Midmarket Solution Provider Competency (New in MPN)
  • Midmarket Solution Provider Advanced Competency (New in MPN)

Speaking of SBSC, have you joined the SBSC Facebook site yet?  Also, keep an eye out because soon we will be posting the registration information for an upcoming webcast we will be conducting with even more news on MPN for SMB Partners

Here are the answers to some questions we have been seeing/hearing, as well as others we thought you might have:

1. Since the Small Business Specialist Community is continuing, does that mean that the Small Business Specialist logo is staying too?

  • Yes, as an active member in the Small Business Specialist Community you may continue to use the current Small Business Specialist logo (a.k.a. the blue badge), to strengthen customer recognition and your ongoing partnership with Microsoft. We will continue to evolve the visual branding where necessary to ensure it aligns with the overall MPN branding that your customers know and trust. Our commitment to you is that we will provide you with 1 year notice if any changes are implemented in the future.

2. To obtain the Microsoft Small Business Specialist designation, the requirements remain the same:

3. To obtain either the Small Business Solution Provider Competency or the Midmarket Solution Provider Competency:

  • Complete your MPN profile
  • Must employ or contract with at least 2 MCPs who have each passed one of the qualifying exams. Exams vary by competency.
  • Pass the competency-specific Sales & Marketing Assessment, and the general Volume License Assessment.
  • Need 3 unique Customer Referrals
  • Competency Membership Fee
  • Refer to the Value of Earning a Microsoft Competency Guide for Small Business Solution Provider and Midmarket Solution Provider competency requirement details and for a list qualifying exams.

4. To obtain either the Small Business Solution Provider Advanced Competency or the Midmarket Solution Provider Advanced Competency:

  • Complete your MPN profile
  • 4 MCPs with advanced credentials (credential requirements vary by competency)
  • Pass the competency-specific Sales & Marketing Assessment, and the general Volume License Assessment.
  • 5 unique Customer Referrals
  • Participate in Customer Satisfaction Index (CSAT)
  • Advanced competency Membership Fee
  • Refer to the Value of Earning a Microsoft Competency Guide for Small Business Solution Provider and Midmarket Solution Provider competency requirement details and for a list qualifying exams.

5. Customer References have not been a requirement for me in the past. What resources are available to help me do/prepare for this requirement if I want to try to attain either competency?

6. Will the Small Business Specialist designation change, as a result of the introduction of the Small Business Solution Provider Competency and Midmarket Solution Provider Competency?

  • We will continue to offer the Small Business Specialist Community designation with the requirements and benefits as they are today for those partners who wish to participate in MPN but who make the choice not to pursue a competency.

7.  Can I use more than one logo?

  • Yes. The Microsoft Partner Network logos help your customers identify your areas of expertise. You are permitted and encouraged to use all logos that you are qualified for. The Small Business Specialist logo may be used in conjunction with (multiple) competency and advanced competency logos.

8. If I’m an active member in the Small Business Specialist Community today, do I automatically qualify for the Small Business Solution Provider Competency when it’s launched?

  • No - you will not automatically qualify at the competency level. If you wish to go for the additional benefits that a competency or advanced competency offers you will need to meet the requirements outlined for that particular competency.
  • Since the Small Business Specialist Community will continue on as a community within MPN, you will automatically be carried forward with your Small Business Specialist status as are they are today as long you continue to meet the requirements and your credentials are up to date.

9. I have already taken a Sales & Marketing Assessment to become Small Business Specialist. Does that suffice to gain the competency as well?

  • Starting in October 2010, we will introduce new Sales & Marketing Assessments for both the Small Business Specialist Community and for the individual competencies as well. The Small Business Specialist Community and the Small Business Solution Provider competency will share the same assessment; Midmarket Solution Provider will have its own unique sales and marketing assessment.

10. Can I be an active member in the Small Business Specialist Community and also hold a Small Business (or another) competency at the same time?

  • Yes. We encourage you go after the credentials that will best demonstrate what you can offer your small-to-midsize business customers. You can be in the Small Business Specialist Community in addition to being in a competency or multiple competencies.
  • Competency guidelines also allow partners to hold multiple competencies, however individuals qualifying for advanced competencies will only count towards one Advanced competency for a partner organization. Please refer to The Value of Earning a Microsoft Competency guide for more details on earning multiple competencies.

11. When will these competencies be available for me to join?

  • May 2010
    • Midmarket Solution Provider Competency
  • October 2010
    • Small Business Solution Provider competency
    • Small Business Solution Provider advanced competency
    • Midmarket Solution Provider advanced competency

12. Do I need to update my skills to remain in the Small Business Specialist Community? For example, I have completed the MPC requirement by passing the Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) exam. Do I need to pass to SBS 2008 exam to meet the criteria for the community?

  • Yes, your small-to-midsize (SMB) customers desire technology providers that have current skills and proven expertise. You will need to meet the current requirements for the designation, competency or advanced competency you’d like to obtain each year. 

13. If the Small Business Specialist Community remains, why would I want to attain a Small Business or Midmarket Solution Provider competency?

  • As you expand your skill set and increase your commitment to Microsoft, your benefits and opportunities grow exponentially as well – increased Internal-Use software benefits, increased support services, marketplace prioritization, channel incentives, competency specific logos, training, and more! Refer to The Value of Earning a Microsoft Competency guide for sample benefits and what they can mean for you.

14. What are the fees for the Small Business and Midmarket Solution Provider Competencies and Advanced Competencies?

  • Same pricing as other competencies – Approximately $2,000 USD annually for a competency and $4,000 USD annually for an advanced competency. 

I hope this puts to rest any of the speculation out there that you may encounter around, “What’s happening to SBSC in the new MPN?” and if Microsoft is committed to the SMB market.  Let me assure you we are and that SBSC continues to be a key component of our efforts together.  I look forward to seeing all of the Microsoft SBSC Partners at WPC this year!