imageEvery year thousands of worldwide partners get together with Microsoft at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. In 2012 it’s being held in Canada, in the leafy green city of Toronto (hint: great week to spend in the northern hemisphere summer rather than the southern hemisphere winter!)

Last year, Janison from NSW, were one of the finalists for Microsoft global Education Partner of the Year 2011 and winner for Australian Education Partner of the Year 2011. And given the global exposure and business opportunities it created for them – in Australia and elsewhere, I’d love as many as possible of our Australian education partners to get the chance to do well in this year’s competition. I recognise that it means somebody has to put some effort into entering – even if it just means spending the time completing the online forms. And it’s not normally somebody’s day job.

So I’m going to give you my advice in the form of a few handy steps focused on time saving when writing your winning entry:

How to submit a winning entry for Microsoft Education Partner of the Year, with the least effort and most impact

1) You’ve got to be in it, to win it

Entries close on 15th April 2012. So start now – don’t wait for a few weeks, because the deadline isn’t going to be extended just because you forgot. You can read the published info, and start your application, here

The simple eligibility criteria is that you must have a PinPoint listing. If you don’t have one, or it needs updating, find out how to update PinPoint here. The reason is that many customers use PinPoint as the starting point to find Microsoft partners.

It is also important to note that the competition is open to everybody that qualifies – whether or not you are attending the World Partner Conference. So you don’t have to commit to travel to be able to enter!

2) Remember at school, when your teacher said “Read the question carefully”. Same applies

Like an exam, there’s a set of formal questions to answer, and the judges will have a marking scheme that’s linked to that. So don’t skip a question, even if you think it’s irrelevant to you. Give the best answer you can in the context – just like a tender response, a blank answer gets no points, whereas you’ll get at least one point for attempting it! And an answer like “We’re considering it for the future” is better than '”No” Smile

3) Try and work out what the judges give marks for

Looking at the questions in the entry form, question 3 for '”Public Sector – Education Partner of the Year” is:

  3. Describe how using Microsoft technologies in your solution helped you win against the competition in a customer situation from a technical and business perspective.  

My decoding of this is that the judges want you to tell them how Microsoft helped you win against our shared competitors, and they want you to explain this from a technical and business perspective.

So “I beat ComputerSellerWarehouse on price” won’t cut it anywhere as much as:

  We helped Contoso University to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM to replace their existing HokeyKokey CRM system, which helped them to recruit students more effectively, because using the Microsoft cloud services helped them to implement it fast enough for their new recruitment year, and integration to their SharePoint system gave staff more access to vital information. And that’s why the customer chose us instead of OldFashionedCRMSystems Inc.  

Hopefully that answer is likely to match the judges marking scheme:

  • Microsoft technology – Dynamics CRM, Cloud, SharePoint - tick
  • Against the competition – HokeyKokey CRM; OldFashionedCRMSystems - tick
  • Technical perspective – Cloud, faster implementation - tick
  • Business perspective – Recruit students more effectively, access to vital information for staff - tick

4) Look out for the gotchas

When you get to Question Four (Describe which education solution area your solution maps to and which Microsoft technologies you have used), you really need to look at Questions 7-10 to know what the ‘solutions’ are. But to save you time, here’s the four solution areas in summary:

  • Institutional Effectiveness: Business Intelligence, Financial Management, High-Performance Computing, Project Management or Streamline Organisational Process
  • Operational Efficiencies: Optimise Server Infrastructure, Server Consideration and Data Warehousing or Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
  • eLearning: Cloud Computing, Education Desktop, Microsoft Live@Edu, Unified Communications, Web Portals for K–12 Schools or Web Portals for Higher Education
  • Research Management: Experiments, Simulations, Archiving, Instruments, Literary Dissemination, Learning Analytics, Data Mining, Machine Learning for Pattern Recognition and Complex Data Reduction and Visualisation

If you have any difficulty choosing which solution to classify your project under, then just give me a call or drop me an email for some help choosing.

The other gotcha to look out for is to ensure you are entering the right categories. Education Partner of the Year is for partners working with education customers. Don’t confuse it with Learning Partner of the Year, which is for partners providing IT courses and associated resources for IT professionals.

5) Save your entry somewhere handy

As you write your entry, save a copy of your answers. Because when you come to enter the awards for Australian Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2012 (more details soon), you’ll be able to re-use almost everything for those awards (unfortunately, due to privacy restrictions, we can’t just transfer your data across, but it’s easy as long as you have a copy of your answers for the worldwide awards!)

What are you waiting for?

Find all resources to enter the Microsoft WPC Awards here, including full information on categories, Judges tips and the Official rules.

For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not involved in the WPC Awards, and I have no special inside knowledge of them. All the advice is my responsibility alone!