Janison - Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2011Last year, Janison from NSW, were winner for Australian Education Partner of the Year 2011. And I’d like all of our education partners to get the chance to do well in this year’s competition – in whichever of the 24 Microsoft Australia Partner Awards categories you choose to enter. I recognise that entering means somebody has to put some time and effort in– 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 Australia (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 11th June 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 Australia 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

* Unlike an exam, you can actually see all of the questions in advance – there’s a downloadable copy of the questions, so that you can prepare before you even start to enter

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

Looking at the questions in the entry form, question 2 for '”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 customer benefit 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 benefit 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
  • Customer benefit perspective – Recruit students more effectively, access to vital information for staff - tick

4) Look out for the gotchas

When you get to Question Six (‘Was the solution developed and provided for a unique customer need or as a general use product or service?’) you might want to think about what the judges are looking for – which is generally the applicability of a solution to many customers, rather than a very specialised solution which can only solve one particular customer's problem.

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.

What are you waiting for?

Find all resources to enter the Microsoft APC Awards here, including full information on categories, submission tips and the official rules.