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MCPs Get Knowledge Base Windfall

Talk about jaded.

After years covering channel partners and their vendor relationships, my first reaction to news that Microsoft is giving MCPs the same access to its Knowledge Base as partners, was: "MY GOD, what will the partners say?"

Second thought: Probably not much. Especially since most partners employ MCPs, sometimes in large numbers as part their partner program requirements.

The truth lies, as usual, somewhere in the middle.

One northeastern Microsoft Gold partner took the news in stride, but with caveats and some great insight.

"Normally you want your [vendor] communications to flow through the organization, not individuals," he explains. But, given that Microsoft is playing catch up with Google in consumer-focused activities it realizes it has to open up the pipe more to people individually, he adds.

Bob Shear, president of Greystone Solutions, a Boston-based Gold partner sees nothing but good for his business anyway.

If this move "makes Microsoft products easier to install and use, it's all good. Our Gold status gives us some free software licenses, some field attention, but I don't trade on it as the reason people should use us. If I were an HP-slash-Microsoft guy trying to sell packaged systems I might not like it though because it takes away one of my check marks," he says. Such turnkey partners may be more likely to advertise their own vendor relationships as a selling point, he says.

On the other hand, the fact that Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) Knowledge Base is also included could be a big red flag to authorized MBS partners who zealously guard their status.

Paul Barter, vice president of strategy for T4G, a Toronto Gold-certified partner with expertise in retail and e-commerce, says Microsoft is negotiating the area between the software-as-a-service-fits-all-needs camps and the real world.

Some camps -- Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Google -- maintain SaaS is perfect for all needs. Others say on-premise is always best. "The reality is somewhere in the middle and Microsoft's "software plus services" message is just right, Barter says.

As more customers try the SaaS model, Microsoft's channel will morph and it must pay attention to individual consultants etc.

Toronto-based T4G employs about 100 MCPs, Barter says.

Lutz Ziob, general manager of Microsoft Learning agreed that the focus of the MCP program is the person, not the organization. But he hastens to add that partner benefits go beyond what MCPs get in terms of training and resources.

"We're trying to figure out the right bundle of services at the individual level," Ziob said in an interview. Of the 2.2 million MCPs Microsoft claims worldwide, he estimates that nearly half (40 to 45%) work for partner organizations. (He bases this figure on voluntary surveys).

Other factoids: 15 to 20 percent are developers, while the remaining 80 percent or so are self-identified IT people.

The latest round of MCP benefit improvements keys off the coming release of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, he notes.

Starting two years ago, MCP certification got more granular. A certification will now be for Windows Server 2003 or 2008, not just Windows Server, for example.

And, those certifications will be tied to product support and de-support.

"You can keep calling yourself as Windows 2000-certified but -- the value of that designation will diminish as the product loses support," he said.

Microsoft's support lifecycle typically includes five years of mainstream support and an additional five years of extended support from product launch.

 

Barbara Darrow, Industry Editor can be reached at bdarrow@1105media.com

Posted by Barbara Darrow on 11/27/2007 at 1:15 PM


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