Microsoft offers a huge range of products, from the ubiquitous Office suite through to full business management solutions and this requires a large number of Partners. There are some 10,000 and of course they vary in line with the products they are accredited to sell.
There are three Partner levels
- Registered Partner
- Certified Partner (Silver)
- Gold Certified Partner
Within these levels, each Partner is accredited to sell, implement and support a specific range of products. Some products and solutions are only available from certain levels of Partner, for example the Microsoft Dynamics suite requires a Certified or Gold Certified Partner.
So what does Certified Partner and Gold Certified Partner mean to you buying a Dynamics solution and to us as vendors? The danger from a buyer’s perspective is that it is easy to make assumptions about the level of expertise the Partner has and these assumptions may, or may not, be true.
Dynamics NAV Partners – the history
TVision Technology has a long involvement with Dynamics NAV that goes back to when it was the Danish solution Navision. Our expertise in Navision was recognised by our accreditation as a Navision Solution Centre. At the same time, and like many technology and IT companies, we were also a Registered Microsoft Partner.
Microsoft acquired Navision in 2002, rebranded it Dynamics NAV and added it to its growing suite of business management solutions. Microsoft extended its existing Partner program to include the Dynamics area. Two legacy terms were also brought into partner terminology. ‘Classic’ Partners supplied products through licensing such as Office and Server Products. The term ‘Business’ Partner was used to differentiate companies that supply the complete range of business services based around one or more of the Dynamics products.
The Navision Solution Centre accreditation became translated into Microsoft Certified Partner with Business Solutions Competency. When Microsoft first acquired Navision, being ‘only’ a Certified Partner was not seen by clients as an important factor in choosing a Partner but as time has passed being ‘Gold’ is now seen as being a ‘very good thing’ by prospects. Once a Partner company reaches a certain size, it is now damaging not to be a Gold Certified Partner due to the risk of not being considered a credible and competent supplier.
To us at TVision, being a Microsoft Gold Partner means we are considered worthy of further evaluation by prospective clients.
But what does the Gold Partner system of accreditation really mean to our prospective clients?
Microsoft Gold Partner Accreditation – Its Limitations
Microsoft award Partners points that are gained across a range of criteria including
- Competencies (such as specialism in a Dynamics product, Business Intelligence, Network design etc),
- number of Microsoft Certified Professionals
- Customer References
- Sales Performance.
Microsoft admits that is it a product led organisation and of course sales are vital to its continued success. This is strongly reflected in its accreditation awards. It is perfectly possible to obtain the required number of points through Competencies and Sales Performance. In fact a Partner can obtain three times as many qualifying points for Sales Performance than for Customer References.
The Dynamics area has brought Microsoft closer to providing solutions rather than products than ever before. The Partner program reflects the history of a channel that has been more product “box shifting” than solution orientated.
Richard Thompson, TVision Managing Director on Gold Partner status:
“As a way of measuring the ability of a Microsoft Partner to provide good service, Gold Partner status is badly flawed. It can be dangerous to assume that selecting a Gold Certified Partner is a short-cut in supplier evaluation.
“It essentially promotes two areas which are the volume and value sales of Microsoft products and the examination qualifications gained by employees of the company. Unhappily, in the Business Systems area of the computer business, neither the ability to sell products nor the ability to pass examinations on their own is endorsement of ability to provide the quality and level of service demanded by our customers.
“What it may do however is indirectly measure a number of things. It may measure our ability to execute i.e. the more sales we make reflects a business knowledge and expertise which could prove valuable when applied during the implementation process. Passing exams may indicate a dedication to being technically and functionally aware of what the products we sell are capable of doing and which may be applied by our consultants to solve a particular business issue.
“Experience shows however, that quite frequently the above abilities are counter-intuitive to what it is we’re trying to achieve so while we happily add the Microsoft Gold Partner badge to our marketing materials and web site, I’d take with a pinch of salt the idea that it represents any huge difference between ourselves and other companies that are ‘only’ Microsoft Certified Partners.”
Gold Partner Status is no substitute for due diligence
When selecting a Partner, Certified or Gold, it is important to understand how they have gained their level of accreditation. Some Partners offer multiple products and services so that Gold Partner accreditation may not be related to the specific product you are interested in and their real expertise may lie in a different business area.
Gold is no reflection of customer service levels and although from the end of 2009 Gold Partners will need to participate in Microsoft’s Customer Satisfaction Survey the key word here is participate.
If the Partner is not Gold they may be small and this may be exactly what you are looking for. But it may mean they are new to the product or lacking focus.
For us, Microsoft Gold Partner certification is a marketing necessity and a statement of our on-going commitment to Microsoft Dynamics NAV. We recognise that there are flaws in the certification process; we would still rather be Gold.
Please contact TVision to discuss if we are the right gold certified partner for your Dynamics NAV implementation.