Microsoft Introduces Partner Programs for ASPs, ISVs

For the past eight years, Microsoft Corp. has certified consulting organizations with its Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP) program, but other key Microsoft partners, such as ISVs and ASPs have been left in the lurch. An announcement today by Microsoft attempts to close the gap and reassure customers about the quality of vendors. Today at Internet World, Microsoft announced its new Microsoft Certified Partner and Microsoft Certified Gold Partner programs, to give users a unified brand for selecting consulting services, software vendors, ASPs, and vendors doing contract software development.

"What can we do to improve the clarity between our partners?" asks Rosa Garcia, general manager of Microsoft partner programs. Garcia felt that the abundance of Microsoft certifications has diluted certifications and created confusion among the customer base. Garcia believes that the unified two-tier approach will simplify choosing products and services for customers.

Garcia says that 96 percent of Microsoft revenue is derived from partners, so having a clear partnership system is critical for Microsoft's success. Garcia also point to the rapidly shifting e-business market, where a single mistake in selecting a vendor can make or break a company. "The customers don't want to be a guinea pig for anyone."

To reduce the amount of experimentation by support vendors, Microsoft is introducing a new rubric for certifying partners, and took a two-tiered approach for labels. Vendors who meet the specifications are anointed "Microsoft Certified Partners," while partners who go above and beyond can reach the heights of "Microsoft Certified Gold Partners."

The specifications for certifying ISVs as certified partners run in addition to certifying an application. If 35 percent of an ISVs output is certified for the Windows platform, the company can apply to become a partner. Unlike consulting organizations, Microsoft certifies ISVs on the basis of code, rather than people.

Quality of service is the critical factor for ASPs who wish to gain certification within the programs. Microsoft engineers visit on site, to check out the operating environment, to see whether the partner can deliver on services offered to customers.

Microsoft began its Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider program to ensure that consulting organizations meet a certain level of service. – Christopher McConnell for ENT