Microsoft is thrashing out plans to revamp its solution provider programme, hiking up the skills level for its top tier of solution provider partners.
Under the revised scheme premier partners, as they will now be called, will need at least two qualified system engineers (MCSEs), two certified professionals and two solution developers to qualify. At present just two MCSEs is enough to reach solution provider partner status.
They will also need specialised skills in some or all of Microsoft's Internet/intranet, migration, SQL and Exchange programmes.
It is understood that about 100 dealers will qualify, expanding the programme from the existing 30 solution providers. Shaun Frohlich, MD of MS dealer Byte Computers, said the scheme definitely plugs a gap and looks comprehensive.
Another source said: 'This is a carrot and stick exercise to make sure MS gets people focused on selling NT as that's the only way the premier partner dealers will get a return on the investment they've made.'
Michael Pearson, Microsoft partner marketing manager, said the revamp is intended to ensure many people within a company have experience and qualifications.
Only dealers handpicked by Microsoft can apply to become premier partners.
They will have access to funds but not to direct account management, raising anxieties about MS' channel support. One dealer said Microsoft is difficult to deal with at the moment because 'account managers spend 80 per cent of the time dealing with customers'.
The vendor is also expected to introduce rebates of three per cent on Molp and shrink-wrapped products under an internal senior partner scheme to be rolled out later this year.
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