This is the fourth blog in a series on the evolution of the Microsoft Partner Network into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Additional entries introduce the changes and explore the new Solutions Partner designations for Business Applications, Modern Work and Security on the Microsoft Partner Blog.

Update October 3, 2022: We have adjusted the skilling requirements for the Solutions Partner for Data & AI (Azure) designation. We merged the Advanced Certification requirements into the Intermediate Certification requirements as a single category. As a result of this change, the maximum points for Intermediate Certifications increased from 20 to 40 points. Some partners may see a drop in their score because the prerequisite certification (Azure Solutions Architect Expert) has not been met. Your score will return to earlier numbers after you have completed the prerequisite certification. Points that were previously earned in the Advanced Certification subcategory will be added to the points earned in the Intermediate Certification category and reflected on the dashboard on Partner Center. To learn more about this change, please review the resources available in the Solutions Partner for Data & AI (Azure) designation training gallery.

In preparation for the upcoming launch of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, we are continuing to examine how partners can differentiate themselves through the new Solutions Partner designations. In this blog, we will focus on the Azure-related Solutions Partner designations:

  • Solutions Partner for Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Solutions Partner for Data & AI (Azure)
  • Solutions Partner for Digital & App Innovation (Azure)

As with all Solutions Partner designations, these are designed to align with the existing partner solution areas to provide a more seamless experience for customers. By streamlining the existing gold and silver competencies, customers will be easily able to identify partners who have the Azure-related skills that they are looking for. The new designations and specializations will continue to provide exclusive benefits that support partners as you grow.

October 3 marks the official changeover into the new partner structure, and the information contained in this blog will help you prepare for an easy and effective transition.

Introducing the new Azure-related designations

Microsoft Azure encompasses three distinct solution areas that will each have a separate Solutions Partner designation. These three designations—Infrastructure, Data & AI, and Digital & App Innovation—offer strategic alignment to customer demand and give customers a way to identify you as a partner who is committed to training, accreditation, and delivering solutions.

As a Solutions Partner for Infrastructure (Azure), you demonstrate your ability to help customers migrate key infrastructure workloads to Azure with activities like:

  • Designing, operating, and optimizing customers' cloud infrastructure architecture, cost and security.
  • Migrating and modernizing customers’ infrastructure for virtualized workloads and virtual desktop environments.
  • Management, governance, security and DevOps across Hybrid and Edge with Azure Arc.

A Solutions Partner for Data & AI (Azure) designation highlights your skills managing customers’ data across multiple systems to build analytics and AI solutions. Relevant activities include:

  • Migrating data to cloud-based warehouses and enabling cloud-based analytics solutions.
  • Delivering cloud-scale analytics solutions using Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Data Lake, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Databricks.
  • Enabling customer adoption of Al and implementing Azure solutions for Al-powered apps and machine learning life cycles.

Becoming a Solutions Partner for Digital & App Innovation (Azure) tells customers you can help build, run, and manage applications across multiple clouds, on-premises, and at the edge. These activities include:

  • Migrating and modernizing production web applications, applying DevOps, and managing app services in Azure. 
  • Innovating and scaling production workloads in the cloud using containers and managing hosted Kubernetes environments. 
  • Implementing secure DevOps practices and enabling developer productivity with Azure and GitHub.

“Neal Analytics is on the path to receiving Solutions Partner designations in several areas, in addition to our five advanced specializations. As a current Gold Partner across seven competencies, transitioning to the Solutions Partner designations will be critical to our business starting October 3, 2022. In particular, we look forward to attaining Solutions Partner designations in Data & AI (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), and Business Applications. For over 10 years, being a recognized Microsoft partner has been a key element of our success and we believe this next step will help us accelerate our growth with and through the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program.” – David Brown, Solution Sales Director, Neal Analytics

Understanding the partner capability score

The Partner Contribution Indicator (PCI) currently used for Azure-related competencies is becoming the partner capability score, which measures performance, skilling, and customer success aligned with each solution area. To attain a Solutions Partner designation, partners need to earn a minimum of 70 out of the possible 100 points, with points in each sub-category:

  • Performance​: Measured by net customer adds
  • Skilling​: Demonstrates your dedication to skilling and training with intermediate and advanced certifications
  • Customer success​: Measured by usage growth and the number of solution deployments

This new scoring is designed to ensure that designations are achievable regardless of organization size, with a model that capitalizes on a partner’s strengths and rewards your growth. The performance and customer success categories demonstrate your experience leading successful customer engagements, providing visibility into deepening and recurring business with existing customers along with new customer adds.

With common requirements in performance and customer success categories between all three Azure designations, partners are encouraged to pursue multiple Azure Solutions Partner designations by meeting the unique skilling requirements for each designation.

Partner capability score: Alignment across the Microsoft Cloud

Global and MPN partner admins can view the new dashboard in Partner Center to see how your organization is progressing toward a Solutions Partner designation. Existing partners who meet these requirements on October 3 will automatically attain the associated Azure Solutions Partner designation and receive customer-facing badging. Then, at your next anniversary date, you’ll pay the fee and have the option to choose whether to move to the updated Solutions Partner designation benefits or retain your legacy competency benefits.

Understanding specializations

Once you attain a Solutions Partner designation, you can further differentiate your technical expertise and experience with specializations (currently called “advanced specializations”). To streamline and simplify partner programs and identification, partners who have earned a specialization in a particular topic will now be referred to as “partners with a specialization” or “specialists.”

Benefits for specializations include a customer-facing badge to display on your business profile in the Microsoft AppSource partner gallery, prioritization ranking in the commercial marketplace, evaluation for active cooperative selling opportunities with Microsoft field sellers, and more. Specific to specializations aligned to the Azure Infrastructure (Azure), Data & AI (Azure) or Digital & App Innovation (Azure) solution areas, the benefits below will also continue to be available:

  • Participate in Microsoft-led Azure Immersion Workshops (AIW) and become a Solution Assessment provider to reach new customers, support their strategic objectives, and grow your business. 
  • Accelerate existing customer opportunities while supporting your Azure practice with the Azure Migration and Modernization Program (AMMP).
  • Maximize your revenue opportunity with targeted financial incentives.

And with the move to Solutions Partner from October, we are also introducing new incremental product benefits to further accelerate your business. Incremental benefits for specialization and expert programs are only available with Solutions Partner benefits and cannot be added to legacy benefits.

To learn more about Solutions Partner benefits, please visit the benefits guide on the Microsoft partner website.

Important dates to know

As you begin working towards Solutions Partner for Infrastructure (Azure), Data & AI (Azure), and Digital & App Innovation (Azure), there are a few key dates to be aware of:

  • September 30, 2022: The last date to renew a legacy competency. From October 3, legacy competencies will no longer be valid, however the benefits associated with said legacy competencies will continue until your next anniversary date. 
  • October 3, 2022: Solutions Partner designations are available to attain. If you meet the requirements, you will attain the Solutions Partner designation immediately and receive the customer-facing badging. We will continue to make benefits available to you to help you attain Solutions Partner designations. Legacy competencies and associated badging will no longer be valid, but partners that have attained a competency by September 30, 2022, will continue to receive legacy benefits until their next anniversary date.
  • On a partner's first anniversary date after October 3, 2022: Partners who attain a Solutions Partner designation can choose to move to the updated Solutions Partner benefits or retain their legacy benefits and pay the corresponding fee. Partners who do not meet the requirements for a Solutions Partner designation but who renewed a competency by September 30, 2022, will have the option to continue to pay the fee to retain their legacy benefits.

See our marketing assets for information on how legacy competencies map to the new designations, and use our infographic to plan your transition. If your organization plans to pursue the Solutions Partner for Infrastructure, Data & AI, or Digital & App Innovation designation, check out the Microsoft Partner Sales Bootcamp series that can strengthen your competitive edge. Here you can also find additional resources for Infrastructure (Azure), Data & AI (Azure), and Digital & App Innovation (Azure).

We’ll continue to share business insights and partner perspectives here on the partner blog as we look forward to October 3. Check back in soon for more information on the new Solutions Partner designations and other benefits coming to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program!


Related blogs

Share article