A journey through Microsoft

A journey through Microsoft

I thought I’d write about the various programs that are available through Microsoft and Nero Blanco’s journey so far…  It may help other partners choose their track and or make them aware of what is out there.

Individual Certification

It all started with us as consultants looking to increase our knowledge of the products.  My own first certification was on Windows 95, and Windows NT 4.0 when it first came out (i.e. when it wasn’t the worlds most stable operating system…)  Along the way we gathered up more letters than the English alphabet, MCP, MCPS, MCNPS, MCITP, MCTEM, MCSA, MCSE, MCDBA (and that’s without the non Microsoft certification from the likes of Novell, Cisco, etc.)  You can use the MCP portal to view your transcripts, share them and look for benefits (not least of which is your first Microsoft badge of honour)

This of course was great for our own individual learning, but didn’t really help the company

Microsoft Partner Network

The Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is a fantastic resource for anyone doing anything with Microsoft, be that consulting, selling, servicing or marketing.  It is free to subscribe and it can show you the path to closer alignment to Microsoft’s vision.  You can then go on to purchase a Microsoft Action Pack for some software on an Internal Use Rights (IUR) basis.  For Nero Blanco we decided that the Action Pack wasn’t enough and we wanted more…

Digital Partner of Record

Every cloud subscription with Microsoft can have a Digital Partner of Record (DPoR) attached to it.  This is meant to be the partner that helped you get onto the cloud platform, or who is helping you manage and support the cloud platform.  These DPoR subscriptions count towards the partner competency requirements and Microsoft pays incentives to the partners who hold the relevant competency based on this DPoR information, and in the first year it can be as high as 23% of your subscription cost being paid to the partner by Microsoft.  This seemed to be a good idea to start with however as more and more partners work together this often becomes a sore point where one partner claims the DPoR and the other is felt a bit hard done by.

Luckily MS did hear this feedback and they’ve amended the competency requirements so that Delegated Administration (where the partner has asked to become an Advisor on your tenant and can help you manage the tenant) also count towards the competency.  It doesn’t solve the DPoR issue entirely but at least both partners get something now.

Silver Partner

We first became Silver Partners in the Messaging competency, which gives you automatic rights to IUR software (after paying the Silver Partner annual fee) and you can proudly show the Silver Partner badge of honour (which we do :o) )  By the way once you’re a silver or gold partner then the action pack is no longer available to you, nor relevant since the IUR software bundled with the partner software exceeds the action pack.  Of course once you’re on the Silver Partner track you realise that there are loads of competencies out there and it can be tempting to go hunting and collect them all!   My precious!!!

We decided that we’d first concentrate on the Office 365 space given our messaging specialization, and the first stage to that is Small Midmarket Cloud Solutions.  This gives you more IUR software, and another badge of honour.  We’ve now also added Cloud Productivity, and have our eyes firmly on Enterprise Mobility Solutions.

Gold Partner

Silver is never as good as Gold!   Aspiring to the Gold level is a great way to spend seemingly endless hours chasing references, learning ever more about the products in the chosen competency, and of course paying more when you reach it.  However the Gold badge of honour is even more precious than silver.  Nero Blanco is proud to have achieved Gold Cloud Productivity and Gold Midmarket Solution Provider, and we are working hard on the Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions and Gold Enterprise Mobility Management.  Then there is also the Azure side with Gold Cloud Platform, but that’s probably for another year…   There is only so much you can learn and retain in a short period of time :o)

Now Silver and Gold Partner are not the end of the road.

Cloud Solution Provider

Late in 2014 Microsoft announced the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program.  It is managed via the Partner Center and has two subtypes;  1-tier CSP and 2-tier CSP.  The difference between the two (aside from incentives) is that 1-tier CSP directly resells Microsoft’s subscriptions, whereas the 2-tier CSP resells the subscriptions from a 1-tier CSP which it has procured from Microsoft.  So two stages in the sales process, or 2 tiers…  ooohhh I get the naming now, so it is not tier-1 and tier-2 it is 1-tier and 2-tier, clever yet confusing :o)  You must be a Silver Partner (or aspire to be one within 12 months) to be accepted as a CSP, and Microsoft will do a credit risk assessment so you’d better have 2 years of financial accounts ready to submit to them.

Nero Blanco became 1-tier Cloud Solution Providers this week!  We’re very proud to continue our journey through the partner network with Microsoft.

So far CSP and DPoR seem to be mutually exclusive, since the CSP creates the subscription and therefore becomes the DPoR, however if another non-CSP partner helps the client onboard and manages them then they seem to miss out…?  We’ll find out more about this as time goes on I’m sure!

I have yet to find out if there is a CSP badge to add to the website and marketing material, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere obvious thus far.


The FastTrack portal is where deal registration happens, and success plans are created with the customer to try to get a consistent onboarding experience for the customer.  The partner decides if the onboarding will use the FastTrack Center or if they need to go another route for whatever reason.  They are also the main contact for the customer, so Microsoft won’t contact the client direct unless you as partner fail to respond to Microsoft. Oh yeah and of course there are always adoption offers available to partners to get more funding from Microsoft.  However there are a few more hurdles to overcome.

Microsoft Supplier

In order to apply for funding within FastTrack you must hold the Silver/Gold competency in the area that you’re trying to get funding for, and you must be a Microsoft Supplier.  This seems to be a relatively straight forward process (so far) but there is more information to collate and give back to Microsoft for them to look at, risk assess and approve.  You do need 3 or more employees too.

This gives you an MSID that you need to supply on any funding application in FastTrack.  Still that isn’t quite enough…

BIF Enable Microsoft Supplier

Once you are a Microsoft Supplier then you need to ask to be BIF enabled.  I’m not quite sure what the full process for this is as we’re still going through the process of becoming a Microsoft Supplier.  We have been told that this process can take around a month to complete.

International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners

This is not a Microsoft program, but it has Microsoft in the name so I thought it was worth a mention.  Nero Blanco joined the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) this week as premier partners, and are looking forward to working with other partners and share learning experiences.  We also see IAMCP as another way to get more closely aligned to Microsoft’s vision for the future, and perhaps even be able to influence some of that vision at times (we can but aspire, right?)

The IAMCP also has some great resources on how to do Partner to Partner business better and in a more structured/closer way.  We’re looking forward to learning more about this over the coming weeks and months (and probably years)

Managed Partner

This is our ultimate aim, to be a Microsoft Managed Partner (it doesn’t sound the same when read quietly without the grandiose music inside my head).  Having a closer relationship with Microsoft is critical to us and to Nero Blanco as a company.  We will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.  This won’t be the end of partner development since we are always striving to be better in all areas of our business, including serving you the best we can.