Just about every Microsoft partner has something to say about program changes the tech giant is rolling out this year, from a premium on month-to-month commitments for popular product packages to a new scoring system to determine which partners qualify beyond a base-level membership to the Microsoft ecosystem.
CRN has followed the rollout of Microsoft’s New Commerce Experience – a campaign that comes with the month-to-month premium on top of an overall price increase for Microsoft 365 and other products from the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant – and now the relaunching of the Microsoft Partner Network as the “Microsoft Cloud Partner Program,” which includes the introduction of a partner capability score (PCS) needed to qualify as a “solutions partner” and achieve specializations.
As part of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program rollout, Microsoft is abandoning its legacy Gold and Silver partner designations, which not only served as a badge of sorts to demonstrate to customers expertise in a particular Microsoft technology, but also came with financial incentives and benefits for partners.
[RELATED: Microsoft Cloud Partner Program Changes Needed But Timing Poor, Partners Say
Partners have almost universally put down the month-to-month premium, saying that it incentivizes customers to go for an annual commitment and in turn that annual commitments lock end users into a contract and lock partners into a contract with their distributors, defying the flexibility long-touted as a benefit to cloud.
All throughout the partner program changes rollout, Microsoft Channel Chief Rodney Clark has defended the tech giant’s choices. He has said that customers are used to annual subscriptions for products and, if they want a monthly commitment, the premium is there for protection in case the end user goes out of business or no longer needs a license.
Partners have been split on the new scoring system, with some praising the scoring system for separating more capable partners from the pack. Other partners have put down the new scoring system, saying that it overemphasizes net new customers and doesn’t properly reward customer retention. They have also spoken against the new scoring system as one more thing to adapt to after two years of COVID-19, remote working and an ever-evolving, ever-innovating Microsoft product portfolio.
Some kind words partners have had for the Microsoft partner program changes include a simplifying of some parts of the sprawling partner program plus an overall price increase across the product portfolio – for both monthly and annual commitments – after a decade of prices staying the same while Microsoft 365 received major updates and innovations.
Microsoft also received some praise for listening to partner complaints around some parts of the partner program changes – including recently extending its original 72-hour window for changes and cancellations to license sales. The new window is seven calendar days.
Some of the partners who have spoken to CRN since Mcirosoft began rolling out the partner program changes include RMON Networks, Computer Helper, LAN Infotech, TanChes Global Management, Axiom, Computer Troubleshooters, HillSouth IT Solutions, Ahieros IT, TrueIT, Network Solutions Provider, KME Systems, Pax8, TD Synnex, Ingram Micro and AppRiver and OpenText.
What follows is what these partners have had to say about Microsoft’s controversial partner program changes.