Consultant s Corner
Microsoft s Partner Solutions
Spend a Little, Save a Lot!
By Auri Rahimzadeh
Among the many common issues experienced by every consultancy, two stand out as being significant to your success: legitimacy and saving money. Legitimacy is important when competing for larger clients, who often are skeptical of giving entire projects to single contractors or small organizations. The latter comes into play after landing the work and not being able to afford all the Microsoft servers, development environments, and so forth you need to accomplish the tasks for the project you ve won.
Luckily for you, you re a Microsoft house, and Microsoft itself started out as only a software development shop. Microsoft stands behind its loyal developers by providing the tools, resources, and prestige necessary to grow their businesses. These benefits are all encapsulated in the Microsoft Partner Program and its associated levels and software subscriptions. You can immediately get the software you need for cheap. Then, as you become a more accomplished partner, Microsoft will certify you, lending you the credibility you often desperately need to work with the big fish in your industry.
Microsoft s partner program is free to join, and provides your clients and your organization more tools and benefits as your level increases. You start as a Registered Partner. As you increase your competencies and get more customer references which earn you more points you progress to the Certified and Gold Certified levels. Increasing your level and your competencies gains recognition with potential clients and makes you a more favorable organization with whom to conduct business. It also lists you higher in the online Microsoft Partner Solutions Catalog, which you can browse at http://solutionfinder.microsoft.com.
As a Microsoft Partner, you ll receive free sales and marketing material from Microsoft to help you understand, leverage, and yes, even sell, their technologies. Becoming a partner is also a prerequisite for gaining access to the Action Pack Subscription and the Empower Program for ISVs, which I ll cover in a moment.
Once you reach the Certified level, Microsoft will reward you with a couple of plaques and a Certified Partner banner, which you can prominently display at your office, at trade shows, and so forth. You also gain access to the Logo Builder, where you can build official Microsoft Certified Partner logos for use on your business cards, in your e-mail signatures, and in your marketing material. This is important, as it conveys your trusted skill set automatically. You have to work hard to get Microsoft Certified Partner status, which both your clients and prospective customers will undoubtedly respect.
Other benefits to the Certified and Gold Certified levels include a certain number of free support calls, MSDN subscription access (for which you must pay), TechNet access, and many benefits you can pass on to your clients. One benefit includes license matching, which could save your clients thousands of dollars in licensing costs and score you points with your clients, as well as Microsoft.
Another benefit to the Certified and Gold Certified levels is five free licenses to Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. In the Registered Partner level and Action Pack Subscription, you only receive the 90-day trial version, but if you level up you ll get full access to Microsoft s flagship development system. Talk about a great incentive, and reward, from Microsoft for all your hard work as a partner.
You can learn more about the Microsoft Partner Program at http://partner.microsoft.com.
Action Pack Subscriptions
Whether you re an individual contractor or a small organization, getting the tools you need at the least cost is the name of the game. Microsoft helps its partners in this respect by offering the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription.
The Action Pack Subscription costs US$299, and provides full licenses to all the software Microsoft has to offer (with a few exceptions). It s geared toward Registered Partners and those who can t afford an MSDN subscription, as well as toward organizations looking to implement Microsoft-based solutions for their clients.
A subscription includes full versions of Microsoft s servers and applications including Office and development environments sans Team Server, games, and Macintosh solutions. The software is delivered to you quarterly on CD, includes lots of Microsoft marketing and training material, and even includes a handy binder for all your Microsoft software.
The Action Pack Subscription will literally save you thousands of dollars and give your team everything it needs to write Microsoft software for any Microsoft environment. Other than already having an MSDN subscription, there is literally no excuse for not having an Action Pack subscription.
There is a caveat to the Microsoft Action Pack subscription licenses: If your subscription expires, the licenses may end with it, so make sure you renew every year! This is especially true with the operating system licenses.
You can learn more about the Action Pack Subscription at http://partner.microsoft.com/US/40016455?PS=3.
Microsoft s Empower Program for ISVs
Microsoft greatly desires applications to be written for Windows. After all, Windows is a cash cow, and the more great apps that run on it, the better. To encourage partners to write software for Windows, Microsoft has created the Empower for ISVs program. The Empower program gives you almost everything a Certified Partner gets sans logo use and all the tools you need via an MSDN subscription, for two years. Your end of the bargain is to write an application and have it tested by Veritest by the end of that two-year period. Don t worry Microsoft pays for the test!
The cost of the Empower program is US$375, which covers you for the entire two years a steal compared to paying more than US$2,000 for an MSDN Universal subscription alone. Microsoft will even give you 10 free hours of architecture consulting to help you write your application.
As a bonus, when you complete the Empower program, you automatically earn the ISV/Software Solutions partner competency, and enough points to promote your level to Certified Partner, with all the accompanying benefits.
To learn more about the Empower for ISVs program, visit http://partner.microsoft.com/US/40011351?PS=3.
Getting involved with the Microsoft Partner Program will be a welcome addition to your development arsenal. Cheap, plentiful access to Microsoft software and technologies is nothing to shake a stick at. The rewards for staying involved will help you grow your business. Microsoft s official endorsement of Gold Certified partners can only mean good things when pitching your wares. The use of the logo by Certified and Gold Certified partners makes your organization seem much more legitimate to big fish. The recognition of your skills, and the ability to affordably flex your development muscles, means there s no time like the present to get started reaping the benefits of partnering with Microsoft.
I welcome your questions and comments at [email protected]. Please get involved with the community and share your thoughts and experiences so we can all benefit from each others experiences.
Auri Rahimzadeh is President and Senior Engineer at TAG (The Auri Group, LLC, http://www.aurigroup.com), a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner based in Indianapolis, IN. Rahimzadeh has authored three books, including Hacking the PSP and Geek My Ride. He has been technical editor on Wrox and Wiley titles, and has written a number of technical articles ranging from .NET development to consumer electronics. Auri started his technology career working for Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, and enjoys writing and teaching others about all sorts of technology.
Other Benefits of Certified and Gold Certified Levels
Your organization gets a lot of support from Microsoft once you ve proven your competencies by reaching the Certified and Gold Certified levels. Here are some of the great benefits:
- Customer References. Keep track of all your customer references, use them to gain additional competencies and earn Microsoft points.
- Free Customer Surveys by Microsoft. Microsoft will survey your customers to make sure you re on the up-and-up. Use these metrics to improve your customer relationships.
- License Matching. Gold Certified partners receive 1:1 license matches on purchases (for their own company).
- The automatic respect from existing and prospective clients for your experience of being certified by Microsoft.
These are just some of the benefits the upper levels offer partners learn more about the Microsoft Partner Program at http://partner.microsoft.com.