Hlavka: As for achieving Microsoft Gold Partnership status, a company needs to accumulate a number of points demonstrating Microsoft competency. In doing this, the Gold Partner needs to get customer references validating product capabilities, maintain staff members who have the status of Microsoft Certified Professional as well as maintain complete product certifications.
Kent : We believe the biggest benefit is from a marketing perspective. In a field that is very crowded, with lots of competitors, having a gold status differentiates you. From what I understand, out of all the MS partners, only about 10 percent have received gold certification.
West : In addition to establishing the company as a serious player in the technology business, it also keeps us on our toes. We are constantly motivated by Microsoft and our customers to enhance and extend our products and services. Microsoft provides us with additional licensing through the Microsoft Action Pack and we are given access to beta software prior to release as well.
Swenson : The credentials communicate to our customers that we are serious about the solutions we are supporting, as well as establish that we have demonstrated a level of proficiency with the products and solutions.
Sussman : Some of the benefits include 24/7 technical support for Microsoft products; Microsoft Developer's Network subscription including tools and resources to help grow our business; and free licenses for Microsoft commercial software essential to run our business–this alone saves thousands of dollars. Microsoft established a Partner Channel Builder that aids partners in creating new business and partnerships as well as searches for other Microsoft partners in order to find solutions and opportunities those partners offer that will help us achieve our business goals.
How easy or difficult was it to get the certification? How is the certification status maintained?
Trickey : Obtaining the certification was not difficult by any means especially when weighed against the benefits of membership. We maintain our status by ensuring customer satisfaction and deploying new solutions utilizing the latest in Microsoft technology.
Hlavka : In addition our company has received our Cisco NAC certification by developing an interoperable product and having it tested by Cisco.
Kent : There is without a doubt an investment into the process. It is not an insignificant undertaking. It is an effort in both time and money; we believe it is worth continuing and maintaining.
West : Obtaining our Gold partner certification was challenging because it required diligence and dedication from all team members. Our team members are required to complete each of his/her competencies and our clients were enthusiastic about providing references. We work to maintain our certification through continued training of our employees, increasing our customer references and extending our certifications.
Swenson: This varies by the certification and capabilities of the engineers or sales staff. There are costs associated with the downtime when engineers are training, as well as expenses for the classes and travel. For some vendors, there is also a requirement to purchase demonstration gear. The level of difficulty also varies by vendor; but for Microsoft, attaining the Gold partner status requires a good deal of cost, time and very knowledgeable staff members.
Sussman: We have been a Certified Partner since 2003 and Gold Certified Partner since 2006. In 2005 Microsoft changed its approach to the Partner Program membership and defined that a partner must prove a minimum competency. We decided to pursue the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) competency since it best fit our offering and it provided us with valuable Partner Points necessary to achieve Gold level certification. To that end we submitted a product for server/client testing. This included modification and pre-testing of the software to meet the test requirements and test fee payment. The references and the tested products are valid for two years so in order to maintain our ranking we are constantly updating our reference list on Microsoft database and hiring software developers that are Microsoft Certified ensuring they are associated to our organization.