Choosing ERP Software: How Microsoft Competencies Help You Find the Right ERP Partner

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One of the things that sets Microsoft business software apart from many other solutions is that it is supplied, implemented and supported by a strong, wide-reaching network of business partners. This network is not just a group of businesses that simply resell the software. Organisations that provide Microsoft Dynamics products for example, have to demonstrate a high level of training, experience, resources and technical ability, backed up by formal qualifications and accreditations from Microsoft. No organisation is allowed to implement these products on behalf of Microsoft unless they have the correct and proven skills to do so.

What the strong business partner network means to customers is that, no matter where you are in the world, you can nearly always find a local, qualified Microsoft Business Partner with the skills and experience you need.

Microsoft nurtures and develops its partners through its official Partner Program. Over the past couple of years, this program has seen some major changes. Accredited Microsoft Business Partners used to be categorised by Gold, Certified and general tiers. Partners were awarded the different levels of certification on a points-based system, with Gold Partner partners having achieved the highest level. Microsoft has now replaced this three-tier system with a more specific competency-based programme. Microsoft Business Partners are now accredited as Gold or Silver in a specific competency area or areas. There are currently around 29 competency areas, and partners are no longer accredited as Certified or Gold Certified as a company.

If you’re and an existing or potential Microsoft customer, the competency system makes it easier to differentiate between partners and find the one with the skills you need.

How? Firstly, the competencies are tougher for partners to achieve. A Microsoft Business Partner with a Gold or Silver competency in ERP for example, will have demonstrated through a variety of methods, that they have the skills and expertise to deploy financial and supply chain management solutions to match their clients’ requirements. They will have completed a rigorous set of tests to prove their level of capability with Microsoft technology, have a minimum, defined number of qualified and certified Microsoft Professionals, submitted customer references, achieved a set standard in customer surveys and demonstrated their commitment to customer satisfaction. And as well as skills, the partner will have demonstrated that they have sufficient in-house resource and are committed to Microsoft products.

As you’ve probably worked out, these much stricter and more focused requirements have reduced the number of partners claiming ‘gold’. To put it in perspective, only about 5% of Microsoft partners worldwide have silver competencies. Gold competencies, which demonstrate a partner has achieved outstanding, best-in-class expertise within the Microsoft marketplace, are achieved by only about 1% of business partners. So working with a Microsoft Partner with a Silver or Gold Competency in Enterprise Resource Planning (like many partners that contribute to this blog!) means you know that not only are they are qualified, experienced and skilled in the precise areas you need, you also have the assurance that you’re working with the very best.

This is a great advantage to organisations looking at Microsoft business software, and makes it easier to check that your Microsoft Partner has the right set of skills for your project. If you’re considering investing in an ERP solution such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV, for example, you can quickly assess the competencies of your local Microsoft Partners. The competency based system makes choosing the right partner for your ERP project a lot quicker, easier, more transparent and more reliable.

So what’s in it for Partners? Well, for us the competencies, although hard work to attain, mean we can set out our stall very clearly and differentiate ourselves from other partners. Our customers can see the precise level of our qualifications, expertise and experience and have a high level of assurance when choosing to work with us. Achieving particular competency levels also gives us certain privileges. For example, it allows us to work more closely with Microsoft, gives us direct access to technical staff, training, support and extremely in-depth knowledge and assistance should we need it.

A partner may achieve Gold or Silver competencies in more than one area. For example, TSG has so far achieved Gold Competencies in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Server Platforms, and Portals and Collaboration. And we’re well on our way to more gold in other areas! Achieving Gold competencies is a challenging process, but allows us to clearly define our core capabilities within the Partner Network.

So to check that your Microsoft partner has the right set of skills for your project, don’t just look at the products and services they offer, also make sure you check their level and range of Microsoft competencies.

By Concentrix TSG – UK ERP Specialists


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