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What is a Microsoft Partner?

As soon as the decision has been made to look for a Microsoft Partner for your business, then you have the job of finding the right technology company from the thousands out there.

The process a company uses to get to the end result can vary greatly and you’ll need to look into how they propose to deliver the best outcome for your business. Ideally, you want to partner with a company that will be able to fulfil your requirements every step of the way.

With that in mind, we’ve put together some important points to help your business understand and choose the right Partner. And it all begins with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP):

The Microsoft Cloud Partner Program – formerly called the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) – is an international community of organisations with access to resources, programmes, tools and connections. All designed to help the organisation grow as a partner of Microsoft.

The principal idea behind the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program is that of a unified network of technology companies who are all striving to provide the best service they can to their customers. Microsoft places great importance on this shared vision and consequently invest in their partners with a variety of resources, including:

  • Custom training programs
  • Up-to-date information (often released to partners in advance)
  • Access to connect and collaborate with members of the programme
  • Product licences
  • Technical support
  • Tools to help the partner’s business grow

The Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is the former name for Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Even earlier it was known as the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP).

It is the action of enrolling in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program that makes you a “Microsoft Partner”. So, a “Microsoft Partner” is a company that has signed up to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. This opens the door to solutions partner designations, the commercial marketplace, Microsoft marketing collaboration and more.

With a high level of support and backing from Microsoft, a Microsoft Partner is in a position to offer high-quality expertise and have the means to deliver the best possible solution as well as handle any problems that may arise.

There are different levels and specialisations in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. The first step for any business would be to join the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program and become a Microsoft Partner. All a company needs to do to accomplish this is to fill out the registration form. In this first step, membership is free and does not require any authentication or vetting.

More information:

Membership begins with joining the network. The next step upwards is to purchase an action pack. After that a company can achieve Solutions Partner designations and build advanced specialisations and expert programs on the top.

This is the next level of partner collaboration. With it, a company gains access to everything from joining the network plus listing in the partner centre and co-branding with logos. This means that this is the first level of Partner that permits usage of the “Microsoft Partner” badge.

On the technical side, this level gives the business access to 5 advisory hours, product licencing benefits and 10 product support incidents. The Action Pack has an annual subscription fee of £350.

Although there is no certification for this tier, Microsoft does hold its “Action Pack” partners to certain standards. Microsoft states that to purchase a Microsoft Action Pack, the company must adhere to the requirements of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program agreement, acknowledge the Partner Code of Conduct, and complete the Partner Code of Conduct training.

More information:

There are six solutions partner designations that you can earn through partner capability scores. These have now replaced silver and gold competencies.

These are:

  • Data & AI (Azure)
  • Digital & App Innovation (Azure)
  • Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Business Applications
  • Modern Work (SMB)
  • Security

Partners earn scores in three areas: performance, skilling and customer success. These are measured across different metrics:

  • Net customer adds
  • Certifications (exams passed by staff) both intermediate and advanced
  • Customer deployments
  • Usage growth

Once your score is above 70/100 and you have a minimum of 1 point in each subcategory, you earn the Solution Partner Designation.

Previously after purchasing an action pack the next thing was to qualify for silver and gold competencies. These are no longer part of the Microsoft Partner advancement. However, to understand how the old terminology relates, you can see here how the competencies map onto the new solution partner designations.

Data & AI (Azure)

  • App Integration
  • Data Analytics
  • Data Platform

Digital & App Innovation (Azure)

  • Application development
  • App Integration
  • DevOps

Infrastructure (Azure)

  • Cloud Platform
  • Datacenter

Business Applications

  • Cloud Business Applications
  • Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Project Portfolio Management

Modern Work (SMB)

  • Cloud Productivity
  • Collaboration and Content
  • Communications
  • Messaging
  • Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions
  • Windows and Devices


  • Enterprise Mobility Management
  • Security

The Microsoft Partner Network silver and gold competencies were retired on September 30th 2022. As of October 3rd 2022, the associated badges are no longer valid. Instead, new badges are available for the Solutions Partner Designations as they are earned.

However, silver and gold competencies provided many benefits to partners and these are carried through until the next anniversary date. If after October 3rd, the company has not yet earned a Solutions Partner designation, it can choose to retain silver or gold benefits by paying a fee. There is no date yet announced on when this will be phased out as Microsoft are giving partners time to understand and make the switch.

Advanced Specialisations are a fairly new offering from Microsoft. They are a way for partners who have achieved a Solutions Partner Designation to demonstrate deep technical knowledge in a specific area.

They follow the six focus areas of the Solutions Partner designations. There are currently 26 niches in which to earn advanced specialisations. You may note some of them repeat, this is because they can be earned on top of more than one Solution Partner area.

Data & AI

  • AI and Machine Learning in Microsoft Azure
  • Analytics on Microsoft Azure
  • Data Warehouse migration to Microsoft Azure
  • Hybrid Cloud infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI
  • Hybrid Operations and Management with Microsoft Azure Arc
  • Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure
  • Linux and Open Source Database Migration to Microsoft Azure
  • Modernisation of Web Applications to Microsoft Azure
  • Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure

Digital & App Innovation

  • AI and Machine Learning in Microsoft Azure
  • DevOps with GitHub on Microsoft Azure
  • Hybrid Cloud infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI
  • Hybrid Operations and Management with Microsoft Azure Arc
  • Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Low Code Application development
  • Modernisation of Web Applications to Microsoft Azure


  • Hybrid Cloud infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI
  • Hybrid Operations and Management with Microsoft Azure Arc
  • Linux and Open Source Database Migration to Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Azure VMWare Solution
  • Microsoft Windows Virtual desktop
  • Networking Services in Microsoft Azure
  • SAP on Microsoft Azure
  • Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure

Business Applications

  • Microsoft Low Code Application development
  • Small and Midsize Business Management

Modern Work

  • Adoption and change management
  • Calling for Microsoft Teams
  • Custom Solutions for Microsoft Teams
  • Meetings and Meeting rooms for Microsoft Teams
  • Modernise Endpoints
  • Teamwork Deployment


  • Cloud Security
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Information Protection and Governance
  • Threat protection

MSPs have available to them their own programme helping to differentiate, receive co-sell engagements, get special business, technical support and access to training.

It is a time and cost-intensive auditing process required to achieve this level. More information can be found here:

Common Misconceptions:

The terms “Microsoft Certified Partner” and “Microsoft Certified Professional” no longer exist. These terms were in use but are now no longer valid. The correct term is simply Microsoft Partner. Despite these changes occurring as far back as 2010 in the Microsoft Partner Network, many businesses continued to use the old terms.

Now that you understand the different levels, the discontinuation of these terms makes sense as there is no check done on the early levels. All it means is the company wants to associate itself with Microsoft.

This is what the Microsoft website says about this:

“As of November 1, 2010 in the Microsoft Partner Network, there are no longer “Microsoft Gold Certified Partner” or “Microsoft Certified Partner” levels to achieve for companies. Now in the Microsoft Partner Network, partners have the ability to achieve gold competencies and silver competencies which are named based on how customers buy. This provides more opportunity for differentiation for partners, as well as even more opportunity for partners to highlight their specific skillsets and areas of strength. In addition, this naming is more transparent to customers and identifies partners’ core capabilities and expertise.”


It is also common to hear the terms “Microsoft Silver Partner” or “Microsoft Gold Partner”. These, in fact, no longer exist. Misconceptions are likely to increase with the latest changes within the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program and we will have to keep an eye on the changes and how organisations begin to use this new terminology. That being said, it is generally a harmless error and just a shorter way of describing a company. So as an example, here at Transparity, we used to be called a “Microsoft Gold Partner”. However, our new designation is:

“Microsoft Partner with Six Solution Partner Designations:

  • Digital & App Innovation
  • Data & AI
  • Infrastructure
  • Business Applications
  • Security
  • Modern Work”
6 Solution partner designations

You can find our full accreditations here.

In Closing:

Choosing the right Microsoft Partner for your business needs to be done with careful consideration. It’s an important investment on your part and you want the best outcome possible for your company. So, make your questions count before you come to a final decision on which technology company to partner with.

Ballard Chalmers is a leading Microsoft Partner in Sussex and the UK. Get in touch with us here.

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