Microsoft Unveils New Partner Program

Microsoft will launch the new program in January 2004, officials said at Microsoft's first ever Worldwide Partner Conference.

NEW ORLEANS—Microsoft has built a new partner program, the next-generation partner program, that will deliver against the range of customer needs and realize their potential, Allison Watson, Microsofts vice president of its Worldwide Partner Group, said here on Thursday.

Addressing several thousand partner attendees at Microsofts first ever Worldwide Partner Conference, which brings together two former conferences, Fusion and Stampede, Watson said Microsoft would launch the program in January 2004 and roll it out over the next 15 months.

"It will concentrate on three core tenets: focus, impact and value. The focus part will concentrate on our partners core competencies and where they are focused. Impact, about how well partners do in the marketplace, will recognize and differentiate how well they do in the market.

"Microsoft will also now award partners points in terms of competencies, true end-customer satisfaction delivered and the wins made in the marketplace," she said.

"Points will accrue like currency, allowing partners to move up between levels. All existing partners will be grandfathered into this new Microsoft Points Program over time," Watson said.

The third tenet, value, includes tailored benefits.

"Customers have pressing business needs, and so we will work on the integration of business partners, on information management in companies and IT-based customer relations," Watson said.

In a move designed to increase its executive participation with partners and customers, some 600 Microsoft executives now have 60 percent of their long-term bonuses based on customer and partner satisfaction, while every Microsoft employee has 30 percent of their annual bonus linked to customer and partner satisfaction, she said.

"Customers are at the core of everything we do, while partners turn Microsofts technology into real business value," Watson told the audience.

"Our commitment starts with you, our partners," she said, showing a video clip that spoofed a song from the movie Grease, including the line "Linux software aint what they need," and featuring staff from the partner group.

While Microsoft has been listening closely to its partners for the past year, there is clearly still a need for more change, Watson acknowledged, adding that customers are more cynical about information technology then ever before.