Small Partners and the new MPN Requirements

The New Hope:
The new requirement for the MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) have many small partners (including myself) start questioning whether Microsoft cares about them at all. It seems like the new requirements are designed to have one specific interest in mind: to get rid of small partners. From a business perspective (meaning the perspective of executives and/or MBAs with no experience running a NAV business), that seems to make sense. Focus more resource on the top revenue generators in the channel because they're the one making money for Microsoft, eliminate or reduce the resource that are available for the small partners that produce little for Microsoft.

Doing this, the hope is to drive in more revenue, while reducing overhead and cost. Everybody wins. Yeh!


The Reality:
As many of you know, I run a small Navision shop here in Los Angeles, California. Each year, we get 1 maybe 2 new NAV deals. Customers that does business with us, stays with us and continues to invest in Dynamics NAV in the form of new granule purchases and being current on the enhancement plan. 

Through the years, I've purposely kept my company small. Why? It's a long list, here are a couple off the top of my head:

1. I'm not interested in headaches of running a large company
2. I'm don't want to deal with employee politics
3. I don't like overhead (I believe optimal size of a NAV company is 5 or LESS. One is ideal)
4. I'm not interested in upkeeping a sales and marketing department
5. I want to keep the quality of the products that we deliver
6. I'm not interested in selling products/services that customers don't need
7. I want to keep the personal relationship I have with my customers
8. I want to keep the personal relationship I have with the people that works for me

And, I believe at the end of the day, the difference in what the staff at AP Commerce brings home now vs. if we were a large solution center, may not be all that different. If there is a difference, I don't believe the difference is enough to have an impact on our current lifestyle.

Given that, why the bother with the headaches?

The majority of our business is recovering failed implementations and helping customers that hates the system love it again. In another words, we keep customers and business from hating Microsoft for the remainder of their natural life. We make business want to invest in Microsoft again.

Any now they want to get rid of me?

In addition, one of the best developers I know in NAV, Per Mogensen (owner of Mergetool.com), recently came out and started his own company to better serve customers and the channel. With the new MPN requirements, there would be no way for him to do that. This is a monumental loss. Yes. Monumental.


The Cleansing:
So this year at Directions US 2010, I had a chip on my shoulder. I couldn't depend on the Directions committee or the advisory board because the body only consisted of people from large solution centers. They are naturally going to be protecting their own interest.

What's interesting from the Directions keynote by Michael Park was that they have no intention of getting rid of partners because they realize that partners are the lifeblood of their success. This was all quite confusing.

Since Michael Park was no where to be found after the keynote (I think he sensed I was coming), I had to approach another Microsoft senior manager to get some answers.

The place where I met him (shall be nameless since I don't know if he'll get in trouble) was quite noisy. He basically broke it down one of the key intentions of the new MPN requirements:

- New Small Partners that Sell - Since the requirements to be a NAV partner is so easy. A lot of greedy IT folks are trying to catch the success of NAV. So they would go into a site, make insane promises just to make the sell, crap out, and dissappear into the night with the customer's money. While not as big of problem in the US, it's a huge problem (from what I heard) in Europe.
- Internal Companies - Companies with large IT department can get around purchasing a license by certifying their own IT department to become a NAV partner.

In that regards, yes, get rid of those partners. People shouldn't be selling NAV if they don't know what they're doing. Companies should be purchasing license instead of becoming a NAV partner just to get the license.

The third partner they intend to get rid of are what are termed "lifestyle partners". Unfortunately, he didn't finish describing what lifestyle partners are. From the few words he described, it seems to fit the description of our company. In another words, partners that don't really sell. Before I could extract additional information from him, he had to leave to perform on stage (which I missed...).


A New New Hope:
There are flip sides to all intentions. I guess having the barrier to entry into NAV set so low, we're really allowing unethical behavior to more easily occur. However, there are a ton of smaller partners out there who's sole purpose is to pick up unhappy customers and make them happy again, and THAT has to translate into concrete dollars for Microsoft.

Make no doubt about it, small partners are an absolute key in the success for NAV. Forget NAV, the whole partner channel. Too bad the MBAs of the world does not understand that.

So I guess there's really a delima on what to do next. On one hand, you're risking your lifeblood with this partner "purge", and on the other hand, you want to protect the credibility of the product.

Sucks to be a Microsoft executive right now.

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