Jeff EdwardsHow far Microsoft plans to go in shrinking its channel got definition this week from Jeff Edwards, director of partner strategy. During an interview at this week’s Convergence user conference in Atlanta, Edwards said there are about 950 United States partners and the company “needs 300 to 400.” Microsoft has spent the last year signaling it wants to drive business to larger VARs, the midsize ones to grow and the smaller ones to combine. The new partner program, which goes into effect on October 1, will encourage that trend. It replaces the almost worthless Gold certification with basic and advanced competency levels that have the first-ever annual sales requirements. Basic partners must have three certified employees and a three-person certified staff plus administrative staff signals the end of the truly small VAR.  An advanced partner needs six certificated personnel, with some ability to have one person with multiple certifications. But there must be one person certified for sales and one for pre-sales.  While small VARs were scrambling, larger VARs also feel pain. Personnel must be certified on the current Dynamics version. So those certified on Dynamics AX 2008, must all recertify on 2009 and this will be costly for larger organizations that employ many consultants.

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