What does Microsoft Gold Partner certification actually mean?

If you’re wondering what our Microsoft Gold Partner certification means, here’s a bit of an explainer on the different levels of certification and why it’s worth your while looking for a Gold Partner.

It seems like every vendor has some “certification” or “authorised reseller” moniker regarding technology. The trouble is, many of these designations don’t mean much because there are no serious requirements behind them. Sometimes the only requirement is to pay a fee. The result: most people ignore them. But that can be a costly mistake.

Organisations depend heavily on technology, so they do (or should) invest a lot of time in doing their due diligence on a product or platform. But what about the partner designing a solution with that product, making modifications to it, implementing it, and supporting it? If you don’t choose a partner with the qualifications, skills, and experience to do what needs to be done, you could be looking for trouble.

For just about every business application, tool, platform, and even for other specialisations like application development, Microsoft has Partner, Silver Partner, and Gold Partner designations – and they absolutely, positively mean something more than “yes, we paid a fee.” If Microsoft products are at the core of your business, designations are something you can depend on to steer you in the right direction.

At San-iT, we’ve been engaged in the Microsoft certification process for over 14 years. But we realize that the importance of this is something that we and other Partners might sometimes take for granted. But it’s something we value really highly and believe anyone considering a Microsoft engagement should appreciate as well.

What is a Microsoft Certified Partner?

Firstly, Microsoft calls its certifications “Competencies.” They are requirements designed to meet customers’ specific needs and be recognisable to prospective ones. A partner can be just a Partner, or they can be Silver or Gold certified. According to Microsoft, these Competencies demonstrate “a specific, proven skillset to customers”. Because Microsoft Competencies are aligned with how customers buy, customers can quickly identify a company’s capabilities and expertise by looking at their Competencies. At the point of writing this, Microsoft has 19 specific competencies, but these change as the technology changes and advances.

Silver Competency represents a specialised ability and commitment in a specific business solution area. Partners with Silver Competency offer the best solutions and undertake a rigorous and auditable approval process. They are among the top 5% of Microsoft Partners worldwide.

Gold Competency is the highest certification and represents an even higher level of expertise and a proven and specialised skill set in a particular technology or service area. 

Gold Partners are recognised for offering innovative business solutions, and they are among the top 1% of Microsoft Partners worldwide.

While Silver Competency is undoubtedly a good thing, the difference between Silver and Gold Competency is significant.

Microsoft’s certification process is rigorous and requires regular auditing to ensure partners maintain that high degree of skill, proficiency, and experience. There is a lot behind that sentence, and here are five specific reasons you should look for that “Gold” designation in your Microsoft Partner – and why San-iT always goes for the Gold.

1. Always up to date

Microsoft technology advances constantly, and their competency requirements are updated right along with those advances, ensuring that your Microsoft Partner is always up-to-date on the latest Microsoft offerings and advancements. This should not be underestimated. Think of it this way: If you were looking for a surgeon to operate on you, would you feel comfortable with one who had received no ongoing medical training in 20 years? 

Microsoft Partners that are up-to-date not only know the product or technology better, but they also know best how to apply it to your specific requirements.

2. Meeting rigorous standards

Microsoft certification requires more than basic knowledge. It requires that a certain number of people pass exams which become more difficult each year. For example, 15 individuals within a business must pass the core value exams, and out of those 15, five must pass specific speciality exams. This is an ongoing process, and it requires the Partner to stay up-to-date constantly. Once you’re Gold certified, you’re only certified until your next anniversary date – then it all starts over again.

This equates to two advantages for customers:

  • Firstly, you can be assured that the people working on your solution know what they’re doing. They know the product or technology inside and out, and they know how to get the most out of it to meet your needs.
  • Secondly, Microsoft requires that a large number of people within a business get certified to maintain Gold partner status. So, a Gold partner has, by definition, a “deep bench.” You can be confident that there are plenty of people qualified to work with you. Let’s face it: there is turnover in any company, and the best way to torpedo a project is to lose the only person with the appropriate training in the middle of a project. That won’t happen with a Gold Partner. More resources also mean less wait time for projects and better troubleshooting if your project ever hits a snag.

Important note: When you evaluate a partner, don’t assume that  just because they have a large staff, they have a sizeable Microsoft-certified team. This is another reason to look for Gold competency.

3. A direct connection to Microsoft

When you work with a Microsoft Gold Partner, you get the added value of working with consultants who demonstrate the specific skillsets you need. Gold Partners don’t need to ask Microsoft for assistance as often, which means your problems get solved faster with this level of in-house expertise.  

However, there are times when a Partner needs help. When they need to open a case with Microsoft, Gold Partners have the advantage of access to advanced support partners within the Microsoft Business Solutions sphere. This means guaranteed response times, supported by some very smart people. Gold Partners also get an entitlement attached to all of their cases. This means that if the case isn’t progressing as it should, it can be escalated right away via a dedicated escalation team.

In fact, Microsoft is more involved with Gold Partners from the beginning. Microsoft adds value from the first moment you consider one of their products, from engagement and discovery to technical support in architecting your solution.

4. The opportunity for a proof of concept before taking the plunge

Gold Partners have the advantage of getting licenses for demos and development, which allows them to develop proof of concepts for customers without the financial requirement of buying licenses. That’s great for the Partner, but what does it mean to the customer? It gives the Partner the flexibility to test ideas for customers before asking them to commit, so they benefit from the proposed solution having had a test drive before it goes down the implementation road.

When a Partner has a combination of Competencies, they qualify to deliver deployment planning services. The Partner can engage for several days of consulting – like a pilot program or providing a proof of concept for the right prospect and project – funded by Microsoft. This is the perfect solution for a customer that is ready to pull the trigger on a solution but is looking at a significant financial commitment. It is a win not just for the customer but also for the Partner. They are already prepared for the engagement and Microsoft because, of course, they will sell licenses and have another excellent customer success story to share.

5. Happy employees, happy customers

At San-iT, we believe that happy employees make happy customers. If our employees are happy, they stay with us, which means our customers don’t deal with a turnover on the team supporting them. Microsoft certification helps the Partner as a company and benefits the individuals on the team through professional development, and a technical professional depends on professional development to stay relevant. Any Partner with Gold certification will have employees who are committed to their craft and most likely the Partner they work for—and that will benefit you.

Why San-iT goes for the Gold

As of 2021, San-iT is a Gold Certified Partner in three areas:

Gold Cloud Platform 

This competency demonstrates that the Partner can operate a modern data centre with expertise in systems management, virtualization, storage, networking, identity management, and cloud technologies.

Gold Cloud Productivity 

San-iT has earned this designation in delivering innovative Office 365 solutions, helping customers deploy and manage applications like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Teams, and Skype for Business.

Gold Application Development 

This competency shows San-iT’s dedication to using Microsoft technologies to create mobile and web applications. It helps us create new applications, modernize existing applications, and migrate them to Azure.

So, why does San-iT go for Gold instead of Silver? Because we want to offer the very best to our customers. While Silver competency is an achievement, we owe it to you to have the highest level of training and the best relationship possible with Microsoft because it will benefit you.

Investing in our experts

Keeping up with certifications can be expensive. That’s why we support our engineers by paying for their certification needs, like learning materials. We also reward our employees through bonuses. Studying for these exams is something they do above and beyond working with customers, and they deserve a reward for it because we as a company could not attain these Competencies without them.

Go for the Gold

Much like the Olympics, when searching for a technology partner, you should always go for the Gold to ensure you’re getting the very best in experience, knowledge, and support. When you select your Microsoft Gold Partner, be sure to ask which competencies they have and make sure they match your needs.

Are you looking for jargon-free guidance on your business technology? Contact San-iT today. As tech experts and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, we can help you to work smarter, operate safer and think bigger.

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