Microsoft’s enterprise applications VARs have nothing to fear from the new partner program which came into effect this month, backers of the change said at this week’s annual conference in Toronto.

“”Any time there’s change in the model there’s a little bit of concern until people understand

the details,”” Lynne Stockstad, general manager of marketing strategy for Microsoft’s Business Solutions, said in an interview. MBS includes applications such as Navision, Great Plains, Solomon and Axapta.

“”But overwhelmingly, at least in the discussions I have been in, partners are very positive once they get a chance to see all the components,”” she said.

CDN has learned that some Navision resellers and solution providers are worried. Under the old program the MBS division was separate from other partner programs, helping to prop up the image of exclusivity for these apps. The new program brings all integrators, consultants and resellers under one roof, which causes some MBS members to fear other partners will now be eyeing their turf.

“”Certain areas are still a question mark,”” Chandra Sekhar, regional director of the Kanata, Ont. branch of Kshema Technologies, a Navision integrator, said in a conference interview.

The new program lets partners resell MBS software without taking all of the certification courses required of solution providers. “”I don’t see any incentive for a partner to get competency certification, except for customer satisfaction,”” he said.

Another partner is worried that with Microsoft aiming to increase the number of MBS solution providers, larger VARs will swamp his niche business. Before being bough several years ago by Microsoft, Navision had a reputation of making it tough to get certified, he said. That gave its partners some reassurance their business would be stable.

“”People are scared,”” acknowledged Reginald Howatson, president of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners and practice manager at Nexxlink Technologies Inc., a Montreal-based VAR.

However, he added, partners can’t merely sign up to be a MBS reseller.

“”It’s not like Microsoft is opening the floodgates”” to partners, he said.

“”You still have to get certified on the software,”” agreed Tony Bone, strategic engagement manager at the Markham, Ont. branch of CSB Systems, a Winnipeg-based VAR and Navision solution provider.

In fact he said that his company, a Microsoft Certified Partner, is delighted that under the new program it has pre-qualified as a Gold Partner. Before, he said, a VAR had to sell a lot of software to reach that level.

“”To be successful partners need to invest in the Microsoft Business Solutions competency and really ramp up their education and training around business process,”” said Stockstad. “”It’s a similar requirement to what we asked partners prior to (the new) partner program.””

“”You need to make a serious bet; it’s not something you dabble your toe in say ‘Hey, I’m going to sell Navision tomorrow.””

“”Initially we have partners that are concerned, but once they see all the tools and education they feel pretty good.””

She also noted that Denmark, which has a population much smaller than Canada, supports 70 Navision and Axapta partners. One of the keys to tolerating that much competition is that they have carved out niche practices, she said.

Among those who pressing for more details from Microsoft at the conference was Michael Kulik, president of Digital Vantage Point, a Markham, Ont. VAR. Last week he told CDN he worried the new partners program will favour bigger integrators.

After meetings with company officials he said he “”was assured that Digital Vantage Point’s niche competencies in e-commerce, integration and mobility for Navision will be underscored in the new partner model,””

“”Through time,”” said Howatson, MBS member concerns about the new program “”will be put to rest.””

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