A Canadian reseller association is hoping to raise its profile and attract more members by offering a forum for sharing best practices around Microsoft products.

The International

Association of Microsoft Certified Partners Canada (IAMCP) on Tuesday announced its 2005 board of directors, who will be responsible for growing what it calls a “”partner ecosystem”” of Microsoft resellers. The group represents the national chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners, which includes Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates as a member.

John F. Payés, IAMCP Canada’s new president, said the Canadian chapter has grown in parallel with its international counterpart since it was formed in 1994, though he admitted it has been somewhat off the radar screen over the last few months.

“”We’re trying to change that around and really tell the world that there is an entity out there that works with Microsoft,”” he said. “”Hopefully we’ll drive more business opportunities for them, and also provide Microsoft with some feedback as to their partner program.””

Next month, for example, the IAMCP is launching the Western Canadian Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tour, which will feature representatives from Ernst & Young discussing how the SR&ED program can offer tax credit rates for Canadian-controlled private corporations. IAMCP will be hosting the tour starting in Edmonton on Feb. 8 , then moving to Calgary and Vancouver before bringing it to Toronto and Montreal later this year. Full details are available on the association’s Web site.

Payés said he hopes the group’s events will achieve the perfect combination of education and socializing for members.

“”We often hear that they like face-to-face interaction and we bring that — with each other, but also face-to-face interaction with Microsoft executives,”” he said.

Aldo Zanoni, president of Network Learning Masters, a Microsoft Certified Partner in Edmonton, said the social networking opportunities were vital to finding firms that could offer complementary skill sets.

It was really easy to be a one-person shop and deliver a whole bunch of services, because the range of services that were covered was quite small,”” he said. “”Now, though, we find we are better able to get our customers better value when we focus on what we do best and bring other Microsoft partners to the table.””

Although IAMCP Canada has some Microsoft Gold partners among is members, Payés said the association is open to resellers who have yet to attain the highest levels of certification in the software vendor’s program.

“”Even though it’s a very large country, it’s very centralized, as opposed to my counterparts in the U.S.,”” he said. “”For us, it’s easier to have a national entity that can cover the industry from coast to coast.””

IAMCP Canada will also be working on events with Cisco Systems of Canada to provide more insight into Cisco’s recent collaboration with Microsoft, Payés added.

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