This week the controversial changes to Microsoft's partner program officially came into play for channel partners, a move which has been dubbed the biggest shake-up in the Microsoft partner ecosystem for over a decade.
The announcement of the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCCP) was met with backlash amongst the vendor's 400,000 partner roster who criticised the revamp which saw the Silver and Gold-level certification badges scrapped.
The rebranded program, previously the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), has also done away with how partners are categorised and measured.
Partners can now join two qualifying levels: "solutions partner" and "specialisations and expert programs".
To become a solutions partner, they will need to meet specific requirements in line with a new partner capability score (PCS) which measures partners' performance on a scale of 0-100 across the six solutions areas - data and AI (Azure); infrastructure (Azure); digital and app innovation (Azure); business applications; modern work; and security.
Partners will need to earn a PCS of at least 70 out of 100 points across the measurement areas in order to qualify as a solutions partner, a move which has been branded "impossible" and "biased".
Now the above changes have become official, Channel Partner Insight spoke with several Microsoft partners to hear their first impressions on the program's makeover.
Kelvin Kirby, CEO, Technology Associates Limited
"I speak to partners on a regular basis and I can tell you they're very unimpressed with the new program.
"For example, you get scores in both, say the modern work category and there are two tracks in SMB, and enterprise. So you can score points in both SMB and enterprise but you don't get the total score.
"Although there are different clients in both of those tracks that you are getting points for, you have to only have customers in one or the other track that amount to 70 points in order to get your solution partner designation.
"There's a very long list of things that aren't working in the portal or haven't transitioned across and part of the reason for that is that you can't transition a partner program in just six months, it's impossible.
"The other thing is most of the partners I've spoken to have spoken to their customers and they don't have a clue what business applications or modern work actually mean. Whereas some of the competency names that existed in the old program were meaningful.
"We as a partner invested a lot of money in the last 18 months getting our people trained up in certain exams, and that was on the advice of Microsoft.
"And very nearly all of that, certainly 90 per cent of it went out the window because none of that qualifies.
"None of those exams now apply in the new program, and that is really disappointing.
"We've been waiting for a big announcement from Microsoft about the program since Inspire and there was absolutely nothing.
"I've been in the IT business for 40 years. I have never seen a partner program rolled out successfully in anything less than 18 months.
"I speak to other partners because I act in an advisory capacity on boards of a number of other IT companies, and we get the same kind of impression about Microsoft that they are almost trying to be dictatorial in the way that they are asking partners to manage their businesses. And that's not how a partnership should work, it should be a two way process.
"There is no doubt the MPN program needed an update. It did need a revival in terms of a review, but I think this has gone too far the other way by some considerable margin.
"I don't think that will go well for Microsoft's future with the channel program because they will lose a lot of partners."
[Click through to hear the views of CEOs from Technology Associates, The Network Group, Sweethaven Limited and more...]