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Looking for the best of the best

Microsoft’s partner awards nominations are closing shortly. Don’t miss out.

Derek Kudsee, Microsoft. (Mike Turner)

Being recognised as the best in your field not only provides a sense of self-satisfaction of a job well done, it also tells clients and potential clients that they’re making the right choice. And when you’ve faced plenty of tough competition to get to the top this makes the recognition even sweeter.

Microsoft is currently searching for the best of the best of its partners and has opened its self-nomination portal for Microsoft Partner Network Awards 2017. “The awards are a key part of our annual recognition cycle where we recognise partners from across over 20 competencies,” says Derek Kudsee, director: One Commercial Partner at Microsoft South Africa.

The competition to win is tough, as Microsoft has such a broad and deep partner base for the various competencies. “There’s incredible prestige in winning and, for us, it’s a real privilege to have so many great companies partner with us to help our shared customers digitally transform themselves,” he says.

“The amount of effort, energy and time our partners put into their nominations astounds me.”

Microsoft’s partner programme, which guides the channel throughout the year, defines the competencies and, in so doing, ensures customers get a predictable experience, while maintaining the quality of the partner ecosystem. “With the awards, we're benchmarking our competencies and the partners within them, and we’re recognising the best of the ecosystem relative to those competencies,” he says.

As technologies evolve the competencies and awards must similarly progress. “Partners that are modernising see this as the opportunity to position themselves as the most aligned and ‘on strategy’ company with Microsoft in a territory. We see a huge amount of effort goes into these new categories and the awards for them are very exciting to judge,” he says.

So how to get involved?

To self-nominate for an award, partners simply go to a secure website and select the relevant award category. Within the chosen category are all the criteria that constitute the definition of the competence.

“They build their nomination against the 10 to 15 success criteria for a given category or competence,” says Kudsee.

“It's always interesting to see how partners want their brand to be represented through the awards process by emphasising certain criteria. In most categories we ask for non-metric or non-commercially metric success criteria, such as CSI strategy. Some partners narrow in on skills development, others on enterprise development. That contrasts to other partners who put front and centre ‘We know the cloud’, then add: ‘We also support an orphanage’ at the end. We’re looking for partners that understand the market they operate in and understand government's priorities. We want real South African companies making an impact locally.”

The awards aren’t simply about recognising sales numbers or CSI initiatives, he adds, but also look at the impact on customers. “As part of the nomination process, we want to know what the partner’s most impressive digital transformation was and how it changed the customer’s business," he says.

“Microsoft’s corporate mission is to ‘empower every person and every organisation to achieve more’ – we use technology to achieve that end, and through the awards criteria, we're looking at how companies speak to that.  We are looking for great examples which demonstrate the balance between doing good business, while also doing good.”

Judging process

Once all of the award nominations are in, panels will be created of up to ten employees from across Microsoft for each category. “We try and bring people onto each panel from different parts of the business, because you need different perspectives. The judging is part science, part art. The quantitative award criteria are presented initially, such as revenue, number of customers, and number of people trained. Then we get into the qualitative discussion. We normally try and create a shortlist of three, and from there get into voting. For the most part, it's quite easy to differentiate, as there's usually someone who has done something exceptional; but where it's close it does comes down to a pure vote.”

“We try to apply fairness, metrics and empathy into the decision-making criteria. Ultimately, we look at a holistic picture of the commercial impact, alignment to the mission and values of Microsoft, and then the local impact in the economies and society in which we operate,” he concludes.

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