Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Another Nail In the In-House SMB IT Solution’s Coffin? The Death of the SBSC

Eric Ligman’s announcement today:


Question: Right now you have the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC). What does the Small Business competency mean for SBSC now and moving forward?

  • Answer: The current Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) program will continue to exist and support SBSC partners for a 12 month grace period after the Small Business competency launch. During this grace period, both the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) and the Small Business competency will reside side-by-side, and SBSC partners will continue to benefit from the SBSC program and branding. After the grace period, the Small Business Specialist Community will transform into a Microsoft Partner Network partner-to-partner community. There will be no requirements to join the community and the current SBSC benefits will go away as well. In other words, the Small Business competency will be the Microsoft Partner Network offering for Small Business starting 12 months after its launch.

The following two cartoons were created by Tim Barrett and speak largely to our sentiments behind the big Cloud push by Microsoft and others:




The Small Business Silver Competency requirement:

  • Exam Credentials:
    • 1 MCP must pass 2 exams:
      • Required: 70-323 - Administering Office 365
      • And another exam from:
        • 70-321 - Deploying Office 365
        • 70-680 - TS: Windows 7, Configuring
        • 70-169 - TS: Windows Small Business Server 2011, Configuring
  • Business Assessments:
    • Sign and complete: MOSPA (Microsoft Online Services Provider Agreement)+ Assessment
    • 1 person must complete Licensing assessment
    • 1 person must complete Business focused small business assessment
  • Evidence:
    • Must have 3 submitted customer references
  • Fees:
    • $1,850 (based on country)

That is from here:


The Small Business Specialist designation required the sweat of the brow and some serious application of real experience with a product, Small Business Server, and then an online competency test that may or may not have asked questions that were relevant to the environment we work in: SMB.

The SBSC gave us the ability to establish our company as a legitimate player. It gave us the ability to state very clearly, with the backing of Microsoft, that our company had a good handle on the SMB IT Solutions we were going to suggest and/or deploy.

The SBSC stood out very distinctly from the other Microsoft Partner Competencies as a unique offering specifically for SMB.

No longer. In a year or so the SBSC Program and Logo will be retired as it is being replaced by the Microsoft Partner Network Small Business Competency.

Office 365

We have absolutely no inclination to learn Office 365 Administration to the point where we would pass an exam. Though with what we have done with the online offering so far we may get by. But why? Where is the benefit to our clients and to us?

We Choose OWN For Hosted Solutions

Own Web Now is our partner of choice for hosted Exchange and SharePoint. We have a great team of folks to deal with that we know on a first name basis. And, Vlad is an all around astute business man that operates with a level of integrity that is difficult to find in today’s business environment.

Marketing Fog Feeds The Cloud

A quote:

There are over 148 million SMB businesses worldwide needing relevant technology solutions, out of which approximately 50% are Small Business organizations - this areas is a huge opportunity for our Microsoft partners to tap into as trusted advisors and quality technology providers to this customer base.


Another quote:

There are 148 million small business customers around the world. According to IDC, two thirds of small businesses were expecting to use Software as a Service by mid-2011. This represents a $ 94B opportunity for Microsoft partners. A big number, yes, but what does a small business competency have to do with it?


With all due respect to the authors of the above two articles and to Eric Ligman whom we have great respect for we have heard this all before.

The Same Message Over And Over And Over And Over Again

Perhaps it is because the various product and marketing teams have no continuity with the histories of their teams that we keep getting the same messages over and over again.

We received the same marketing flog for the release of Small Business Server 2003 (which was one of the best most anticipated SBS versions EVER), then for SBS 2003 R2, then for SBS 2008, then for SBS 2011, and now for Office 365 and the Cloud.

We were, and are, encouraged to seek out that great untapped number of small businesses that could use a small business server solution for their company. This was realistic because the client would win (in the case of an IT Solution put together by a competent consultant), Microsoft would win with licensing sales, and the consultant and their company would win. Win-Win-Win. This was a good thing.

Now, we are encouraged to seek out those great number of small businesses that could use a Cloud solution and _hand them over to Microsoft_ with but a pittance for our efforts.

Is there any wonder why there has been a fairly consistent and strong push-back by the small IT Shops against all of the Cloud market flog?

Silver Small Business Competency Still Needed

As we have mentioned before, the last economic downturn, that is still ongoing, with its inherent risks on this continent and with our neighbours across the Pond did a great job of weeding out a lot of the fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants type consultants that cobbled together solutions that may or may not have worked and always gave Microsoft and other vendors a black eye when they didn’t.

The Small Business Specialist Community certification went a long way to differentiate between the legitimate consultants and the seat flyers. The Silver Small Business Competency may also do so but at a great additional cost in time and money.

In the end, the IT Shop that needs to differentiate themselves from the other shops should bite the bullet and gain the Silver Competency. It will be one more cost of doing business to keep one’s status as a legitimate player in the IT Solutions world.

As for us, we may hold our nose and dive into the Administering O365 exam just to get by it. But, that, and the $1,850 fee will wait until our SBSC status has officially been laid in the grave and covered ...

Or sitting on a beach half buried by the ages!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer


Doug H. said...

This makes me think that there will not be a Windows Server 2012-based version of Small Business Server that includes MS Exchange. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Although I make my living selling, installing and supporting Microsoft products, I think they have too much power now and can do whatever they like with immunity. Where's the competition to keep them in check?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments Philip. I also feel that I've been backed into a corner by Microsoft...RON

Victor C said...

Great post Philip, thanks for the heads up.

Doug H., good question.

While looking around I did find this quote from Eric about what the SBC is geared towards. I cannot see this cloud push as beneficial to my clients. We move so many documents around that it would be detremental to their productivity. I looked at MS for Exchange hosting and one of the issue I had was the part of the agreement that said I had to have a certain amount of customers (I think 150) on their service after the first year. I cannot find this now so maybe this has changed.

I am looking harder at Novell and Linux. I have one customer that has stayed with Novell/Groupwise. Novell has moved all their products to Linux and they have good pricing and licensing.

I like MS products and I am excited about Server 8. I will use their products when they fit my customers needs. As I have always done, I will evaluate the best options for the project and work with that. If MS removes SBS then I will do something else.

Here is the quote:

"From a solutions standpoint, the Small Business Competency is designed for Microsoft partners serving Small Business customers and demonstrating capabilities with Microsoft solutions based on Windows, Office 365, Windows Server/Small Business Server (SBS), and Windows Intune. "