Over half of organizations worldwide use Azure Cloud, including 95% of Fortune 500 Companies. Microsoft Teams has 145 million daily active users. 98% of the Fortune 100 use Microsoft SQL Server.

If your company is one of the millions leveraging Microsoft solutions — or if you’re interested in taking advantage of the ever-evolving landscape of Microsoft tools in the future — you need a Microsoft partner to help maximize the benefits of these solutions while keeping costs low.

But choosing the right partner isn’t easy. There are over 400,000 Microsoft partners and they don’t all have the same capabilities or levels of expertise. In this blog post, we’ll lay out how to find the best Microsoft partner for your business.

What is a Microsoft partner?

A Microsoft partner is a firm recognized by Microsoft as a provider of Microsoft products and related services. A Microsoft partner could help your business with things like providing SQL Server managed services, migrating your workloads to Azure Cloud, or developing custom software solutions using Microsoft technology.

How do you find a Microsoft partner?

The Microsoft Partner Directory can be found on Microsoft AppSource. You can search by name or keyword and filter based on size, capabilities, industry, products, solution categories, and services provided. Take a look at Emergent Software’s profile here: Microsoft Partner Profile.

What to look for in a Microsoft partner

It can be overwhelming to choose a Microsoft partner out of the thousands available. This firm will have a substantial impact on the performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of your solutions, so it’s important to get it right.

We’re here to make it a little easier with a handy list of essential criteria. As you evaluate potential partners, keep these eight factors in mind.

1. Solutions Partner Designations

You want to be sure that the Microsoft partner you choose has a deep knowledge of Microsoft solutions, especially in the area that you need help with. Luckily, you don’t have to guess which partners might have this level of expertise — Microsoft offers Solutions designations in six areas:

  • Solutions Partner for Business Applications
  • Solutions Partner for Data and AI (Azure)
  • Solutions Partner for Digital and App Innovation (Azure)
  • Solutions Partner for Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Solutions Partner for Security
  • Solutions Partner for Modern Work

These categories replace the previous titles of Microsoft Gold Partner and Microsoft Silver Partner. The new designations are more specific about a partner’s skills and the experience they have delivering successful solutions. Partners earn points toward a designation through factors like certifications, net customer adds, and number of deployments.

2. Advanced specializations

Microsoft also has a way of recognizing expertise that goes beyond the Solutions Partner designations. Within each designation, the partner can earn advanced specializations.

 For example, within our Modern Work designation, we earned the specialization for Modernization of Web Applications with Microsoft Azure. To achieve this, we had to pass a rigorous live audit with a third-party auditing company chosen by Microsoft. You can read more about that process here.

If a Microsoft partner has specializations, you know that they’ve proven deep knowledge and technical skills to Microsoft.

3. Microsoft certifications to prove technical expertise

Individuals can prove their skills and knowledge of Microsoft Solutions by earning certifications. Microsoft offers over 250 certifications for different levels of expertise.

You want to work with a team that has earned a variety of certifications. For example, our team at Emergent Software has 100+.

Microsoft certifications have to be renewed, so if the employees of a Microsoft partner have current certifications, it means that they’re up-to-date with their knowledge and skills. This is essential since Microsoft solutions are constantly evolving.

4. Experience developing custom software with Microsoft technologies

Don’t choose a partner that can only provide out-of-the-box products. The ability to develop custom software (a core competency of ours at Emergent Software) allows your partner to provide Microsoft solutions tailored to your business needs.

Custom development allows for better scalability as your business grows and seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack. It’s also more efficient due to better alignment with your specific requirements. These factors all lead to custom solutions being the cost-effective option.   

5. AppSource and Azure Marketplace offerings

The Microsoft commercial marketplace, consisting of Microsoft AppSource and Azure Marketplace, connects businesses with solutions and services from Microsoft partners. These solutions are vetted and verified by Microsoft, which helps ensure a certain level of quality and security. You can trust that the solutions found on the Marketplace are compatible with Microsoft technologies and meet certain standards, and it's easy to learn about the service offered, see the price, and get in touch with the partner.

Here's an example of one of our Azure Marketplace offers.

AppSource is designed for business and industry solutions, while Azure Marketplace is for IT and developer solutions.

6. The expertise to support both Azure and Microsoft 365 license suite

Azure is Microsoft's public cloud platform consisting of more than 200 products and services. Microsoft 365 is a cloud-powered productivity platform which includes Teams, Word, Excel, Outlook, and more.

Azure and Microsoft 365 are both incredibly popular with businesses, so there's a good chance you're using both suites or will use both in the future. However, many partners are only truly knowledgeable about one or the other. They may be willing to sell you Azure products, but they can't provide adequate support.

The right partner will have experience and expertise with Azure and Microsoft 365.

7. The ability to obtain Microsoft funding for your projects

Having advanced specializations like ours gives partners access to a program called Azure Migrate & Modernize. Azure Migrate & Modernize is designed to encourage partners to help customers grow their Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR), the monetary value of the Azure services they use. If doing a project with a trusted Microsoft partner grows your ACR by a certain amount, it opens up opportunities for funding from Microsoft that the partner receives and shares with you. 

Not all partners have access to these funds. Look for partners with specializations and then ask them specifically about funding from Microsoft that they can pass on to you.

8. Experience with companies and projects like yours

The Solutions Partner designations and specializations let you know that a Microsoft partner has expertise in a particular type of solution. When you evaluate Microsoft partners, you can dig deeper. Ask for case studies or testimonials from past customers with businesses or projects like yours.

9. The potential for an ongoing relationship

Microsoft Solutions partners act as vendors of Microsoft products, but your relationship with a partner can extend far beyond the initial sale and implementation. A good partner will continue to work with you to keep your solutions aligned with your current business needs, provide support and continuous development for your software, and advise you on how to continue getting the most out of Microsoft’s technologies.

Emergent Software: Microsoft Solutions Partner

Emergent Software is a technology solution provider offering a full set of services including custom software development, cloud transformation, and data engineering services. We have Microsoft Solutions Partner designations in Data & AI (Azure)​, Digital & App Innovation (Azure)​, Infrastructure (Azure)​, and Modern Work, and advanced specializations in the Modernization of Web Apps to Microsoft Azure and DevOps with GitHub.

We’re a boutique consulting firm that builds long-term relationships with our customers and is known for our top-notch customer service. Get in touch to let us know how we can help your business.