[Note: As of 3/4, we have updated information about the availability of the partner download for Windows Small Business Server 2011. Read the blog post from the WW Partner Group.]
In our “New to the Microsoft Partner Network” blog post earlier this year, we laid out six activities that all new members can do to start taking best advantage of the myriad offerings we have for partners. “Purchase an Action Pack Subscription” was number 3 on that list, but if I had to rank it in terms of overall value and benefit for partners who don’t have a Microsoft competency, it would be #1.
Why? For a low annual fee, Action Pack subscribers receive one of the most valuable benefits we can offer our partners—the opportunity to use full versions of Microsoft's latest products to run their businesses, including Windows 7, Office 2010, Microsoft Lync, and, scheduled to be available later this month, Windows Small Business Server 2011. This is a key benefit, but not the only benefit, and since last May, Microsoft has increased the value of the Action Pack in a couple of ways: 1) by breaking it into two editions, Solution Provider for VARs and solution providers, and Development & Design for ISVs, developers, and web designers at companies with fewer than 100 employees; 2) by adding a TechNet subscription to the Solution Provider edition and an MSDN subscription to the Development & Design edition.
Recently, I sat down with my colleague, Julie Golding (not difficult, as her desk is literally right next to mine), who is the U.S. lead for the Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider. I asked her to share her thoughts about the Action Pack and its value to U.S. partners.
Q: What’s the elevator pitch for the Action Pack?
A: The Microsoft Action Pack subscription is a way for partners to be more engaged with Microsoft without having to achieve a competency. It provides internal-use software that subscribers can use in their business, so they can be familiar with the software they include in the solutions they sell to their customers.
Q: Explain the changes we made to the Action Pack last May.
A: The original Action Pack we offered became the Action Pack Solution Provider edition, and we added the Action Pack Development and Design to meet the needs of smaller partners (with fewer than 100 employees) that build applications or websites. Action Pack Solution Provider now includes TechNet, and Action Pack Development and Design includes MSDN, really valuable benefits. Over the past year that we've had these two distinct editions, partners have told us that they feel they benefit more from their subscription because it better meets the needs of their varying business models.
Q: What feedback about the Action Pack have you heard since starting your role in October?
A: Partners really like the TechNet and MSDN benefits, although we get many questions about how to activate those, and I still think many partners may not be taking best advantage of it. Also, partners are always interested in knowing when the latest version of a Microsoft product will be available to them. For example, I've had a lot of questions about SBS 2011, and it is scheduled to be added to the Digital Download Center at the end of February. (UPDATE, March 4. There is a blog post from the Worldwide Partner Group that provides details on how to download Windows SBS 2011 as a partner.)
Q: Do you think every partner without a competency should have an Action Pack?
A: I think partners who want to have deeper engagement with Microsoft should consider purchasing an Action Pack. For a small price, it provides enormous value, through the internal-use software benefits and the TechNet and MSDN subscriptions. Also, partners who serve small business customers, and want to join our the vibrant Small Business Specialist Community, need to have an Action Pack Subscription if they have not earned a competency.
Q: How does the Action Pack support Microsoft’s very visible move to cloud-based products?
A: The new Cloud Essentials Pack, available at no cost to partners, is a great companion to the Microsoft Action Pack, offering internal-use benefits for products like BPOS, CRM Online, and Windows Intune (coming later this year).
Q: If I’m a partner who’s ready to subscribe—what should I do next?
A: Go to our main Subscriptions page on the U.S. partner portal and decide which version, Solution Provider or Development & Design, is right for you. We just completed a refresh of that page which simplifies the process of evaluating the offering, understanding the requirements, and subscribing. Once you have subscribed, please note that it may take up to three business days for us to validate that all the requirements have been met and to activate your digital distribution account (where you download your software benefits; see our FAQ). If you need help with your subscription, our Action Pack Subscription Support page contains self-help resources and contact information for phone-based support if you get stuck. Also, I encourage partners to connect with me through email at partnerQ@microsoft.com and on Twitter (@MyActPack).