PDMS have been a Microsoft Gold Partner for five years and as an IT business that specialises in developing solutions using Microsoft technologies, it's always been a highly visible demonstration of our skills and expertise.

Just over 12 months ago, Microsoft announced that they were revamping their partner programme and introducing a whole raft of changes that would ensure that those companies using the Microsoft Partner logo, represented the very highest level of expertise with Microsoft technologies.

So just what did this mean for PDMS? When we looked at the new partner programme in more depth we discovered that they were some fairly radical changes. The idea of partner "level" was to be removed with no more Gold or Certified Partners, instead everyone would be classed as a "Microsoft Partner" but the key differentiator was to be determined by a new set of competencies. There are 2 levels of competencies Silver and Gold, covering a wide range of areas from software and web development right through to mobility solutions and learning solutions.

It soon became clear that to obtain a Gold Competency, companies really had to demonstrate a great deal of expertise and commitment. This included obtaining a number of satisfactory customer references, taking part in an annual customer satisfaction survey and ensuring that our technical teams held the right Microsoft qualifications.

We decided to aim to achieve the software development Gold competency and the web development Gold competency as they best reflected the skills and expertise we needed to successfully deliver projects using PDMS' own technology platform Foundations, which is based on Microsoft. NET. This meant that our developers had to pass a whole raft of new exams based on the latest Microsoft product version in the market. We needed a minimum of 4 developers with the appropriate qualifications to achieve each Gold competency so for 2 competencies that was 8 developers. To achieve the qualifications our developers were required to sit and pass up to 4 examinations each which was no mean feat.

We set ourselves an ambitious maximum 10 month deadline to obtain both Gold competencies. To help support all those who had opted to take the new Microsoft exams, we provided study materials, study leave and an exam bonus. Our staff rose to the challenge, studying for, taking and passing exams at a very fast rate. To date over 13 members of staff have sat over 48 exams and we now have 9 qualified Microsoft Professional Developers with many more working towards this qualification. We've really proud of the effort demonstrated by our technical teams and their commitment has helped us achieve 2 Gold competencies in a short space of time.

So why is it so important for us to achieve Gold competencies? Well, we get to use a shiny new Microsoft Logo for marketing purposes but importantly, it helps PDMS to stand out from the crowd. A search on Microsoft's Pinpoint portal (www.pinpoint.com), which is their global partner showcase site, reveals that PDMS are one of a select few companies across the world who now hold both the Software and Web Development Gold competencies. We also benefit from a whole raft of additional services provided by Microsoft especially for their partners, including training and technical support and licensing benefits.

However, now that we hold the Gold competencies we aren't resting on our laurels and are continuing to invest in the training and ongoing development of our teams. In fact, we are currently expanding and are looking to hire new software developers and project managers, so if you'd like to work for the only Microsoft partner company on the Island holding 2 Gold competencies in software and web development, please get in touch!