Leveraging the Brand in the ASP Arena
Today's ASPs that offer Microsoft Exchange 2000 and Office 2000 as part of their applications portfolio see a strong potential in selling branded Microsoft applications to organizations that are looking to outsource these functions to an ASP. The Microsoft name connotes credibility with many businesses, despite its reputation for delays in shipping and bug-ridden products. ASP services, however, have been slow across the board, partly because many small businesses do not trust the ASP model with business-critical information. Many of the companies that deliver ASP services have been around for less than two years, whereas ASP contracts generally last three to five years, which means that renewals aren't a gauge.
For many enterprises, the large number of unknown variables increases the uncertainty and risk associated with ASP services. Other enterprises might be willing to turn to an ASP that is backed by a trusted technology provider if it has the right applications and service levels. Certification programs help ensure quality standards, which reduce the risk of going with an ASP. Furthermore, certification programs that require periodical evaluations of each certified ASP can help ensure that ASPs meet evolving standards.
Microsoft has spent a lot of time preparing its own certification requirements. The Microsoft ASP Certification Project was announced in September 1999, and underwent 10 months of planning and review stages before its launch at Microsoft's annual Fusion conference. The final certification process is designed to guarantee that a partner's hosting services are secure, scalable, and reliable. Specifically, Gold certification is centered on the following for each partner
Proven track record, which includes adherence to service level agreements (SLAs), strength, capability to provide help desk support, and customer satisfaction reporting
Capability to scale, which requires a long-term plan that includes appropriate resources at service, staff, and facility levels
Operational maturity, which includes implemented and documented management processes, as well as procedures around change, release and configuration management, and tool development