The TIC - UCE Birmingham's highly regarded Technology Innovation Centre - has become Microsoft's first UKuniversity certified partner

As the US software giant seeks to increase its penetration of the emerging field of business intelligence (BI), the TIC has scored a UK first in Microsoft's partner programme.

Crucial to the appointment has been the experience accumulated by the TIC's eBusiness group, through having led the introduction of electronic collaborative tools to a wide range of Midlands businesses. This proved key to its having been chosen for a leading role in Microsoft's objective to introduce BI to a wide spread of UK companies.

"Only companies that have demonstrated high levels of customer service, proved their experience and attained advanced certification receive the designation of Microsoft certified partner," said Karl Noakes, director of partner development group at Microsoft.

"Microsoft recognises TIC for its skills and expertise in providing customer satisfaction with Microsoft products and technology."

BI is dependent on the use of an integrated software plat-form enabling communications to be unified and all IT applications to become part of a composite, system - regardless of size and type of business.

Microsoft says it aims to empower company staff, through information sharing, enabling them to gain knowledge such that a culture of inclusion and co-operation becomes the norm. This, in turn, engenders harmony, team-work and job satisfaction.

Openly sharing vision, values and strategy can raise efficiency, productivity and the business's ability to grow, encouraging everyone at every level.

Mr Noakes added: "This is what the digital work-style means. Customers may see BI as challenging, but, at Micro-soft, we see it transforming company efficiency and becoming as pervasive in everyday working practice as e-mail.

"BI's global growth is inevitable and will be especially empowering to small and medium enterprises."

Microsoft's approach is based on its universally accepted Office system. With this as the fulcrum around which an organisation's BI can turn, Microsoft's business customers can expect to benefit more fully through familiar, existing applications.

TIC's head of e-business, George Squires, said: "As BI extends beyond the server platform to user tools, the need for sound training grows.

"For BI applications to work most effectively, customers need to have it infused throughout their organisations. This is best achieved by delivering it through the Microsoft Office System and requires qualified trainers."

Microsoft is broadening BI through existing collaboration tools and business processes.

TIC has been successfully introducing these to Midlands SMEs over the last three years through systems such as Microsoft's Groove system.

Already one of Microsoft's leading UK academies, TIC's wider role as the first UKuniversity Microsoft certified partner, will see it specialise in the introduction of messaging and collaboration methods to SMEs.

This will also place TIC in a leading role with a network of complementary partners.

Mr Squires said: "Becoming a Microsoft certified partner with particular expertise in BI development, has endorsed TIC's reputation as a leading innovator in UK higher education. We'll help SMEs develop world-class business processes and also augment the education of our students on multiple, IT-based degree and professional development programmes.

"They will then make an immediate, progressive contribution to the world of work."

* Anyone who wants to know how to benefit from TIC's involvement in developing BI solutions based on Microsoft technology should telephone George Squires on 0121 331 5400 or email