Have you ever seen one of us “Softies” (Microsoft Professionals) at a conference, briefing or on Mount Rainier on a motorcycle and said “You work for Microsoft? I need your help on fixing….”? Perhaps you heard back from that person, or perhaps you lost touch. Perhaps they knew who you should talk to about the issue, or in some cases their job made finding the right person a lot of work, and the chain broke between your initial conversation and someone closing the loop with you. No, I’m not talking about a specific instance here – if you give me a card, I will work very hard to get you to the right person as quickly as I can!  But your info might still slip through the cracks, even after I pass it off to someone else?

How does that happen? The same way it happens at your job. If you work at a large company, you’ve probably heard Aunt Martha say: “You work at X? I have a friend over there!  Do you know Dianna in Manufacturing? She’s a manager…” And then Aunt Martha looks terribly hurt when you say no. She seems to think if you work there, you should know everyone in the company.

Microsoft is like that. We have over 85,000 people, all over the world, in offices from Redmond to Cairo. With the workload we have, we don’t always have a lot of time to socialize, so our circles at work can be pretty small. Most of the folks I know will give you good information, and work hard to follow through, but sometimes you give info to someone else and for one reason or another it doesn’t move on.

So how do you get your questions answered, who do you talk to about coming out to your office to talk to you about a new project, and who knows how many licenses you’ve paid for?

Oddly enough, it’s Sales. Microsoft don’t just “sell you and forget you”. You have an “Account Manager” or AM, who is responsible for your company, even if you are very small. The Account manager doesn’t know everything about you, but he or she can usually find out. When you’re looking for your support contact (if you have one of those) the AM will point you to your Technical Account Manager (TAM), if you’re looking for how Microsoft could help with a multi-faceted, large project the AM will engage your Account Technology Specialist (ATS) and if you’re asking about a project that deals with SQL Server, Office, Windows or another specific package, they will contact a Technical Specialist (TSP) like me. If you want to know how many licenses of software you have, they will contact your Licensing Specialist. Each person has different responsibilities and deep or wide (but not both) knowledge in an area, to help you get your answer quickly. Some folks are sales, others are technical, and it’s important that you talk to the right person at the right time. I know how technical things work, but I don’t know the prices of anything or how many licenses you need, or what deals we have going on that could save you a lot of money. I leave that to others, they leave the SELECT statements to me.

If you “have a friend” in the product team or in other departments at Microsoft, that’s great. But DO NOT rely on that person to work with you on projects or solve problems. People on the product team are fantastic folks who are usually ready to help, but they have absolutely no bandwidth to help you and they could suddenly “go dark” as they are pulled into one or another deep technical tasks. This is the quickest way to become disappointed in hearing back from us. I’ve seen a lot of hurt feelings this way, and it makes me really sad.

So how do you find your Account Manager, this purveyor of knowledge? Start here: http://www.microsoft.com/worldwide/ and look up the closest Microsoft office to your company’s headquarters – that’s how we have things arranged. Even if you are in Florida, but your company HQ is in Israel, that’s the office you contact. They will get you to the right place.

Oh, and say “hello” to Dianna in Manufacturing for me. My third cousin twice removed went to school with her best friend in Tampa.