Technical Evangelist – An ISV’s Best Friend, and How To Find Yours

One rock climber helping another

Your Technical Evangelist Helps You Get Where You’re Going

Do you know which Microsoft Technical Evangelist your team is working with? If not, or if you aren’t working with a MS evangelist – perish the thought! – you’re missing out on one of the most valuable relationships an ISV can have with MS.

Technical Evangelists are amazing people – they’re talented developers with uncontrollable curiosity who immerse themselves in new technologies long before they ship, exploring technical nooks and crannies before there’s reliable documentation. They work with the MS program managers, developers and testers for their product to develop a deep understanding of how it works, and why the product operates this way instead of that. They write sample code to prove (or disprove) their own understanding of how things work (or don’t).

Then they gather audiences of developers in cities across their region, explain the product they’re working on, write code on-stage to demo early product builds that are very likely to crash, do their best to answer every question that’s thrown at them, and share their passion for their product with their audience. When they’re done, the evangelist jumps on an airplane and does it all again in another city. Continue reading

Silence is Not Golden

Silence is not golden when you’re waiting for a response from your Microsoft contact.

Silence is unnerving – you expect to hear back from your Microsoft contact about your latest question or request, but instead you get silence. Did you do something wrong, ask a forbidden question, or somehow upset your contact?

You’ve encountered an odd bit of MS culture. Microsofties don’t want to say “no”, or admit they cannot help you with your request; instead you get radio silence.

It isn’t actually because the person you’ve contacted “can’t be bothered” – it’s because they know they are not the expert or authority on that specific topic, so they cannot say “yes”.

Somewhere within MS there is an expert or authority who might still say “yes” (if you ever reach them), so the person you’ve contacted also cannot tell you “no”.

Nor can they afford to spend the time to track down the expert (see Stack Ranking Hurts Partners Too).

They can’t say “yes” and they can’t say “no” – with no constructive response possible, Microsofties go radio silent. Continue reading

Finding “The Right Person”

Photo via Detective Gadget

(In Stack Ranking Hurts Partners Too, I explained why “the right person” – the individual or team of people at MS whose objectives align with your needs – keeps themself hard to find, intentionally, and promised guidance on how you can find them anyway.)

A discussion on LinkedIn, “Getting run around – NO answers from Microsoft – any suggestions?”, is about trying to add a client company to the list of partners on a web page affiliated with the Microsoft Health Solutions Group. Situations like this come up frequently when dealing with MS, so I’ll use it as an example for finding “the right person”.

A MS participant in the discussion provided some insights specific to that thread – a change in strategy yielding Caradigm, a joint venture by the MS Health Solutions Group with GE Healthcare – then offered, “If you are still stuck, let me know and I’ll help you personally.” Continue reading

Stack Ranking Hurts Partners Too

Vanity Fair cover image of Steve Ballmer

Vanity Fair: Microsoft’s Lost Decade

Microsoft’s stack ranking process received some high-visibility attention in Vanity Fair’s article, “Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant”. You’ve probably already read the article, but also check out the knowledgeable commentary by Todd Bishop here and here, and by Mary Jo Foley here. Information is power, the more you know, the better you’ll understand how Microsoft operates (and perhaps why).

The article focuses (likely too much) on the impact stack ranking has had on Microsoft itself, but there’s an unwelcome side effect on partners as well – any time a MS employee spends on activities not on their objectives is time not spent achieving their objectives; and that will cost them come review time.

For partners, that means the only people at MS who are likely to invest time on your behalf, including even acknowledging your request, are those whose objectives include providing that response. Most people at MS will completely ignore your request; they’re laser focused on achieving their objectives (also known as “commitments”).

You need to find “the right person”, whose objectives align with your interests – the time that person spends working with you should fulfill their objectives and improve their performance review. Continue reading

Let’s Get It Started

My goal with “ISV Results With Microsoft” is to help ISVs develop your relationship with Microsoft, maximize the value received, and achieve your goals.Keep Calm and Lets Get Started

Can you get your product demoed during a MS keynote? Yes – demos of ISV products are a staple of MS keynotes. But how do you get your product into a keynote?

The implementation details will be different for each ISV, because each ISV is different – what you want from MS, which MS products and technologies you integrate with or build upon, which markets you target, how well you tolerate life on the leading (or bleeding) edge of technological change, whether you’re “all in” with the latest MS technology.

Nonetheless, I’ve observed that even the basic guidelines and understanding of MS culture that will help any ISV work more successfully with MS are not widely known. Why is that? Not sure, but I’m going to try to fill that void. Continue reading