Sunday, February 14, 2021

Top Ten Things VMware TAM should have on his mind and use on a daily basis

The readers may or may not know, that I work for VMware as a TAM. For those who do not know, TAM stands for Technical Account Manager. VMware TAM is the billable consulting role available for VMware customers who want to have an on-site dedicated technical advisor/consultant for long term cooperation. VMware TAM organization historically belonged under VMware PSO (Professional Services Organization), however, recently has been moved under Customer Success Organization, which makes perfect sense if you ask me, because customer success is the key goal of a TAM role.

How TAM engagement works? It is pretty easy. VMware Technical Account Managers have 5 slots (days) per week which can be consumed by one or many VMware customers. There are Tier1, Tier2, and Tier3 offerings, where Tier 1 TAM service includes one day per week for the customer, Tier 2 has 2.5 days per week and Tier 3 TAM is fully dedicated.

The TAM job role is very flexible and customizable based on specific customer demand. I like the figure below, describing TAM Service standard Deliverables and On-Demand Activities.


VMware TAM is delivering standard deliverables like
  • Kickoff Meeting and TAM Business Reviews to continuously align with customer expectations
  • Standard Analytics and Reporting including the report of customer estate in terms of VMware products and technologies (we call it CI.Next), Best Practices Review report highlighting a few best practices violations against VMware Health Check’s recommended practices.
  • Technical Advisory Service about VMware Product Releases, VMware Security Advisories, Specific TAM Customer Technical Webinars, Events, etc.
However, what is the most interesting part of VMware TAM job role, at least for me, are On Demand Activities including
  • Technical Enablements, DeepDives, Roadmaps, etc.
  • Planning and Conceptual Designing of Technical Solutions and Transformation Project
  • Problem Management and Design Troubleshootings
  • Product Feature Request management
  • Etc.

And this is the reason why I love my job, because I like technical planning, designing, coordinating technical implementations, validating and testing implementations before it is handed over to production. And I also like to communicate with operation teams and after a while, reevaluate the implemented design and take the operational feedback back to the architecture and engineering for continuous solution improvement. 
That’s the reason why the TAM role is my dream job for one of the best and impactful IT companies in the world.

During the last One on One meeting with my manager, I have been asked to write down the top ten things VMware TAM should have on his mind and use on a daily basis in 2021. To be honest, the rules I will ist are not specific to the year 2021 but very general applying to any other year, and also easily reusable for any other human activity.

After 25 years in the IT industry, 15 years in Professional Consulting, and 5 years as a VMware TAM, I immodestly believe, the 10 things below are the most important things to be the valuable VMware TAM for my customers. These are just my best practices and it is good to know, there are no best practices written into stone, therefore your opinion may vary. Anyway, take it or leave it. Here we go.

#1 Top Bottom approach

I use the Top Bottom approach, to be able to split any project or solution into Conceptual, Logical, and Physical layers. I use Abstraction and Generalization. While abstraction reduces complexity by hiding irrelevant detail, generalization reduces complexity by replacing multiple entities that perform similar functions with a single construct. Do not forget, the modern IT system complexity can be insane. Check the video “Power of Ten” to understand details about other systems' complexity and how it can be visible at various levels.

#2 Correct Expectations

I always set correct expectations. Discover customer’s requirements, constraints, and specific use cases before going into any details or specific solutions is the key to customer success.

#3 Communication

Open and honest communication is the key to any long term successful relationship. As a TAM, I have to be the communicator who can break barriers between various customer silos and teams, like VMware, compute, storage, network, security application, developers, DevOps, you name it. They have to trust you, otherwise, you cannot make success.

#4 Assumptions

I do not assume. Sometimes we need some assumptions to not be stuck and move forward, however, we should validate those assumptions as soon as possible, because false assumptions lead to risks. And one of our primary goals as TAMs is to mitigate risks for our customers. 

#5 Digital Transformation

I leverage online and digital platforms. Nothing compares to personal meetings and whiteboarding, however, tools like Zoom, Miro.com, and Monday.com increase efficiency and help with communication especially in COVID-19 times. This is probably the only related point to the year 2021, as COVID-19 challenges are staying with us for some time.

#6 Agile Methodologies

I use an agile consulting approach leveraging tools like Miro.com, Monday.com, etc. gives me a toolbox to apply agile software methodologies into technical infrastructure architecture design. In the past, when I worked as a software developer, software engineer, and software architect I was a follower of Extreme Programming. I apply the same or similar concepts and methods to Infrastructure Architecture Design and Consulting. This approach helps me to keep up with the speed of IT and high business expectations.

#7 Documentation

I document everything. The documentation is essential. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist! I like "Eleven Rules of Design Documentation" by Greg Ferro.

#8 Resource Mobilization

I leverage resources. Internal and External. As TAMs, we have access to a lot of internal resources (GSS, Engineering, Product Management, Technical Marketing, etc.) which we can leverage for our TAM customers. We can also leverage external resources like partners, other vendors from the broader VMware ecosystem, etc. However, we should use resources efficiently. Do not forget, all human resources are shared, thus limited. And time is the most valuable resource, at least for humans, therefore Time Management is important. Anyway, resource mobilization is the true value of the VMware TAM program, therefore we must know how to leverage these resources. 

#9 Customer Advocacy

As a TAM, I work for VMware but also for TAM customers. Therefore, I do customer advocacy within VMware and VMware advocacy within the Customer organization. This is again about the art of communication.

#10 Technical Expertise

Last but not least, I must have technical expertise and competency. I’m a Technical Account Manager, therefore I try to have deep technical expertise in at least one VMware area and broader technical proficiency in few other areas. This approach is often called Full Stack Engineering. I’m very aware of the fact that expertise and competency are very tricky and subjective. It is worth understanding the Dunning Kruger-Effect which is the law about the correlation between competence and confidence. In other words, I’m willing to have real competence and not only false confidence about the competence. If I do not feel confident in some area, I honestly admit it and try to find another resource (see rule #8). The best approach to get and validate my competency and expertise is to continuously learn and validate it by VMware advanced certifications.

Hope this write-up will be useful for at least one person on the VMware TAM Organization.

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