Tom Archer's Blog

Windows and Web developer with Social Media tendencies

A Crash Course on the MVP Program

Now that I’ve been on the MVP Team for about 4 months, I thought I’d take a minute to explain what the MVP Program is and the various roles and responsibilities as I get this question quite often both internally and externally.

The following graphic illustrates the various roles in the MVP Program from the MVPs to the product team.

 MVP Program Hierarchy

As you can see from the image above, the most important part of the puzzle is the MVPs themselves. After all, it’s the MVPs that we are tasked with discovering, engaging with and enabling MVPs to ensure that our product teams leverage the experience, knowledge and passion of the MVPs to improve our products to meet the needs of customers world-wide.

MVPs are awarded for their community contributions for a particular product or technology. The generic term we use is “expertise”. As in, Tom Archer was an MVP for the Visual C++ expertise before joining Microsoft. (Microsoft employees are not allowed to be MVPs.)

While there is a lot of subjectivity and gray areas regarding becoming an MVP, a very generic statement would be that MVPs are awarded for volunteering their time to help others use a particular Microsoft product or technology. This “help” can come in the form of running or speaking at user groups, writing online articles, posting answers to questions on newsgroups and forums and many other ways in which they display both their knowledge of the technology and desire to help others.

The people at Microsoft that work directly with the MVPs are the MVP Leads. I should mention that there are two MVP Lead groups – United States and International – and they work a bit differently. Each U.S. MVP Lead is responsible for the U.S. based MVPs for specific products/technologies. For example, I am currently the MVP Lead for the following expertises:

  • Microsoft Business Solutions – Retail Management Systems
  • Dynamics AX
  • Dynamics CRM
  • Dynamics GP
  • Dynamics NAV
  • Dynamics SL
  • Windows SDK
  • Windows Server – Customer Experience (user group MVPs)
  • Windows Server – Setup & Deployment
  • Windows Server – Terminal Services
  • Windows Server – Commerce Server

There are 12 U.S. MVP Leads covering many other expertises (e.g., the Office products, the Visual Studio products, etc.)

Conversely, the international MVP Leads are responsible for all the MVPs in their geographic area across all expertises. For example, the Canadian MVP Lead owns the relationship with all the MVPs living in Canada regardless of their expertise. This is simply a matter of logistics in terms of work-load and bandwidth.

While MVP Lead were originally thought of as “account managers”, this description is quickly becoming outdated as the community space continues to mature. A more current – and accurate – description would be “community consultants”. Note that there’s nothing inherently bad about being an account manager. However, the title simply doesn’t convey the true nature of the job. In a very generic sense, account managers take care of the needs of the accounts. In the case of MVPs, that means ensuring that MVPs receive answers to product questions (typically done by escalating the issue to the appropriate person on the product team), answering questions regarding the MVP Program itself and just basically doing everything we can to ensure that the experience of being an MVP is a rewarding one. While this is still an important part of the job, the community consultant aspect of the job introduces several other responsibilities that truly make the MVP Lead an expert in the community area of their respective expertises. These responsibilities include:

  • Researching the various community spaces where the expertise is being supported/talked about (e.g., user groups, discussion forums, newsgroups, etc.)
  • Analyzing these community spaces to determine if the customer needs are being met and awarding the people that are truly distinguishing themselves as leaders/helpers in these areas. For example, who’s writing the best articles on Dynamics CRM or who’s posting the most helpful responses on Windows Server – Commerce Server in the various newsgroups and so on.
  • Determining trends in the community to help the product team determine where best to deploy their support efforts. For example, if Product A is released and we find that out of the 50 community spaces where people “gather” to discuss this product, the majority of the activity is in 5 of those spaces, then that’s news that the product team can use to ensure that team members are in those spaces to help customers get the support they need. (This is completely different from the very outdated approach of assuming that customers will always call Customer Support as many people will turn to community first for help.)
  • Learning the latest new technologies being used to connect people so that we – as community consultants – can use those same technologies to connect to our MVPs and customers. I’m referring here to services such as FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and many others.

Well, that took a little more than a minute, but anyone who’s ever talked to me knows I never really mastered the rules of succinctness and such. I often joke that I can’t say “good morning” in less than 20 words.

Hopefully this post gives folks a glimpse into what the MVP Program is and the respective roles of the individuals that discover, support and enable some of the most important people to our company’s continued success – the MVPs.


October 26, 2007 - Posted by | Microsoft MVP Program | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Wish I could pick your brain on .Net stuff.

    Working with a group of .net developers has made me part of the collective.

    You have a good deal of ground to cover Tom.

    Comment by Curt Spanburgh | January 2, 2008 | Reply

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