with Tom Moran, Group
Business Manager: Microsoft Product Support
What exactly do you do for Microsoft? How many people work in the
Microsoft Product Support Services Content Group?
Tom Moran: I
manage the PSS Online Content team, focusing on developer and enterprise
content. My group has approximately 12 content managers, 3 site
managers, 12 editors, and hundreds of support professionals who
contribute their solutions. We have another content team dedicated to
the consumer, applications and small business areas.
Can you list the Microsoft websites that your group handles the content
We create the support sections in most of the Microsoft web sites. This includes the MSDN support site, TechNet support site, the
MSDN Bug Center, DLL Help, the TechNet Diagnostic Solution Guide, Direct
Access support site, various magazine columns, web-based error message extensions,
support.microsoft.com content, etc. In most cases we try to be as integrated as possible with the end site, for example TechNet or
MSDN. Often a customer doesn't actually realize when she is looking at information authored by PSS.
basically your group handles much of Microsoft's user support?
In a way, you can say yes. Although my group does not answer phone
or web assisted support requests, more than 95% of all support
interactions are solved through the content we create and manage.
Walk us through the process of writing the typical knowledge base article.
What goes on from the beginning until their release?
Every article starts with a customer or group of customers. Articles
start as an idea - either from a support professional who is answering
support calls or as a direct result of the feedback we collect through
surveys and article comments. Once a support professional writes the
article, it goes through a tech review process, where another technical
expert is responsible for ensuring technical accuracy. Once that is
complete, it is edited for grammar, tagging, keywords and readability.
It goes back to the author for a final check, and after a time in which
it is sent around internally as a preview, it is then published online.
We also publish the Knowledge Base offline for TechNet, MSDN, Visual
Studio and other products with offline needs.
So far, how many knowledge base articles do you think Microsoft has
We have more than 250,000 public articles at this time.
other kind of information is posted on KB other than bugs?
About 30% of the KB is actually how-to information focused on step
by step tasks.
Of the PSS Content that is released, what seems to be most popular?
Tom Moran: Articles
for the big service packs tend to get the most hits. For developers
specifically, samples are very most popular. For most people, they look
in the KB when they have a problem and they need help troubleshooting.
As we extend product error messages to the web, as with Internet
Information Server, those have proven to be very popular as well.
your group responsible for the public newsgroups? How about the Download
Tom Moran: We
definitely look at them for ideas for new articles. We also work closely
with Microsoft.com to manage the infrastructure, we run the MVP award
program, and we do some moderation in certain instances. We are not
directly responsible for the download center itself, but much of its
content originates with us.
other divisions/groups does the PSS Team work with at Microsoft to achieve
We literally work with every division in Microsoft. We work closely with
the product teams to help with documentation - in fact with some teams,
we identify modifications to documentation vs. creating KB articles. We
also work very closely with MSDN, TechNet and Microsoft.com since we
share so much technology and content. We want to make sure that we
minimize the number of places people have to go for information, and
make it as accessible and discoverable as possible. The most commonly
used information from one product then makes it into the documentation
set next time it is released. This is really just a continuous
improvement cycle that integrates customer feedback, Knowledge Base
articles, product documentation and basic usability. We are very focused
on product integration - you can see this today in the Help and Support
Center for Windows ME and we are extending that metaphor to other
is your favorite part of your job? What do you thinkthe most difficult
I love the creative aspect, the opportunity to directly hear and see
what customers are looking for, and it is incredibly energizing to work
with people who are so motivated and customer-focused. The most
difficult thing about my job is that we can't do everything. There is so
much to do, and technology always moves more slowly than I think it
should. I used to be a developer, so I know that I can do about anything
in a weekend, you know? Of course, last time I actually tried to program
something, I had to call support several times, and I definitely use the
you have anything else to add?
I think the group I work in is awesome, the work is outstanding, and I
wouldn't trade it for anything. I hope people realize that there are
some great people really trying to make it easy for them to find the
information they need to use Microsoft products effectively, and
troubleshoot if there is an issue. We're definitely listening and see
your feedback, whether it is through a survey, article voting, questions
in a newsgroup or simply hits on a web page.
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