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Interview with Tom MoranGroup Business Manager: Microsoft Product Support Services 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 for?

Tom Moran: 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, 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. So basically your group handles much of Microsoft's user support?

Tom Moran: 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?

Tom Moran: 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 released?

Tom Moran: We have more than 250,000 public articles at this time. What other kind of information is posted on KB other than bugs?

Tom Moran: 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. Is your group responsible for the public newsgroups? How about the Download Center?

Tom Moran: We definitely look at them for ideas for new articles. We also work closely with 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. What other divisions/groups does the PSS Team work with at Microsoft to achieve your goals?

Tom Moran: 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 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 products. What is your favorite part of your job? What do you thinkthe most difficult thing is?

Tom Moran: 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 Knowledge Base. Do you have anything else to add?

Tom Moran: 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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