What prominent changes have been made in the
Microsoft MVP program in the past year?
A couple things really come to mind.
Probably the biggest theme for us is thinking of the diversity of program
globally. When I say that - I am talking about three elements of
diversity. Certainly, one is the availability of the program in eight
countries that representation never existed in before, which is an
important first step. The second element is representation of new
products and technologies from Microsoft which the MVP program has never
been associated previously, such as the Microsoft Business Solutions or
Visual Tools for Office technologies. The third issue is really thinking
about the communities the program represents. Three to four years ago
people thought the MVP program represented the newsgroup community only
from an award and recognition standpoint. However, communities have
changed. Communities are where customers want to go to interact with one
another and get answers and expertise. Whether that is within newsgroups,
local user groups, blogs, or third party communities, the role of the MVP
program is to make sure we have gone to those destinations customers care
about and identified the best of the best to be included in the program.
Has Microsoft’s continued commitment to the program
Sean O'Driscoll: Well, we hope this
announcement goes a long way to dispel any fears or vibes along those
lines. We have had this announcement planned for awhile, and we started on
the summit months ago in terms of venues, dates and other challenges in
planning a large scale event. I would not want people to think we are
reacting to those rumors in any way – because we are well ahead of that
curve. But certainly we hope people see this as a strong statement to say
look, “we are committed to the program, the program has continued to grow,
we continue to really focus on quality of award recipients, to the summit,
etc. We are committed to touching MVPs perhaps in more ways than people
have really seen. For example, we are doing work on regional summits to go
out locally and interact with MVPs on their home turf. All of these are
important statements to the program.
As you touched on this earlier, what direction do
you see the MVP Program headed in globally, specifically in areas which
include customers that haven’t had access to support before?
Absolutely, and we show that in the press
release as some of the countries mentioned (Egypt, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya,
etc.) weren’t included previously. As another evidence point, at the end
of February we are holding a regional MVP summit in Prague really just to
focus on interacting with MVP that we’re inviting from eastern Europe,
Middle East and Africa to provide a special gathering to learn about some
of their issues, provide an opportunity for them to interact with each
other, and to get feedback on what unique cultural and/or geographic
differences or language differences that we need to contemplate in the
Some feel the large size of the MVP Program dilutes
quality. How do you feel the large size makes a positive impact?
Well, that’s a great question. I think
there are a couple of ways the large size contributes to helping the
program, which include some of the issues we have already talked about
before. Global and language diversification within the program is an
important element when we think about the product set we are taking to
market with our customers. The scale of the voice of having the MVPs that
represent those languages and some of the unique issues that may be
present in local language versions of products provides a whole different
task for us to learn whether or not we are building the right products,
right features, right capabilities, or whether the documentation is
meeting needs, etc. The size of the voice isn’t one guy but it is a
collection of Most Valuable Professional customers expressing input that
we should be listening to.
Are all Microsoft products represented by the MVP
Program? What product groups are represented by the most MVPs?
Sean O'Driscoll: Some of the new
categories are MSN, MBS, and Visual Tools for Office. We have also
introduced a new solution architect category in the developer space.
Overall developer includes the largest group of MVPs. Within developer,
Visual C# is quite large. The SQL Server group within the Windows Server
System is quite large as well.
For those who are not familiar with the MVP Program;
how do individuals go about receiving the MVP award for the first time?
I think people are curious about this
topic and how the process works. Really, the first thing that has to
happen is an individual gets nominated. Nearly anyone can nominate someone
into the MVP program; an individual in the community, other MVPs,
Microsoft employees (whether it’s in the support organization, field
organization, or development organization). The key to what makes the
process work is the rigor is what we put behind the nomination process to
validate whether or not those folks that we are awarding into the program
really meet the criteria of recognized, credible and accessible that we
think about to maintain the high quality bar that we aspire to for those
awarded into the program.
How do you feel the MVP Program adds to the overall
value of Microsoft products?
There are a number of things. One I
mentioned already that is fresh of mind because we’ve been doing things in
this area – I think about local language products and their documentation,
meeting needs in local countries, and some of the great feedback and
process we have put in place where MVPs are helping us learn about issues
we can improve. Certainly, I feel the strength and the passion of the
voice in the product feedback process. One of the great things about the
MVP summit is that it is not a one way conversation, but a bidirectional
conversation between MVPs and their peers within our product groups. I
think that level of connection with people using our technologies and
stressing our technologies is irreplaceable in thinking about the
direction that Microsoft products should take.
What types of technical communities at Microsoft and
other areas are MVPs involved with?
Sean O'Driscoll: It runs the gamut.
Newsgroups are a huge community in many, many parts of the world. Blogs
have come on in value and popularity and so obviously we have MVPs
represent those spaces, user groups are important, listservs, and third
party communities, etc. In some ways two years ago if we were to have this
conversation I am not sure if would talk about blogs. In two years from
now, we may have a conversation about something we haven’t heard about
yet. If the program is going in the direction it should, it needs to
accommodate those changes and how communities evolve for how people want
to receive assistance. You do see regional and cultural differences on
this. For example, in Japan newsgroups aren’t really the preferred
assistance mechanism, whereas authenticated third party websites and local
user groups are really important in those environments. So there are some
differences that are valuable to understand in how the program develops.
What does support does the MVP program
receive from Microsoft senior executives?
Sean O'Driscoll: On one level
you can look no further than the MVP summit, and you can see some of the
most senior Microsoft executives committing their time months in advance
to engage and learn from the MVPs. But I do not think that fully captures
it. We have regular quarterly reviews with executives in the product
groups that are specifically on the topic of how MVPs help the product
evolve, etc. For example, Joe Peterson one of the senior corporate vice
presidents for Longhorn, was recently in Asia and made it a point of
scheduling specific roundtable meetings with MVPs for feedback on
Longhorn. The executive commitment isn’t just once a year – it is a
sustained commitment month-in month-out where they try to interact, learn,
engage and really set a positive example for their entire organization
about the value of this important community.
What kind of public attention are you giving MVPs to
better increase the awareness of the program?
Sean O'Driscoll: We are
continuing to invest in participation in major industry shows where we can
have a footprint in those shows to talk who the MVP community is and the
amazing work they do. In events like TechEd, it is now uncommon to not
find MVPs as active experts or session presenters. Another thing we have
done that I am personally excited about, is some of the work we have done
off of Microsoft.com. MVPs can self managed their profile, and we
propagate MVP profiles to the relevant Microsoft product communities.
There are dozen Microsoft webpages in the product groups and
internationally where we promote the profiles, photos, etc. So the
customers going to these sites are not only learning about Microsoft, but
also seeing the experts in communities that they should be aware of.
What do you personally like best about the program?
Sean O'Driscoll: The biggest
thing for me is the global attributes of the program and how things are
different similar around the world with different kinds of communities –
that is always a very fun element of the role. The most inspiring part is
that all of these people would do what they do in the community without
the MVP program – that is part of what makes them MVPs. They do this all
very selflessly, they genuinely have the motivation to help other people
and that is the true reward for them. I think it is important Microsoft
takes the step in acknowledging these individuals, but to me that is what
I think is invigorating and exciting in the program.
Microsoft MVP Program Website
2005 Microsoft MVP Press Release
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