At the 2015 Datacenter Conference, Gartner stated that the CIOs they surveyed ranked skills as the number one barrier to achieving their objectives. – CLEAR report
By Heath Johnson
I have been a TAM with VMware for a little over a year now. During this time, I have been working closely with my customers on some large-scale deployments of VMware’s EUC products. These projects have high visibility within my customer’s organization, affecting almost all end-user endpoints. My job as a VMware TAM is to make sure major projects like these have the desired business outcomes.
In order to assure success, one of the first things I wanted to understand were the skills of the people that will be implementing and managing the project. These are usually two different skill sets. Implementation requires the ability to follow a design and to know how to configure the products’ multiple settings in detail. Any missed configuration settings can cause an unforeseen disaster. Day two operations; that is, management and operations, have a different skill set requirement. This usually requires a good understanding of the overall architecture so that you can quickly follow a troubleshooting methodology if things go wrong.
As a TAM customer, one of the deliverables I can offer my customers is a Knowledge and Skills Assessment, or KSA. This assessment is a short survey for your IT staff that asks them key questions about their interests, training, and abilities. VMware will then analyze the answers and determine the skill sets of the individual staff. With this data, we are able to generate a report on the IT skills within an organization and to help our customers identify skills gaps. The report not only looks at the individual, but also the department or group as a whole.
Using this report, I was able to work with the managers at my customer site and help them design a training plan to better prepare their staff for the work ahead. A training plan is a long-term solution for better enabling your staff to succeed. In the TAM program, we go beyond just making a class recommendation. We implement a phased-in approach.
Phase 1 – Plan for the future
My customer was already well past budget season, and could not afford traditional classroom training for their staff right away. But they could plan for the next budget cycle. I worked with VMware Education on classes recommended for specific individuals. I also worked with the managers on career goals for the team so that classes could target the needs of the business as well as personal goals. Based on these discussions, a budget for next year was created that included formal classroom training.
Phase 2 – Immediate needs
VMware provides a lot of free training. Based on the objectives in phase 1, I pointed individual staff members to resources that would help them sharpen their skills for projects they were actively working one. Here are a few of my recommendations:
VMware Hands-on Labs (HOL)
Not all of our customers have a private lab environment. But what they do have is free access to VMware HOL. We have a preconfigured lab environment for almost all of our products. Now some people think you can only follow the lab guide in HOL. Not true! If you are wondering what happens when you change a setting in vCenter or when you click a certain button, try it out in HOL first. Use HOL as your personal test environment. I even sat down with one of my customers and walked through an entire lab scenario until they were comfortable with the product.
TAM Exclusive Webinars
As part of the TAM program, we provide private webinars for our TAM customers. A lot of these sessions are under nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and take a deep dive into our products. They are often presented by our own internal SME or product managers. And because they are under NDA, topics may even include future roadmaps.
“Getting More” webcast series
This is another free training resource for our customers that focuses on vROPs and vRA. Between reviewing the list of recent recordings and the upcoming webcast schedule, I can help my customers select the right sessions for their training needs.
As a TAM, I am also an onsite guide for my customers regarding the products they own. A day onsite rarely goes by without my customer asking, “Can I do something like X?” Most of the time I can guide them to find the answers to their questions, and at other times I have to reach out to my internal SMEs for an answer. Either way, having an onsite guide is invaluable to our customers. And sometimes these questions turn into our future products through our feature request program, which is curated by a TAM.
Going forward, my customer is set up for successful outcomes because they now have a training plan in place. And next year, we can review the status of their training needs to meet any new business goals.
Are you planning a major project implementation? Are your staff properly skilled for today’s changing IT world?
Ask your TAM for a KSA today. And kick off your project with success.
Heath is a VMware Technical Account Manager based in south central Wisconsin. Heath has been with VMware since 2015 and has been working with VMware products since 2004. When he’s not working with our Enterprise customers, he is spending time with his family, flying airplanes, flying drones, cycling, or enjoying the outdoors. You can follow Heath on his personal blog at www.FlyingVirtually.com or on Twitter @heathbarj