What's a local office to do.....
Roy brings up a great point that was raised in his comments - local Microsoft offices have a new challenge as the product groups become more transparent and involved in the online communities.
As someone who works in a local Microsoft office in the United States, this is something that I think about frequently. I agree with Roy that the bar has been raised and the local offices have to work harder to be involved in and support the local markets.
I will also say that supporting the local community is difficult in the US (and we get a product group roadshow or two to stop by each year) so I can only imagine how difficult it is for the other subsidiaries. I know that the product group tours are being planned for the next twelve months and I think you will see the support from both the local and Redmond based community efforts increasing in scope and value.
I want to comment on Roy's analogy a bit. Roy's analogy compares a 'closed' market to an 'open' market and how that relates to Microsoft's local offices before and after the product groups began their community push. While this analogy is accurate at face value, it neglects to take into account that there is one subtle but oh so important difference - in the case of the Microsoft offices and the product groups, the product groups are the only ones that can actually provide telephone service. The Microsoft offices were operating in a closed market but they could not actually provide telephone service, they merely provided a face for the service, support for the service, and the contracts you needed to sign to use the service.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm NOT saying that the local Microsoft subsidiaries or offices (I work in one for heavens sake!) have no value but I am saying that what a local subsidiary or office can provide to the local community is much different than what the product groups can provide. Also remember that the focus and goals of these two different groups of people are very different so don't expect the tasks they perform to achieve their goals to be similar either.
OK, so I've soap boxed about the differences. Hopefully this gives you a different perspective on the issue (and believe me I agree with Roy that there is an issue). So, after reading what I've just written, what can the local subsidiaries/offices do to better support the local developer community? I'd love to hear generic suggestions that can be used in any geography as well as geography specific suggestions (I'll try to make sure they get to the appropriate person in your geography so fire away).