Talking with—and listening to—MVPs at Summit

By Toby Richards, general manager, Community and Online Support, Microsoft

Yesterday I had the privilege to speak to
the MVPs here at the Summit as one of the keynote speakers. Presenting at the MVP Global Summit is always
an exhilarating experience, and having to speak right after Steve Ballmer
definitely created some additional excitement, and anxiety.

 My team, and customer support overall, is focused
on reducing effort to improve people's experiences with Microsoft--for all customers,
including MVPs. I think about this in three ways--community and online,
continuous improvement, and automation and integration.  

 Yesterday during the keynote, I talked
about community and online efforts—improvements in tools like MS Answers for our
customers to find credible, helpful information and experts like MVPs. And I
discussed tools that are coming to make it easier for MVPs to share their
knowledge and expertise, including improvements in TechNet and MSDN.  

 Continuous improvement consists of two
connected areas:  listening and product
improvement.  Listening is a key way we
can reduce effort and improve experiences. 
We have to listen well to experts—like all the feedback MVPs provide to
Microsoft product groups at the MVP Global Summit, in product group
interactions throughout the year, and through the MVP email distribution lists
that connect the community to product group teams. We also need to listen to
communities of customers and experts together. Historically, we've acquired
incredible amounts of data from areas like forums on TechNet and MSDN, but had
a huge challenge in converting all that unstructured data into useful feedback
for our product groups.  Now we can
intelligently process those millions of bits of information—weighting what's
important, associating similar issues, and ultimately making all the questions
asked and knowledge shared more valuable by feeding it back into the product

 Automation and integration is one of the
areas where we can really reduce effort. Over time, the goal is to fix issues
before they ever become problems. The Microsoft project codenamed "Atlanta"
is a great example of this—it's a secure configuration assessment service that
can reduce troubleshooting time and effort for IT Pros. To get on the Atlanta
beta go to

 I’m always seeking
suggestions about ways we can reduce effort and improve experiences from the
MVP community. One of the things I enjoy most about the MVP Summit is the
opportunity to speak to this amazing community—during the keynote, but also
one-on-one in conversations that continue to inform and inspire my work here at