Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., FCIPS
Nestor J. Portillo: Regional Manager, Americas Region MVP Worldwide, Microsoft Corporation
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, has an exclusive interview with Nestor Portillo.
Nestor Portillo is the Americas Regional Manager of the CSS Communities and MVP Program at Microsoft Corporation. The CSS Communities and MVP Program is primarily responsible for the relationship management of key community influencers in Canada, US and Latin America awarded Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) by Microsoft.
Mr. Portillo began his career at Microsoft in 1997 as an account manager, and has worked for different market segments: Industry, Financial Services, E-Commerce and Certified Partners. Most recently, he served as Developer Support Program Manager for Latin America Region based in the Global Technical Support Center in Las Colinas, TX within the Product Support Services Division. Prior to that, he was the Public Sector Sales Manager for the Microsoft Branch in Caracas, Venezuela.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Mr.Portillo worked for IBM and Siemens and was a graduated student in Marketing Management at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. He holds a Master's in Business Administration from Metropolitan University, Venezuela (1996) and a Bachelor of Systems Engineering from Antonio J. Sucre University, Venezuela (1989). Mr.Portillo is married and has no children.
The latest blog on the interview can be found the week of June 12-16, 2006 in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
Opening Comment: Nestor, we thank you for taking the time to share your deep insights and passion about the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program with our audience.
A) Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the community in this forum.
Q1: Prior to your current role, please share your career milestones and what specific lessons you learned that would be of value to IT managers and professionals.
A) Working for Microsoft, IBM and Siemens Nixdorf and interacting with IT managers and professionals in different Latin America countries, I learned along my career that for IT managers and professionals the value equation has been progressively evolving from the traditional model, (Technical Product Innovation versus price), into a new and very comprehensive equation where additional factors such as: inclusion, company reputation, cost of use and support now play an important role in their value perception of products and technologies.
Today IT managers and professionals pay more attention to these other factors because they are key for their business in terms of service availability, scalability, competitive advantage and business alignment factors, which are part of their agendas. This transition is not isolated, IT companies are also changing; today IT companies are articulating their value proposition around holistic concepts such as: trustworthy computing, business impact, competitive advantage, productivity, connection with customers and people, etc and are also moving their relationship model from traditional suppliers into partnerships.
Microsoft is leading this arena, for the past several years our company has been making key investments not only in traditional areas such as R&D, people and innovation, but also by investing in resources and people to develop the new generation of tools and technologies oriented to deliver, not only the state of the art, but also “Software that works the way you work”. If you take a look over our current offer, we are ahead of our competitors by delivering software that helps people to realize their potential. No one has this in their DNA like our company does.
Q2: Describe how the MVP program has evolved since its inception and which external influences triggered the program changes?
A) Community is a very complex and vibrant entity under a constant evolution and this is one the facts that is triggering part of the program changes. Today the MVP program is evolving almost at the same pace as the community does especially in terms of new spaces inclusion.
People in our program are constantly monitoring new spaces in order to understand their dynamics and identify behaviors and trends. Our approach is to become a participant in these community spaces.
In terms of evolution, this program has taken an interesting path since the few Compuserve lists at the early stage to the public newsgroups era. The MVP program has evolved into a worldwide program. In the past three to four years the program started to embrace the whole community neighborhood not only in terms of participation spaces (offline versus the traditional online approach) but also in its geographic approach and technology myriad. The MVP program actually has direct presence in more than 95 countries around the world and covers almost all Microsoft technologies spectrum including: MSN, Xbox, Visual Developer, Mobile, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Office Systems, etc.
Q3: Can you describe your vision, mission, and specific goals with the MVP program this year?
A) Program vision: Foster a vibrant community ecosystem where Microsoft and customers learn about each other through valued ongoing relationships.
Program mission: At the MVP Program we foster satisfaction and loyalty throughout the customer lifecycle through world class recognition and relationship experiences that enrich our products, inspires business innovation and positively impacts Microsoft customers.
Main goals this year:
Q4: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years?
A) There are several goals but to summarize the most important:
Q5: What are your biggest challenges and their solutions?
CHALLENGE 1: Enhance the experience
Solution: The MVP Program and its benefits are currently highly appreciated by our MVPs; however the program is looking to enhance the program experience by delivering more value to their members. To address this, we’ve enabled a profile section where our MVPs provide information about their profile, experience and interests. This allow us to understand their needs in terms of content and knowledge and design enablement mechanisms to fulfill them.
CHALLENGE 2: Global but with a local touch
Solution: Although the MVP program and the overall experience is the same at any region due to the worldwide nature of the program; we are working very hard to understand each region and to include each community’s own particularities. The MVP program and the people responsible for managing the relationship, (called MVP Leads), work hard to incorporate these community particularities harmoniously into the WW guidelines.
CHALLENGE 3: Offline communities
Solution: There is a huge level of activity in the offline space that is not necessarily easy to track or even identify. We recognize that these offline communities are vibrant and provide value to customers and community members. We work very closely with key user groups associations such as INETA and Culminis to properly cover this important segment of the community and we are connecting with our field units (Developer & Platform Evangelism and TechNet) to gather information about other independent user groups existing in our region.
Q6: What key factors contribute to an involved IT professional receiving the MVP award?
A) The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program recognizes and thanks outstanding members of technical communities for their community participation and willingness to help others. The program celebrates the most active community members from around the world who provide invaluable online and offline expertise that enriches the community experience and makes a difference in technical communities featuring Microsoft products.
Based on this principle: community recognition, credibility and accessibility are the key factors that contribute to an involved IT professional receiving the MVP award. Many of these factors require time and continuous involvement because is not easy to gain leadership and recognition without cultivating them.
Q7: How has the MVP selection process evolved over the years?
A) The selection basis continues to be driven mainly by expertise, community participation, recognition, credibility and accessibility. We value those contributions oriented to enrich the community experience and to make a difference in technical communities featuring Microsoft products.
In terms of evolution, 3-4 years ago when we started to embrace the community neighborhood, we enhanced the selection mechanisms to award active people participating in offline activities and other non traditional spaces such as User Groups (Ineta, Culminis, Independent user Groups), Bloggers, Pod Casters, 3rd Party Websites, Active experts (Authors, Speakers, Web Masters, etc).
The selection process is global; the selection criteria are the same WW and are applied consistently along the geographies currently covered by the program to ensure consistency and quality.
Q8: Together with technical communities such as user groups, how do MVP awardees contribute to the business community?
A) MVPs makes an important contribution to the business community not only by sharing their knowledge and experience but also by driving product/technology innovation as a result of their interaction with other community members and professionals. MVPs are able to provide valuable product feedback back to Microsoft understand by catalyzing conversations at the community level and by magnifying the voice of the world’s users in an independent way.
Q9: What does the MVP program mean to the academic community? [How do they (awardees) contribute to education?]
A) The MVP program means the same to the academic community as the professional community. Today the MVP program does not make a specific distinction between the professional and the academic communities because both are valuable for us and we recognize outstanding contributors in the same way. In regards to awardees’ contribution in this space - I would say that it is very similar to the professional community because we award people who are very actively sharing their knowledge and helping other community members in a professional and courteous way. In the Americas we have an important number of MVPs from the academic community.
Q10: When describing initiatives, it helps to explain how it is differentiated and the value it provides. How does the MVP program differentiate itself and what value does it provide?
A) The MVP program differentiates itself from other programs through its maturity and technical nature. With more than 13 years of existence, the MVP award is highly recognized by the community and the industry and is synonymous with high technical knowledge, expertise and quality recognition. Answers provided by our MVPs are considered reliable and of high quality. The value beyond the technical enablement provided to our MVPs is the indirect participation at the local communities as another participant.
Q11: What are the biggest issues facing MVPs in 2006, and in 2007? How can they be addressed?
A) I cannot see a specific situation relating to the program important enough to be considered as an issue. Because the MVP Award is an award-based program with criteria based on past contributions, Microsoft has no expectations of MVPs beyond the expectations of courtesy, professionalism, code of conduct and adherence to the community rules that we ask of all Microsoft community members.
I would prefer to defer this question to any of our MVPs to have their thoughts about this.
Q12: What are the five biggest issues facing technical communities today and what are your recommendations for meeting these challenges?
A) As an ecosystem, the technical communities are facing different issues mainly related to its own growth, technology innovation, competition with other communities’ spaces and attractiveness. In my opinion the five biggest issues are:
Q13: Provide your three predictions of future trends and their implications to MVPs?
A) I cannot predict the future however based on my experience working with MVPs in different geographies and dealing with communities around the world I see the following trends:
Trend 1: Dynamic and collective Content
Implication: The demand for technical content is increasing year after year at the community level. Today communities are not only defining the format (online/offline) or the delivery channel (whitepapers, Webcasts, Podcasts, etc), but they are tending to take more control over the quality and applicability. Collaborative initiatives like wikipedia for example are gaining popularity because the content generated is enhanced by experience, real usage scenarios, comments and the most important written by users in a simple language (including slang). MVPs will need to move their knowledge sharing approach from the traditional Question → Answer schema where the MVP has all the knowledge into Question → advice model where the advice includes the answer plus knowledge sharing via collaborative content.
Trend 2: Shared product development
Implication: Microsoft and other few technology suppliers are currently providing early access to the product’s bits/builds with the idea of drive more innovation by offering the opportunity to the community to work with the product/technology prior to its release. The MVP role will evolve to an innovation role because they will be able to translate the community feedback and channel it through product specifications and features that will enhance product/technology functionality.
Trend 3: Accessibility
Implication: A special characteristic that distinguishes MVPs is its accessibility- today one of their strength is that they are accessible to the community members. With the growth of the community neighborhood and the apparition of new participation spaces, I can see MVPs carefully selecting their participation spaces because they will be attracted to those that will allow them to continue driving high impact/reach. My opinion is that federated communities will become the natural targets because these will offer the opportunity to leverage their contributions to more and more people, thanks to the federation model.
Q14: Which are your top five recommended resources?
A) Microsoft offers a comprehensive set of resources oriented to help communities and customers to take the most of our products and technologies. The resources provided fulfill “Break-fix” and “How-to” needs and are available in different formats such as: White-papers, code samples, multimedia, etc. To mention some that I have top of mind:
Closing Comment: We will continue to follow your fine work and the contributions of MVPs. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. We wish you much continued success for the future.
A) Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and share with your audience detailed information about the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Program. I would like to invite them to visit http://mvp.support.microsoft.com for further information.