Almost twelve months ago, I discovered the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program when I found out that I had been nominated for the award. That nomination was a first step for Microsoft to widen the program to encompass people who worked to foster adoption of its products. The MVP Program has been longstanding as a way to connect Microsoft with the traditional IT pros who make up its base of customers, developers and partners. After a year of experience of the MVP program, I wish I had known about it a lot earlier. The benefits to me and to the organisations with which I work from the program have been fantastic. Most importantly of all, the MVP program has strengthened my connections to a community of incredibly smart, committed and professional practitioners who have shown me new and better ways to do what I do.
So let’s look at what a year of being a Microsoft MVP means. The MVP program is a recognition of contribution to the Microsoft community. Microsoft itself says:
“The Microsoft MVP Award gives us the unique opportunity to celebrate, honor and say thank you to top-notch technology experts who make outstanding contributions to their communities. These technology experts have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies and love to share their knowledge.”
The award which is for one-year term is a recognition of the quality and amount of work done and the value created by each individual for Microsoft, for its customers and for the individual’s own organisation. It lasts for a year because it is a reward for the work and that level of effort must be sustained and grow.
If we want to examine what it means to be a MVP we are going to have to dive into understanding and exploring the impact of that work. To save you the challenge of listening to me talk about myself, I asked a fellow MVP, Amy Dolzine of EY if I could feature her work and efforts this year. Amy works in knowledge management for EY where she is a Global Awareness Advisor and Enterprise Social Engagement, Research and Awareness Lead where she is responsible for designing, managing and continuously improving global initiatives that increase the firm’s adoption of collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer and SharePoint. By enabling real time collaboration and sharing of expertise her work at EY enables client service teams to deliver better client outcomes and create increased revenue opportunities for the firm. Amy’s work at EY and her past experience with other organisations leading Yammer implementations also makes her a global expert in social collaboration and someone that people around the world look to for expertise and insights on how best to develop the maturity of collaboration in their organisations.
I first met Amy through her active participation as a leader in the Yammer Customer Network, which is now the Microsoft Tech Community. Amy demonstrates her leadership and passion in this environment, by actively sharing insights, asking questions, identifying bugs to be resolved and providing feedback to other community members and the product teams. I’ve been lucky to be a member of a number of communities this year where I have been able to leverage Amy’s practical insights. Having such a professional expert available to help you unravel challenges or support your ongoing work is invaluable. If she is able to provide this support to others, I can only imagine the value that she is delivering to EY client service teams as they go about the important knowledge work of collaboration that is critical to the client service of EY teams.
The ongoing sharing of her expertise extends beyond the tens of thousands of members of these communities as well. Amy is also active in blogging and sharing her insights in social media. Her blogposts on Linkedin throughout the year have always been insightful reflections of the opportunities of collaboration and experience she has learned working in the EY environment and beyond.
An MVP is expected to be out and about sharing their expertise at events in their communities and events that that Microsoft runs. These speaking engagements are always learning opportunities. They refine insights, help make new connections and provide opportunities to listen to and engage other practitioners in the field. Personal and organisation brands grow due to the quality of these presentations and I have watched Amy continue to promote the leadership of EY in the social collaboration space at many events during the year:
- YouToo Social Media Conference Kent State University, April 2016: External social media conference in its 9th year. Amy was the first speaker ever on the topic of internal social. As a result of sharing her work, Amy was able to create recognition for EY as a leader in the space. Importantly Amy helped a number of people at existing or future EY clients realize the value of working collaboratively and how it could help them make their companies more productive and engaged.
- JBoye: Philadelphia, PA May 2016: EY is a member of the JBoye organisation’s networks. They have 2 conferences a year, one in Philadelphia, one in Arhus Denmark. Because of her status as MVP and reputation, JBoye asked Amy to speak at an event about enterprise social. Events aren’t just about speaking. At this conference Amy developed industry connections by meeting John Stepper, author of Working out Loud and Susan Hanley, the author of many books on Knowledge Management and SharePoint. Amy has gone on to introduce these thought leaders to others in her network. Developing connections in the industry and bringing together people is a key part of the MVP opportunity.
- Microsoft Ignite Atlanta, GA September 2016: I facilitated this panel of 5 leading MVPs. The panel was a “from the front lines” kind of presentation about how to roll out enterprise social and received an enthusiastic reception with many questions and excellent feedback. What the audience valued was Amy’s ability, along with the other panellists, to bring practical examples and real world experience to the often daunting and abstract challenges of collaboration. Showcasing the value that a leading organisation like EY can do in this way and highlighting the ability of a professional like Amy to share this expertise reflects well on the firm.
- DogFoodCon Columbus, OH October 2016: At DogFood Con Amy presented two presentations on the business value of enterprise social and the value of building knowledge communities. Again these presentations showcased EY as a leader in social collaboration and shared practical techniques to advance other organisations work in these areas. Feedback on these presentations showed the continued development of Amy’s influence and her reputation as a leader in the space.
- Microsoft MVP Summit Seattle, WA November 2016: MVP Summit is the highlight of the MVP year with a week long summit with in-depth presentations about Office 365, Yammer and SharePoint. For MVPs this is a chance to get deep into the product roadmaps for key products, to learn about initiatives to come and to connect with each other. Amy also got the opportunity during this week to interact as a subject matter expert with the Yammer Product team as they ran a product hackathon. Taking her frontline expertise and sharing it directly with the product teams to shape their future roadmap is a key opportunity for an MVP and puts them in a great position to assist their organisation to optimise Microsoft’s product implementations.
Being an MVP gives you unique exposure to the work of other MVPs and also the Microsoft product teams. Throughout the year on a weekly and monthly basis there have been updates from the product teams and others in Microsoft on the roadmaps and other opportunities being considered and tackled. MVPs get privileged access to these conversations under NDA in exchange for their contribution to Microsoft’s thinking. It is a rich and valuable mutual learning experience with early warning and an ability to influence future product development highly valuable to Amy in her work.
The global community of MVPs learn from each other. Everyone in that network is looking to push the implementation of the technology to greater levels of effectiveness for their organisations. Amy gets rich connections and early insight into that work is an incredible learning opportunity and a platform for future collaboration opportunities as well.
I asked a few fellow MVPs what they had learned from working with Amy during the year. Their answers reflected my own perceptions and the respect with which MVPs are held in the Microsoft customer base:
“Amy is by far the most practical, value-focused strategist that I’ve seen in social collaboration. She has a gift for inspiring people with the vision and then moving them to roll up their sleeves and get to work realizing the benefits.” – Melanie Hohertz, Cargill
“Through Amy’s insightful and honest public contributions, I learned that EY is a leader in the emerging science of social collaboration. Not only have I gained a better understanding of Enterprise Social Networking and how it can help organizations through Amy’s efforts, I’ve also gained a great deal of respect towards EY as a company on the leading edge of modern business progress.” – Tom Kretzmer, Lubrizol
“Just a few moments of conversation with Amy showed me the heights my own organization could achieve through Enterprise Social Networking; continuing the conversation through this past year showed me that she is a leader to keep an eye on.” Becky Benishek, Crisis Prevention Institute
When you spend a year working alongside someone through communities and events, you develop a strong sense of their values, their approach to others and the way that they approach their work. We all know that these values and approaches are the bedrock of excellence in performance and ability to contribute to others. What comes across to me from my year working closely alongside Amy is her passion for making work and technology solutions better for the people in EY, her deep commitment and energy to making a difference and her generosity in creating, building relationships and helping others. This work is not without its frustrations. What I love about Amy is that she keeps these values front and centre as she tackles the challenges and the successes. Most organisations barely recognise that their people are making contributions to others in this way well beyond the narrow descriptions of their jobs and KPIs. I am pleased to know that EY is different and Amy is recognised for her passion, her contributions and her generosity.
I am incredibly lucky to have got the chance to know Amy better through the MVP program. Because of the work of Microsoft to celebrate her work and her ongoing efforts to share and help others, you get the chance to know her better too. If you’d like to become an MVP, the challenge is to think how you can make this kind of a contribution to others through your work.