As a Dedicated Support Engineer in Premier Field Engineer (DSE in PFE) I work closely with customers for a set period of time, typically three months, supporting and guiding them with their Microsoft technology projects. I wanted to share with you a recent story surrounding one of my customers and help you understand the benefits a dedicated engineer can offer your IT teams get the most out of their Microsoft products.

Since September 2012 I have been engaged with one of the largest retail companies in the world, providing support and guidance for their migration to System Center Configuration Manager. This will eventually be the solution used to manage and deploy software to all devices found in their stores globally (over 2,500!), so you can imagine the critical nature of such a migration, especially considering the majority of these stores are now in operation 24 hours a day.

The current system used to manage the store systems has been heavily customised to suit the customer, and as a result means moving to a new platform for system’s management could appear as a daunting task. My role as a dedicated engineer specialising in System Center Configuration Manager is to work closely with the customer, understand their requirements and concerns, and build their confidence so that they are sure Configuration Manager is the right move in this instance.

As an engineer the first task on my list was to really understand how these retail devices are being managed to ensure that not only the same level of management is possible with Configuration Manager , but what can be done to go beyond this and improve what’s being done today.

This was the first hurdle I needed to overcome as my customer’s primary IT support function is located in Bangalore, India and I am a UK based engineer. This meant no face to face presence with the customer’s engineers that were doing the day to day management of these store systems, and I really needed to get right down to the nuts and bolts of what’s being done today, which is typically done by sitting closely with the teams responsible for these tasks and watching what they do.

The second hurdle was a lack of confidence within the Indian support team who had evaluated Configuration Manager previously and were concerned about how the product could replace the customised system they use today.

So at the beginning of the engagement I set out two clear goals when working with the customer;

1. Build trust and confidence in Microsoft and System Center Configuration Manager

2. Understand everything I could about the current system, going as deep as possible, but obtaining this information from those that were going to be adverse to change

I spent time with the management team in the UK to review current processes at a non-technical, high level to make sure these would fit with Configuration Manager, and area’s that might require some additional consideration.

To help build confidence, I accepted meetings on times that suited the customer’s Indian support unit to understand what they were doing today and why they were concerned with the move. I extracted as much information as I could, and then built demonstrations in lab environments based on this information to prove to the customer that the same level of functionality and more could be offered with Configuration Manager (and when you are doing technical demonstrations at 0600 hours in the morning you really do need the demo god’s on your side!).

Four months later, armed with information and new found relationships with my customers I find myself boarding a plane to Bangalore, India to get on the ground over there and really start working with my customers support teams face to face, taking this project to next level.

The primary focus for the seven working days I spent in Bangalore was to get the Indian support team hands on with Configuration Manager and have them replicate their current management tasks in our product. I delivered custom training workshops tailored to my customer’s needs, and then provided support and best practise guidance to them as they explored the product and stretched it legs. Everything here was customised, tailored to my customers’ requirements. We weren’t building generic deployment cases, we were replicating exactly what the customer does today so they would have a real understanding of how this would look in the real world.

After the first day the confidence in Configuration Manager was already improving and I found myself getting involved with other parts of the business, helping them understand and envision how Configuration Manager could help their team automate and improve what they do today. As time went on more people wanted my attention and needed to slot in to my already busy schedule, but the confidence was brimming now and it was so pleasing to see the interest in Configuration Manager growing at such a fast rate. Not only had my work helped the customer change their view on adoption of our product, but on a personal level I was able to experience a new working culture, expand my horizons and build some great relationships with the support personnel over in India.

Now I’m back in the UK and raring to help my customer carry on moving forward with this project. The wheels are in motion and the next phase of the migration is already being planned.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for an update in the future. If you are interested in finding out more about a DSE and what we can do for you, have a look here, talk to your account manager, or post a comment below.

Adam Pazik – PFE