One of the greatest aspects of being a solutions architect (or an IT architect in general) is the flexibility in how you can exercise your expertise. A huge part of the solutions architect role at Red Hat is understanding how to architect solutions for various customers, each with individual needs. A solutions architect's flexibility lies in strategizing the right approach to creating a successful implementation or deployment. This does not always place architects on the technical side of the business conversation.
That is where a technical account manager (TAM) comes in. These individuals not only have technical backgrounds and sales knowledge, but they also have the ability to understand an organization's niche technical needs and execute in those specific areas.
If your organization ever faces any of these challenges, you may need a TAM:
- Your team is managing a critical production environment. Unfortunately, an outage occurs, and you want someone who understands the environment to jump in immediately and get the issue fixed quickly.
- Your team gets stuck on a multivendor issue, and you want someone from the vendor to take the lead and drive the conversation towards resolution.
- Your team wants to stay up to date with current industry trends and best practices, information on the latest security issues and fixes, and so on.
- Your team is still new, and you want someone to deliver training and share knowledge to help it upskill quickly.
What is a TAM?
The technical account manager role might be defined slightly differently in different companies, but as the name suggests, it's always a technical role. At Red Hat, TAMs are also Red Hat Certified Engineers (RHCEs).
At many technology companies, TAMs are technical specialists who work for the vendor and serve one or a few customers. They work collaboratively with customers' IT organizations to strategically plan for successful deployments and help realize optimal performance and growth.
TAMs have in-depth knowledge of products and solutions, each customer's unique technical environment, and industry best practices. This allows them to provide proactive advice and guidance to help identify and address potential problems before they occur. Should a problem arise, TAMs engage the right resources to resolve it as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to the business.
TAMs can also help organizations gain visibility into the vendor's current and future products and solutions to plan for and meet their long-term technology goals. Ultimately, the TAM enhances the customer's resources and efficiency in the operational execution of technology initiatives.
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What can a TAM do for your team?
While the role of TAM varies from team to team, these engineers help nurture relationships and provide support, from presales to postsales, to customer organizations. As a customer, you can expect a TAM to work with you in the following key business areas.
A TAM gives you a direct relationship with a senior technical resource with an in-depth knowledge of their technical environment. They can prevent issues before they arise with proactive planning and technical reviews. Should a problem arise, they own the issue and engage the right resources to help resolve it as quickly as possible.
TAMs are often assigned by matching the customer's technical profile with the TAM's product, engineering, and industry expertise. They share knowledge with your team through strategic and operational planning sessions over the phone and at regularly scheduled onsite visits.
With a TAM, you stay informed through a convenient single point of contact. One TAM owns all of your support issues and makes recommendations on system performance for ongoing improvements.
The TAM is uniquely positioned to proactively help you plan the best technical solution that meets your short- and long-term goals and mitigate risks to your current ecosystem. This is because the TAM is a technical partner with knowledge about your ecosystem, as well as access and insight into current industry trends and best practices.
When you're ready for a new technology solution, a TAM provides you with supportability reviews to assess the best course of action and avert issues, according to your needs and environment. The TAM also gives you visibility and access to the latest technology and development plans with product betas and roadmaps.
Together with a TAM, you can confidently deploy the best solution for your needs. TAMs can leverage the experience and best practices of similar industries and infrastructures. They apply that expertise in each unique technical environment to ensure maximum performance and uptime.
When any critical situation arises, the TAM owns the issue, coordinates resources, engages specialized expertise, drives the case's technical direction, and advocates for your needs within the vendor.
When there is an issue involving multiple vendors, your TAM can put an end to finger-pointing and take the lead in the conversation until resolution, regardless of what vendors are involved.
With a TAM's support, you can mitigate risks and improve efficiency with each new deployment.
A TAM can connect you to the vendor's network and relationships. Your TAM is your advocate within the technology vendor and provides links to multiple organizations, including support, product management, and engineering. Your TAM has in-depth knowledge of your technical environment, as well as relationships with other partners in your ecosystem. If a multivendor issue occurs, a TAM is your single point of contact for getting a resolution.
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What business benefits can a TAM bring?
The potential advantages of working with a TAM include:
- Reducing internal IT costs
- Providing guidance on maximizing investment and experience with the vendor's products and solutions
- Supporting a stable environment
- Proactively creating a stable and secure product experience and preventing issues before they arise
- Enabling IT performance and growth
- Providing expertise to execute technology initiatives more effectively and plan for technology and business goals
In 2020, an IT vendor enlisted IDC to assess a TAM's value to its customers. To quantify the benefits of having a TAM, IDC had in-depth discussions with a diverse set of TAM customers around the globe. Their study found that the vendor's TAM customers achieve a 432% three-year return on investment through increased efficiency, productivity, and ability to optimize the performance of the vendor's technology. Also, TAM customers see a two-month payback on the cost of their TAM.
The IDC study provided some TAM customers' feedback on how they work with their TAM, including:
"It is the expertise and guidance that we are getting with our TAM. The ability to get the right people from [vendor] involved when we are upgrading or looking to add new technology. The TAM keeps us up to date on changes to the product lines and is always ready to present or discuss any new initiatives we are looking at or considering."
"[Our] TAM is always available when we need assistance. When we have an issue ... the TAM will manage the issue for us with [vendor]. If there is a major problem, the TAM joins us on a conference call for troubleshooting. The TAM finds the right people at Red Hat to resolve or explain our situation."
These customer quotes represent some common themes of the study: TAMs provide expertise, guidance, and help with issue resolution.
TAMs enhance the overall customer experience
We're entering an age where operations are becoming increasingly digitized. But even in a more digital world, the human side of the process is equally as important.
"As a TAM, your services are a subscription," says Marc Richter, a principal technical account manager, on his experience in the role. The TAM's business value extends beyond their ability to provide proactive support. Their ability to work with teams of front-line support engineers, other TAMs, and solutions architects make them proficient at prioritizing and juggling multiple accounts, and providing more personalized service to the customer.