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I recently experienced a situation that illustrates how a Red Hat Technical Account Manager (TAM) recently provided value to one of our valuable customers. This customer didn’t have a TAM but did have a strong relationship with their account manager. With this in mind, this article is directed towards account managers and customers (technical team leads/Chief Information Officers) as possibly a learning experience.

CIOs or technical leads often find themselves justifying business requirements and asking for more money to procure extra services for their infrastructure. All the while other departments are also requesting that greater slice of the non-existent budget pie. The money has to come from somewhere and if they don't demonstrate value, chances are that next year they will find their budget shrinking, yet the business requirement continues to grow. If this doesn't keep them awake at night, then the behavior of their staff may. Factors such as staff loyalty; their training needs; their motivation levels and their willingness (or unwillingness) to change, to name just a few, may be costing your organization money, time and reputation. Introducing automation and AI (artificial intelligence) into the workplace sounds like a great idea, but is the team up to implementing these changes or can their department afford to bring someone in to help? Again, this is going to cost money and more than likely will have such leaders "clock watching" at night.

It is not uncommon to find modern IT Teams with diluted specialties or skills. Some of these teams operate in around the clock shifts and their CIO or team lead might not have touched a keyboard in battle or anger since Windows 3.11 or Novell NetWare were big. Some specialists may have fallen into their role with barely any IT skills but had strong communication or organizational skills or were simply available. Sounds familiar?

This is similar to a situation that I was exposed to recently: the organization ran a 24-hour shift for their IT specialist; their staff specialty was diluted as they were required to look after storage, switches, perform network monitoring, etc., and they also managed both Windows and Linux operating systems. The problem was highlighted to me one afternoon when their sales account manager approached me to assist him with one of his customer’s technical issues. This organization was operating a Red Hat Satellite Server with a couple of hundred registered servers and it appeared that they had paid for a subscription renewal, yet their Satellite Server was not indicating any. Having previous experience with Satellite, I asked some preliminary questions only for the account manager to stop me short and state that he was not a "techie" and asked me to join a phone call with the customer. "Sure," I thought. "I am always keen to help out a colleague."

While the account manager settled into a meeting room I started to wonder what the issue might have been. Immediately, I thought that the manifest might have needed refreshing, but other possibilities started to run through my mind, such as who in Global Support Services I could communicate with about subscriptions. The phone rang and the customer’s IT specialist answered the phone, introductions were made and the IT specialist spelled out their situation. The account manager had already confirmed that the subscription renewal had indeed occurred and a new subscription period had commenced at the end of the last month (a couple of days before). Within 90 seconds, I started to frown: the terms “manifests” and “certificates” were used interchangeably and it dawned on me that the IT specialist may have been a little out of their depth. I soon established that the Satellite Server was indeed Red Hat Satellite 5.6 and was still connected on Red Hat Network.

On hearing this I sat back and drew breath between my teeth and started to ask questions about whether they were aware of the decommissioning of Red Hat Network at the end of July 2017 (it was now September) and that they should have migrated to Red Hat Subscription Manager. They were aware of the migration, but no one in the organization had made the transition nor picked up on the fact that no new content, errata or updates had been delivered to their Satellite Server for more than 30 days.

I encouraged them to raise a support case to help with the transition and went back to my desk. I found the appropriate article on migrating from Red Hat Network to Red Hat Subscription Manager and also listed the instructions that were required to perform the migration manually and forwarded this to the customer. I also reached out to Red Hat’s Technical Support, quickly found a support engineer through IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and pre-warned them on an imminent support case. As soon as I had a support case number, I requested that the Red Hat Support Engineer contact the IT specialist by phone. The end result was a Red Hat Satellite Server with a new certificate, connected to Red Hat Subscription Manager, with the correct subscription status and a very happy and relieved customer. The period between the account manager approaching me and a resolved situation was a little more than 2 hours. This problem was quickly identified, had appropriate resources assigned and was promptly acted on, offering them confidence that their product was operating successfully.

Red Hat TAMs are a designated senior technical resource who are dedicated to helping organizations maximize their investment in Red Hat solutions. TAMs provide proactive advice and guidance to help identify and address potential problems before they occur. Had this organization invested in a Red Hat TAM, proactive planning could have prevented this situation from occurring. While I wasn't this organization’s TAM, I was able to quickly connect with the appropriate Red Hat technical resources to foster a resolution. As a CIO or technical team lead, having this collaborative relationship working with their organization's IT staff may help them realize their optimal performance and prevent future technical issues. More importantly, this may very well be an instrumental key to developing and fostering a strong strategic relationship with Red Hat, enabling them to concentrate on other aspects of their business. If your Linux infrastructure isn’t performing at an optimal level, or your staff is required to have a very broad range of skills; then a TAM may provide that edge that your business is after. It may also help shoulder that burden of overwhelming responsibility.

Just a note to those who are "clock watching" at night; maybe as a suggestion you could simply set the alarm and put the clock out of visible sight. If you wake up in the middle of the night knowing that it is still dark it is a good hint that you should simply roll over and go back to sleep.

Ché Patterson is a TAM in the Asia Pacific region with expertise in operating systems, communications and systems engineering. Prior to joining Red Hat, Ché formerly worked in a variety of technical and engineering roles and is an advocate of Open Source Technologies.

A Red Hat Technical Account Manager (TAM) is a specialized product expert who works collaboratively with IT organizations to strategically plan for successful deployments and help realize optimal performance and growth. The TAM is part of Red Hat’s world class Customer Experience and Engagement organization and provides proactive advice and guidance to help you identify and address potential problems before they occur. Should a problem arise, your TAM will own the issue and engage the best resources to resolve it as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to your business.

Connect with TAMs at a Red Hat Convergence event near you! Red Hat Convergence is a free, invitation-only event offering technical users an opportunity to deepen their Red Hat product knowledge and discover new ways to apply open source technology to meet their business goals. These events travel to cities around the world to provide you with a convenient, local one-day experience to learn and connect with Red Hat experts and industry peers.