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What Value Do You Add?

May 8, 2015

Jay, what value to you think a Technical Account Manager adds to an outage call?

I guess it depends on who is causing the outage, us or the client?

Let’s say the outage is the client’s fault. 

Then, the TAM adds no value. 

That’s where you’re wrong. The TAM is the most imporant person on the call. 

We had an outage at work yesterday. It wasn’t our fault. It was a problem on the client side. That means there is nothing I could do to fix it. So, why was I on the call? 

About 5:00pm our help desk supervisor texted me.

Rodney, our queue just went crazy. Can you check with the client and see if anything is happening?

I called my client contact. 

Jerry, We are seeing something going on in our point-of-sale line of business. 

We’re not seeing anything. Can you provide us with some detail?

After a couple of phone calls back and forth to the help desk supervisor and the client it becomes obvious that something, something big is going very wrong.

Rodney, we are spinning up a major outage bridge. I can’t talk now. Send me an email with the address and account number for one of the systems that your agents are working with. 

It’s not unusual for my company to be the first supplier to inform our client of an outage or incident. We set up our own outage bridge call and get all the impacted parties to join our call. That includes account managers, escalation engineers and help desk supervisors at each of our impacted sites. 

There is nothing that we can do to fix this issue. It’s completely a client issue. But, I’m the contact with the client. My job is to be the communication bridge that links our two companies together when we are discussing technical issues. 

But, Rodney. This wasn’t a technical issue. There was nothing that our IT department could address or help with here. 

True, but my role in this case was to communicate. Our client found out about the issue quicker because the help desk supervisor knew to call me. When there were updates from the client on the status, they came to me and I was able to relay that information on the bridge. Without my role, the two sides wouldn’t have been communicating with each other. That is the value I add. 

But, it’s not an IT function you are fulfilling.

You’re right. It’s a “help get our systems back up and running no matter the source of the issue” function. 

My role is hard to define and easy to overlook. But, in the middle of an outage, I’m the person that people look to for guidance in getting back on track. 

Who fills that role in your company? We sometimes call those people “fire fighters,” although a more technical term might be crisis managers. My company has dedicated Incident Managers. These are employees who’s job is to manage an outage. They have the option of pulling any resource from anywhere in the comany to help them address an outage. 

I love our Incident Managers, but when I get on a call with them, I’m the one driving. An incident manager is good at identifying resources and bringing them to bear. But our IMs don’t understand my client, and the client architecture. And they lack one additional trait that I have: a sense of ownership of the relationship. I take it as a personal affront when our systems are down. I helped design this system and the processes. If stuff is broken, I figure it’s my responsibility to get it fixed. 

I “own” it. And that alone is a  pretty big value add

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 

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