Check out the first blog in this series – What’s a TAM?
I’ve known Adam Saint Prix since my first day of work at Atlassian and I don’t want to age either of us, but that was over five years ago! He is one of the most intelligent people I know, and unbeknownst to him, has established himself as an Atlassian knowledge powerhouse. A little over two years ago he was tasked with establishing the groundwork for our Technical Account Management (TAM) offering. Thanks in big part to him, our TAM program hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down since. I thought it was only fair to share some of his TAM experience and know-how with our extended Atlassian family, so I sat him down for a little Q&A.
Q1. Can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do as a Technical Account Manager (TAM)?
A1: As a TAM, I’m an integral part of a customer’s technical project team and serve as the subject matter expert on Atlassian tools. My job is to help customers make good decisions about deploying our products in the enterprise, and make sure they get the most out of their investment in Atlassian.
Q2. What would you say most motivates you as a TAM?
A2: What most motivates me? I find it really motivating to help customers get to that “AHA!” moment, the point where they suddenly realize “This is how I solve my team’s problem.” Especially when it’s something they thought previously couldn’t be solved. I love helping people realize it’s possible to work with a team of people successfully, and have it be enjoyable and not completely dysfunctional.
Q3. What do you find most challenging about being a TAM?
A3: Every day is completely different, and the focus areas for each customer can really vary from week to week, depending on where they are in their adoption of our tools. Also, we cover every product so while I may spend the morning in a strategy session on how best to use JIRA Portfolio, that afternoon I could be doing a JIRA Service Desk demo and then discussing branching strategies for Stash, or plugin evaluation strategies. We do a lot of technical deep dives, but we also have to be able to bring the conversation up and talk strategy, or help a client make the business case for Atlassian in their company. It’s a real mix of skills: sales, technical ability, thought leadership, team management, business acumen, legal issues, security, you name it.
Q4. What’s one of the most challenging projects you’ve had in the last year as a TAM?
A4: It’s enterprise so they’re all really challenging, but there are a few that come to mind right away. The most recent was helping a customer upgrade 18 instances of JIRA over a six week period. Their deployment is complex, with a lot of dependencies, several integration points (other Atlassian apps, third party tools), and to keep it interesting they have a sizable user base of around 50k. Every recommendation we make in that environment has to be extremely well thought out as the scope and impact is on a massive scale.
They’re a fun group to work with, very talented technically, but don’t always have insight into what the best approach is for a given product. As a TAM, our goal is to partner with customers, Atlassian Experts, consultants, or whoever is involved. No one person knows everything, so we play to each other’s strengths and in the end, we’ve had some great outcomes and just finished this complex upgrade.
Q5. What are some of the common customer business challenges you encounter?
A5: Most customers we start working with are looking for help with the fundamentals, things that they need in place before they can really start using the products such as backup and disaster recovery plans, what to do when upgrading from an old product version, approaches for addressing internal security requirements, hardware and software sizing. It’s really common for us to start work on these pre-requisites, but our goal is to get these systems in place so that we can work on how best to use the actual product and talk more about using the products, not just how to set them up.
Q6. What are the goals you most want to accomplish with your customers?
A6: My goal for my customers is really about knowledge transfer and helping them understand how to navigate the Atlassian ecosystem and get the most out of our tools. I think I like working with people who are new the most as they can make the biggest gains, both in terms of how productive they can become, but also because at a certain point, you’re passing the torch and they get to pass on what they’ve learned to their team members. That, for me, is the reason I do this — to help others understand what’s possible with the Atlassian tool set.
Q7. Is there a common pattern that you see successful enterprise customers following?
A7: The most successful enterprise customers we’ve worked with tend to take a long term strategic outlook when working with us. They’re willing to invest, they are well staffed, they understand how to scale infrastructure to support large enterprise deployments, and they come to us to partner and get the expertise they don’t have in house. Over time, they’re able to build that knowledge as we work on implementing not just building blocks, but in some cases doing something that’s never been done before. The most successful teams have also gone through challenges to get where they are. Our team’s goal is to help new enterprise customers focus on their core competencies. Our core competencies are Atlassian tools, and having us to fill in the gap goes a long way to helping those customers be successful.
Join us at the end of the month for another TAM meet-and-greet with Dan Radigan. You may already know him as Atlassian’s Sr. Agile Evangelist. He’s helped many customers become more nimble in their development cultures and is the lead author on The Agile Coach. He also happens to be one of the newest members of the TAM Team!
In the meantime, you can learn more about the TAM program by getting in contact with our team of Enterprise Advocates.