Leadership, Ownership, and the Technical SME Role

So what’s an SME? An SME is a Subject Matter Expert. This label applies to a person with a very narrow focus of expertise, a niche. Some folks at Microsoft used to describe this as “inch-wide, mile-deep.” The opposite would be more of a generalist, i.e. “mile-wide, inch-deep.”

For years, I’ve been identified as an SME with a focus in Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services as well as the Quest Migration Manager Toolset. I’ve got the certs, and, more importantly, the experience to back that claim.

When working with an organization in transition (divestiture, merger or acquisition) or an Active Directory migration for whatever other purpose, we sell and implement a common toolset – the Quest Migration Manager. Most commonly configured, this toolset is used to read objects from a source environment and synchronize them into a target environment. Depending upon configuration and necessity, this product can synchronize both forward (source-to-target) and backward (target-to-source). It usually has elevated privileges in both the environments to manage objects. There are also safety features which can be overridden, such as synchronization of built-in objects (Think Administrator, Domain Admins, Enterprise Admins, Schema Admins). For most organizations, this would present serious security concerns.

The Quest Migration Manager is a very powerful toolset, which is why Quest Software requires certified (or highly experienced) people to implement it. Typically, this requirement must be met before they allow an organization to purchase licenses.

As a consultant, I understand and respect the capabilities of the toolset. It’s my responsibility to architect and deliver an implementation strategy (and sometimes an entire migration methodology) capable of producing the desired outcome while minimizing risk. In this day of hearing “we have no lab environment to test,” the “measure twice, cut once” credo carries even more weight. Everything is about due diligence.

At Convergent Technologies, it is our responsibility to provide leadership in the form of guidance, recommendations, and management of client expectations to the best of our abilities. The Project Managers I’ve worked with often understand this, but they aren’t usually able to articulate the technical concerns or formulate effective options for the client. They also don’t tend to know when an innocuous activity presents risk.

For example, in one of our current deliveries, we’ve had a few things happen – 1) A Re-IP of the domain controllers in the source and target environments 2) A change of desired Source SMTP proxy address—and, most recently, 3) An undiscussed logon and reboot of the Quest Project Server by one of their systems engineers.

These sorts of changes impact the fundamental operations of the toolset. You could say they put the “FUN” in fundamental. (Sorry, had to…)

Again, as consultants, our job is to guide the client, and sometimes that means calling out bad behaviors because they introduce risk. Most clients, regardless of corporate culture, want the migration to proceed with as little disruption to the business as possible. Even in a relaxed setting, if we identify the behavior(s), a requirement for advanced communication/socialization of upcoming activities, we’ll get the client’s attention and usually gain credibility. They understand we want the best possible outcome as well. We’re not being territorial; we’re being responsible. Our protocol is: Keep communications brief; tell what happened; identify possible risks; describe what the actions should look like moving forward; stick to the point; limit the audience to the offender and the customary technical and project management folks; and if someone has questions or issues with our communication, set a meeting.

This is how I tend to manage situations (and sometimes people) when clients surprise me.

Hope this helps you too!

We here at Convergent Technologies would love to be your partner in change. We’ve assisted many organizations with Microsoft Active Directory projects including assessments, segmentation, consolidation, as well as other forms of migration. How may we help you?