Excuse me as I bend over and kiss some vendor butt: ***mwah***. It has been said I beat up vendors too often, but today I want to emphasize how much we need them. They sometimes spend their money poorly (industry surveys that convince nobody, buying rivals that should have been left to fail, producing press content which nobody understands) but we need them desperately. We need them to succeed, so we can all succeed. Without vendors every telco would be duplicating the efforts of every other telco, independently writing the same SQL queries, independently designing GUIs that display the same kind of dashboard, independently making manual test calls. Vendors pool resources, putting money into up-front investments, doing the research and developing the specialized products that makes risk and assurance work more efficient.
Whilst vendors compete with each other, they can also cooperate with each other, for the good of all. There are five vendors who deserve special praise for coming together and financing the common worldwide conference and education program being developed by the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG). They are:
Perhaps Steffen Öftring said it best, when he explained why SIGOS decided to become one of the five annual Foundation sponsors of RAG:
The RAG meetings are a unique forum… The rising participation levels and increasingly global approach highlights the success and importance of these meetings to operators and vendors alike.
Like Steffen said, cooperation is important to both telcos and their suppliers. We need each other. There are not enough risk and assurance practitioners working globally to divide ourselves into many disparate camps. We need to bring all our resources together, into a common worldwide program to educate professionals and boost investment in telecoms risk and assurance.
I know that some will disagree. There are individuals who will feel threatened by the rise of a genuine global education and networking initiative that they do not control. I remember the time when one leading ‘ambassador’ for this profession refused to have his words published alongside the words of experts working for other vendors. He said he would be promoting the work of competitors! It did not occur to him that they would be doing just the same for him. The fruits of this petty strategy speak for themselves: his business has shrunk whilst others have prospered.
The elevation of small-minded people has been holding us back; we need to reward and recognize the individuals who care more about growing this profession than acquiring meaningless titles. The policy of divide and conquer has made us weak; we will only grow strong if we choose to unite and make a common argument for better pay, greater respect, and more investment to support everyone working in every aspect of communications risk and assurance. We cannot afford to let a few individuals fight for supremacy; egos must be put to one side so comms providers and vendors can work together for mutual benefit.
Telco employees have the motivation to work with their peers in other telcos because they know their companies will all be healthier if every customer receives accurate bills and if there is no refuge for the organized criminals that prey upon them. Conversely, the bad reputation of one telco hurts the reputation of others too, and a fraudster who learns how to cheat one telco has probably learned how to steal from many others. For telcos, the desire to collaborate is strong but the price can be too high. They already struggle to get the budget they need. How many of them can also afford to pay attendance fees, pay flights, and pay hotel bills, just to travel to a foreign country and sit and meet with a few other people on the collaborative development of a program which will then be turned into a product that is marketed and sold by the only vendor in the room?
I admire those telcos and individuals who already make sacrifices in order to give to the community, but we need to do better. We need a forum that is accessible by all, and shared with all. That is why these five vendors deserve special praise. They are paying for the most inclusive drive for collaboration that our profession has ever seen. RAG has embarked on a program of running big free conferences that will travel from continent to continent. It is good to bring 10 experts together, but better to bring 100 experts together. Because of the sponsors, many more telco employees will be able to attend these free conferences. Freelance consultants will also get in free. Even rival vendors will get in free. Why would these sponsors pay for this? Because they believe we need the maximum scale to obtain the maximum resources for risk and assurance. We need all of our community to be engaged with education, product development, sharing of best practices, networking, and all the other activities we routinely complain we lack, but which nobody can deliver whilst working alone. These vendors believe we are stronger together. Let us reward them by standing with them.
Earlier this year I wrote a post saying that 2017 is the year we will make the breakthrough that leads to a global education program, or the year we fail and give up hope of future success. To be precise, I said this year would be ‘shit or bust’ for the kind of education program that is fit to provide a solid foundation for our profession. We can bring vendors together to back a common program, but they will not keep pouring cash into our collective effort if they see no reward. I cannot blame them for wanting something in exchange for their money. That is why I am kissing their butts now. Meanwhile, we all need to demonstrate our support, to encourage them and show how many will follow their example by also joining the collective effort.
There are many ways to take part, and to benefit yourself in the process. The RAG conferences are free; your telco gets a better deal by paying for flights and hotels to an event that many people attend. If you cannot travel then contribute your white papers and guidelines to the RAG library. Another alternative to travel is to offer to host future RAG Conferences – if you provide the meeting space, RAG will bring the conference to you! If you have not done so before, then you should definitely join RAG; membership is also free and it means you will receive news relevant to you, as well as showing the sponsors that you agree with what they are doing. If you are already a member then get your colleagues to join as well.
The five annual Foundation sponsors of RAG offer a wide range of products and services but they have something else in common: they are all market leaders. They represent the way forward, which involves healthy collaboration as well as competition. We have seen what happens to our discipline when we allow it to be dominated by the freeloaders and go-it-aloners. The results were not good, for them or anyone else. We have the choice of a virtuous upward cycle, where the rewards for participation increase as more take part, or a vicious downward cycle, where we fight for the largest slice of a pie that keeps getting smaller each year. The five star sponsors of RAG – Cartesian, Neural, Wedo, Subex and SIGOS – have shown the optimism to put their money into our community, pooling their resources for common good. I encourage you to complement their optimism with your own, contributing to the community, helping it to grow, and rewarding them for their efforts. That is the only way to secure the future for our profession.