A Day in the Life of a Telecom Industry Analyst

If you’re a regular reader of Commsrisk or Black Swan you may be curious how Eric Priezkalns and I got into blogging and writing stories about the risk/assurance business.

Now I’ll admit, Eric and I are rather odd fish: I mean, why would anyone purposely rack his brain trying to make sense of a telecom industry that has absolutely no idea where it’s going?

Well, Eric twisted my arm to write this story about the industry analyst profession, but the truth is I welcomed the idea because I think it is important readers understand what analysts do, and I’d also like to encourage new analysts to get started.

So let’s give it a go, shall we? I think answering a few key questions will take us a long way:

  1. What’s the role of an industry analyst? What value do they deliver?
  2. How does someone become an industry commentator?
  3. What about an industry analyst career? What are the opportunities?
  4. Would I succeed as an industry analyst?

1. What’s the role of an industry analyst?

To begin, it’s worth remembering that the professional jobs inside a telecom operator are constantly evolving. Functions are changed, new ones are added, and many are abandoned as operators try to stay a few steps ahead of their rivals.

Driving all this competition are the solutions: better processes, software, automation, and partnering arrangements — anything from in-house software and cloud apps to fully managed services.

So the operator’s key question becomes: “How can I leverage systems, new processes, services, and strategies to increase productivity and outmaneuver my competitors?” It’s an analyst’s job to monitor this never-ending dynamism in the telecom workplace. And as an impartial observer, an analyst:

  • Publishes how-to and tactical information for telecom professionals.
  • Provides information on solutions — connecting solution buyers and sellers.
  • Enables dialog among industry professionals through magazines, white papers, and conferences.
  • Researches industry trends in the market and produces reports that guide the development of solutions.

By the way, many of services we offer as analysts – such as the articles we post on-line for all to read – are loss leaders. Industry analysts make most of their money on conference services, sponsored white papers, and research reports.

2. How does someone become an industry commentator?

Most industry analysts either work for an established analyst firm (Gartner, IDG, Frost & Sullivan) or they are independents (like me) who carve out our own specialty market to follow.

Now while most industry analysts have little to no professional experience in the telecom niche they follow, Eric’s path is rather unique here because he has a background in risk and revenue assurance at telcos like T-Mobile, Cable & Wireless, and Qatar Telecom.

Telecom has always struck me as a Never Never Land of unfathomable complexity and layers. The comms industry is not one knowledge domain: it’s literally hundreds of domains that are all intertwined.

So how do you close those knowledge gaps? Well, being editor of Black Swan has allowed me to interview many, many smart people, so I basically learn by asking lots of questions. And yes, many of those questions are very basic (or dumb) questions before I get comfortable in a market.

But while an analyst may be a neophyte at the beginning of his research, if his marketplace supports his research effort, he can successfully interview a few dozen experts, then synthesize and interpret that expertise into an intelligence-rich research report.

A good example of that is the 239-page research report I wrote in 2015, Telecom Fraud Management Services, Software & Strategies. The report was sponsored by most of the current fraud management solution vendors. And chapters of the report were read by many people in the fraud management domain. So once an analyst breaks even financially on his research, there’s an opportunity to share findings and other “free stuff” with the larger community.

3. What about an industry analyst career? Are there opportunities?

When you look at the huge volume of free business information available on the web, it seem like the future of industry analysis and industry journalism is pretty grim.

However, that’s not the case. In my view, industry analysts have a very bright future because hundreds of niche professions and solution markets are under-served with market intelligence. In fact, new markets are being created all the time.

To me, a market of as little as 30 or 40 solution providers is sufficient to crank up a new research practice. Generally, telecoms operators have a limited budget for marketing information: that’s why vendor support is so vital.

Bottom line: there’s plenty of room for new independent analysts to step up and become the objective sources of perspective across many telecom niches.

4. Would I succeed as an industry analyst?

Are you interested in becoming an industry analyst? Well, check out the following list of questions I compiled. It’s a kind of self-test to see if being an industry analyst is a fit for you. If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, then maybe you’re ready to take plunge!

  • Debating — Do you love discussing or writing about business and technical subjects? Commenting in on-line forums is great practice for arguing your case in a persuasive way.
  • Curiosity — Are you naturally curious about the telecom world and how it works? An analyst needs to constantly learn by reading and talking to experts. One aspect of the work I particularly enjoy is covering a topic that has not been adequately covered before. Example: I recently interviewed fraud expert Colin Yates on how IPRN databases can give operators an edge in IRSF blocking.
  • Chess — Do you like games of strategy? People who like chess have analytical minds. And there are many other benefits gained from chess as discussed by the American inventor Benjamin Franklin in his 1779 essay, The Morals of Chess.
  • Uncertainty — Are you comfortable not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from? As an independent analyst, learning to manage your cash flow is crucial, but not everyone wants to ride that roller coaster. After 22 years in the business my wife still wonders when I’m going to get a “real job” :- )
  • Reading – Do you regularly read top business publications? Reading well-written journals such as Fortune and the Wall Street Journal trains your ear to recognize good and bad writing. Over time, the copy editor who lives in your head gets trained and automatically tells you whether a sentence sounds good or not.
  • Wordsmith — Do you love the way a story is told? Writing well is about attention to detail: you need to be a bit of a fanatic. Sometimes I’ll spend 30 minutes perfecting the opening paragraph to an article, white paper, or report.
  • Systems — Are you reasonably organized? That’s key because an analyst often has to juggle many balls at once. So it helps if you’re good at developing manual or semi-automated systems that make your operation more efficient.
  • A Tent for the Night — Are you ready to pack up your tent (legacy expertise) and move to new hunting grounds? The telecom industry is highly dynamic, so you need to regularly seek out new research topics where there’s more money and fresh topics to explore. For this reason I recently launched a new publication called Top Operator that addresses the needs of tier 2 and 3 operators in North America.
  • Failure — Have you failed in business before? I’m not talking about a minor failure, but a serious failure. In the late 80s when I first tried to start an independent analyst business, it tanked badly and I had to file for personal bankruptcy. But coming out of such an experience, you learn to think creatively and never stay too comfortable.

Conclusion

Well, I hope you found my discussion interesting. Now if you’d like to learn more about analyst opportunities (and I haven’t scared you away), by all means contact me via email to learn more.

Finally, I know I speak for Eric when I say: we both enjoy our work as industry analysts. Yes, it can be challenging at times, but what makes it all worthwhile are the good conversations, support, and positive feedback we get from operators and solution vendors alike.

Many thanks for your support.

* * *

And it’s now time for a commercial! I’m launching an update to the 2015 Telecom Fraud Management Solutions report that I discussed earlier. I’ve been circulating an email proposal to folks in the vendor solutions space. The mission will be to:

  • Publish a 150+ page market research report in June 2017 that covers the fraud management (FM) market and threat, then profiles the solutions and case studies of research sponsors.
  • Explore the FM solutions: techniques, technologies, strategies and tools that are working… and those that are not working.
  • Analyze market trends giving detailed reasons for our predictions with supporting market size and forecast data.
  • Lower the early bird price of sponsorship to $1,500 so every solution vendor can afford to participate, extending the breadth of the report’s coverage.

There are several other benefits as well. So if you’d like more information about sponsoring this report, by all means shoot me an email (dbaker at technology-research.com) and I’ll send over all the details.

In collaboration with the RAG, we also plan to do an industry survey on fraud management solutions this year, so stay tuned for that.

Dan Baker
Dan Baker

Dan is a founder of the Technology Research Institute (TRI), which has published studies about the telecom software market since 1994.

 

As a journalist, Dan wrote for B/OSS magazine and recorded webinars with VanillaPlus before launching his own publication, Black Swan Telecom Journal.