The End of talkRA?

Last week I mused on how the reduced market for business assurance means vendors need to consolidate, and how that will force many people to make tough but necessary changes. But I should be no hypocrite. It is no good saying others need to change, without accepting change myself. Six years have passed since fellow talkRA founder Matt Clark first welcomed readers to this website. Including the time spent on my Revenue Protect website, this is my eighth year of blogging about assurance. In that time, the technology has changed, the market has changed, the suppliers have changed, the customers have changed, the people have changed, the requirements have changed, the job specs have changed and even a stubborn git like me has changed (a little). talkRA needs to change as well.

Friends and colleagues know that I have been contemplating the future of talkRA for a while. There are very straightforward reasons why nothing has been done about it. Maintaining things as they are is enough to keep me busy, whilst it is not obvious what kinds of change would be an improvement. What do you think? I know that asking for comments is a sure way to guarantee that none will be received, but in this situation, even the absence of comments will provide useful feedback.

For the sake of argument, here are some options:

  • Follow the technology – revenue assurance was always about having software to scrutinize large volumes of data, so follow the same group of software vendors, as they adapt the evolving technology to offer a wider range of products that address all sorts of new challenges.
  • Risk is the new assurance – more and more of the content is about risk management away, so go the whole hog and start covering the full scope of risk management for comms providers.
  • Keep on keepin’ on – everything is fine, and nobody else offers such good content about revenue assurance, so continue to maintain talkRA the way it currently is.
  • Always leave them wanting more – now would be a good time to bow out and draw the curtains on talkRA. Everything that needed saying has already been said, so quit blogging and let the next generation take over.

What do you think? If you ran talkRA, what would you do?

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.

Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.
  • Daniel Peter

    Eric:
    I would vote for option 3: Keep on keepin’ on.
    As a regular visitor of talkRA, I’m very happy with the quality of the content and there are also healthy debates in articles published that shows the importance of talkRA. So everything is fine.
    Onething I feel is missing is that, coverage about newer entrants (vendors) in this space is on the lower side. I would suggest talkRA should also provide coverage about newer players in this space. The focus as on today — positive or negative — is on the established players like Wedo, Connectiva and Subex. Your previous article http://talkra.com/archives/7638 recommends Oligopoly or duopoly model but those kind of set ups will not be healthy for new entrants and growth of this industry. I would like to see a healthy monopolistic competition in the assurance market and talkRA should also roll-out surveys/ events to strengthen the striving vendors in this market

    • @ Daniel, Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

      You make a good point about covering a wider range of vendors. However, this isn’t something that is solely within my control. When vendors speak to me, I listen. As you know personally, talkRA is a place where vendors can express their opinions, so long as they respect the community by not engaging in blatant marketing. I rarely have problems with vendors who overstep the boundaries (with one notable exception). On the other hand, I know there are plenty of vendors not featured on talkRA, but who follow talkRA. Some have intimated they would like to contribute, but they never get around to doing it. To my mind, that is a mistake, but I cannot force them to contribute. Given the current ratio of vendor input, there is little danger that readers will be turned away by the involvement of more vendors. I would like to see a wider range of vendors being more proactive, using talkRA to engage with the community and give greater diversity of opinion about how to do revenue assurance. But when it comes to running this website, I am an amateur, and I don’t do this profit. The onus must be on the paid professionals to do more to reach out and engage the community.

      When I see vendors paying to have their views promoted elsewhere – often to smaller audiences than that enjoyed by talkRA – I wonder why they don’t do more to engage with our audience. It’s possible that the amateur nature of this site puts them off. If so, I’d rather have a constructive discussion about how to take a small portion of their marketing budget, and spend that on improving this site’s appearance and functionality, than suggest that no compromise is conceivable. Possibly they are fine with appearances, but are put off by my personal views. If that is the case, my only response is that my views dominate if there is a lack of other views presented, so the solution is for more people to put forward a wider range of views. All views are welcome here, so long as there is an understanding that speech won’t be censored in order to block criticism or protect fragile egos.

      When it comes to surveys, I defer to Dan Baker and Black Swan. As a professional researcher, Dan is far more proficient at such things. I’d be happy to share his results on talkRA, but he has the integrity, skills and business model to pursue the collection of research data via surveys. I don’t want to compete with him in that sphere.

      As for events, I am all in favour of those, as hopefully reflected by my involvement in the UK RAG meetings, where I’ve encouraged a wider range of vendors to contribute and tried to boost overall attendance. That event relies on a sponsor, Cartesian, and I am grateful that they permit other vendors to participate for free. As an amateur, I don’t mind playing an organizational role, but I don’t have the business model to pay for, or profit from the running of events. Hence, I’m in a similar situation as with the content of talkRA. For an upgrade to occur, money needs to be spent. I’d be very glad to speak with any vendors who want to see more open, inclusive events that are in the interests of the whole community. I’m genuinely trying to promote win-win activities in this sphere. I believe that vendors would gain more by entering into a form of co-opetition when it comes to promoting their services. They need to promote their individual messages, but they also need to co-operate on promoting an overall message which will reach a larger audience than any individual vendor can reach alone. Perhaps the obstacle is that nobody wants to be first on to an empty dance floor. But if vendors talk to me, I’m sure we can find ways to achieve everyone’s goals, including the goals of existing and prospective customers.

  • Michael Lazarou

    I think all bloggers contemplate closing their site from time to time… That’s a huge discussion but everyone gets saturated…

    In any case, options two and three seem the most appropriate; I doubt there is better RA content online so talkra fills an obvious gap

    • @ Michael, thanks for your feedback, which is always appreciated.

      You’re right that all bloggers contemplate closing their site from time to time. I’ve been doing this a long time, so this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about it! The website will keep going if it’s useful and people gain something from reading it. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, I don’t want to bore everybody by repeating myself over and over, so I’m looking to guys like you to provide the fresh thinking and new perspectives that will continue to engage the interest of the audience.

      One reason for including option two is that it may also be a way to bring in fresh thinking and new perspectives, and encourage some ‘cross-fertilization’ of ideas. But I’m also conscious that if the scope of the content broadens, the website should still serve the interests of the existing readers.

  • Sha’ad H

    I started following RevenueProtect.com and then TalkRA when i just joined telecoms as a revenue assurance analyst. Today after seven years i head the RA team as an Expat in a major telecom’s organization.

    I come from an IT background and have always been a tech Savvy which . When I joined the RA field from a previous IT (from a bank) experience it was all Greek to me. I have been craving for proper training and understanding of what is RA about. I was given basic guidelines but still I could not connect the dots. Being what I am I could not find the fun within what I was doing, not being able to see the bigger picture and understand the very reason RA is there for.

    Along the way I have gone through both GRAPA & TM forum training. I have tried to hook up with fellow RA professionals on social media in anticipation of getting the knowledge, the RA knowledge.

    Reading about revenue assurance and mainly your blogs helped to have an edge on my fellow peers. I think without this blog I would not have been what I am today.
    This blog is where you get insights from all over. It makes you think differently but more importantly it makes you know the opinion of your fellow seniors. The experts.

    Yes, not every time I am agreeable to everything being said but for the sake of this field I say option 3 but with a responsibility towards option 4 for continuity. What I mean is that time will come to pass it on to the next generation but be there for guidance.

    Cheers to this.

    • @ Sha’ad, many thanks for your feedback. It is very encouraging to hear these views from a long-time reader like you.

      In many ways, I think it is good that readers do not agree with everything that is written. How do people reach genuine agreement? By discussion. So there cannot be genuine agreement before the discussion even begins. When people first speak, they will disagree, if they are honest about expressing their opinions. The best possibility for improving our understanding comes from interacting with others, who have different experiences, and different opinions. If we do this, we may reach agreement over time, but it takes time, and there will always be new things to discuss and disagree about. I’ve always tried to run a website where people are welcome to disagree with each other, because that is a better way to learn than to pretend that some were born knowing everything, and the rest of us only learn by following their teachings.

      I think your final point is very important. I’m always looking for the next generation. We need them, not only to keep the discussion going, but to ensure we are always confronted with new ideas. These new ideas are vital, if we want to keep improving.

  • Lionel Griache

    Hi Eric,

    In order of preference, I would vote for #3, #1 then #2. Option #4 would leave too many people frustrated so, before it happens, please reach-out to us, long time readers, and I’m sure you’d eventually find a crew ready to step-up, to make sure the website continues.
    Having a website with real revenue-assurance content is too rare to let go. LinkedIn groups have become so disappointing. They’re only about self-promotion, and so rarely informative. TalkRA is one of the very few places where you can really get the sense of what’s going-on in this industry without the filter of a marketing manager or a commercial director. It needs to go-on.
    If anything, thanks for the reminder that our participation (us, readers) is also a key part in making sure the website keeps on going. Message well received.

    • @ Lionel, many thanks for the words of support. If readers like you want talkRA to go on, then it will.