Pioneers in Perspective; an Interview with Dan Baker

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dan Baker for his blog at Billing & OSS World. In addition to writing for a leading provider of news for comms providers, Dan is Research Director for TRI, which does market research with a special focus on revenue assurance. As part of that, he recently established the RA Roundtable, a new web-based community. When Dan first approached me, I was initially unsure; when somebody asks me questions, I do not promise to give answers they like! But Dan soon won me over, with his open mind and his in-depth interest in RA. The resulting conversation naturally gravitated towards some of my contrarian views on how to get the best from RA people, and how to keep the best people working in RA. We talked about the pioneering spirit that created RA, and how we still need to hold on to that spirit if we are going to keep improving and keep on pushing back the boundaries. This also gave me a chance to plug the new talkRA book, of course! You can find the interview here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

3 Comments on "Pioneers in Perspective; an Interview with Dan Baker"

  1. Güera Romo Güera Romo | 3 Mar 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Eric, I think you challenge is in getting thoughtful contribution from more spirited people. You are right in saying that some good RA thought leaders are leaving this field because they get bored with the nothing that is happening here. I had the misfortune of reading some interviews and light commercial writing published in the last 12 months and it is stale. I look at the upcoming conference agendas as ask why would I convince the university to pay for that? I don’t have an answer to that but I am surely feeling despondent.

  2. Joseph Nderitu Joseph Nderitu | 8 Mar 2011 at 7:12 am |

    I certainly would agree that RA conferences have become monotonous. Perhaps what is needed is a way to get the RA community deciding the subjects that are of interest. One sometimes wonders how the topics are arrived at.
    I had the good fortune of receiving a call from Informa asking me what topics I would be interested in and I rambled on for the next 2 hours – poor girl was sounding very tired by the time the call ended! Conference organizers may need to do more than asking. A critical analysis of the issues RA people are discussing on the blogosphere, the woes of CSPs and vendors, the trends in regulation…all provide a rich source of matters to discuss.

    I am sure you have attended a conference where the only interesting thing was the coffee break when you actually break the flow of PowerPoint and interact with real human beings. Come to think of it – the formalized agenda may be the problem. We need less presentations and more discussion. Structure constricts. In a discussion, any topic can come up (some people are masters of digression, ahem) and it is up to the people to decide if it is important to discuss it or not. Thus, in my view, a conference should have minimum presentations and more break-out sessions. The PowerPoints can be shared through email. Chances are, you already have the presentation from a presentation that you attended 2 years ago!

  3. I agree that conferences are boring, but I’ll play devil’s advocate and try to see it from the perspective of the conference organizers.

    What’s the most important thing to a conference organizer? That people come. Why? That’s how they make money. Either people pay to come (money!) or they are the kind of people that other people will pay to see and meet (money!). That’s why telco staff feel like they are cheated if they pay and only get to see a lot of speakers from vendors – they pay to receive a sales pitch, even though the vendors have also paid to give the sales pitch (and the more telco staff attend, the more the vendors will pay). So where is the win-win for telco staff?

    The only reliable win-win for telco staff is if they attend an event where other telco staff give info as well as receive info. That’s why the break-out sessions can be better than the presentations. But let’s be honest, we all know that lots of telco staff will happily sit in the audience, listen, and share nothing. They’re not ‘wrong’ to do this (after all, they probably paid to attend) but they give nothing to the other telcos that attend. They give to the organizers, in the form of giving money, and they give to the vendors, in the form of giving them an opportunity to make a sales pitch, but they don’t give to other telcos.

    We can bash conference organizers for doing a poor job, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind making money from hosting an event where every telco employee who shows up also shares something useful. Why should they object to that? If organizers get focused on the agenda – and they do – it’s because they need to create a brochure that convinces people to come. This brochure is most especially targeted at those silent telcos who don’t talk. Vendors will go if telcos go. Telcos that share do so in the hope that others will share like them. Only the telcos that just go to listen are motivated by the agenda, because they expect to sit in the audience and to listen to it.

    Hmmm… this all makes me sound pretty cynical. In short, I’m saying if conferences are poor, then blame those silent telcos who listen but don’t talk. But I’m not 100% cynical. I have seen, from time to time, more informal meetings of telcos where people got into the habit of share and share alike. I do believe in creating communities dedicated to sharing (e.g. this website). Years ago, I even suggested that telco RA staff could club together and run an ‘unconference’ – a share and share alike event that has gained traction in the world of IT; see What happened? It didn’t get a lot of interest. Without the profit motive, e.g. a conference organizer, there was not enough impetus to do it. It seems some of the RA crowd are so focused on measuring revenue streams, they struggle to measure the value of non-monetary flows… like information!

    Anyhow, if some techie people can have unconferences, then RA people might still be able to do it. Obstacles are: (1) distance, and hence cost; and (2) if the average person in RA has as much to share as the average tech-head that goes to their unconference-style events. But I’m guessing that if we’ll ever find the people needed to make an event like this happen – people willing to share and share alike – we’ll find them here. I’ve not stopped looking yet ;)

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