Reflections on WeDo’s Future (part two)

In part one of these reflections, I commented on how WeDo might want to review the positioning of their distributed data gathering technology, and how I do not share their optimism about business assurance practitioners transferring from telcos to non-telco businesses. In particular, I contrasted the generic global push for improved risk management with the much more insular evolution of telco business assurance. In part two, I want to elaborate on more themes that came to mind whilst attending WeDo’s 8th annual worldwide user group meeting (WWUG).

Continuing the theme of the relationship between risk management and business assurance leads to another area where I would like to see WeDo sharpen their proposition. WeDo is sometimes guilty of talking about the path ahead, whilst being fuzzy about the details. Perhaps my criticism might sound harsh. The great Portuguese explorers did not leave their home port whilst holding a detailed map of the lands they were about to discover. Nevertheless, I feel uncomfortable at WeDo adopting the phrase ‘enterprise business assurance’ to explain their offering. I understood the rationale behind business assurance. WeDo’s offerings covered a greater range, and the use of the word ‘business’ made it clear that they were going further, without being too specific as they ventured into new territories. But I am not clear how the word ‘enterprise’ tells me anything further. It is one thing to sail a ship to a foreign shore, to spend some time learning the language of the native people, and then to come back. It is another thing to really spread your reach so you permanently cover and connect new territories. And it can take even longer to learn respect and appreciation for the peoples who were there before you arrived. My personal preference is not that WeDo name a new continent of ‘enterprise business assurance’, drawing a somewhat vague outline of what the coast looks like, but leaving it to my imagination as to what lies in the interior. These days, we are more likely to explore by the air, than by the sea. So even if I do not expect WeDo to have put boots on the ground in every sector of the territory, I would like them to draw the overview map of what lies inside the territory, and to honestly tell me where they have a permanent settlement, and where they intend to go, but have not yet visited.

If you like, you might think of my preference as a modular approach to settlement across the whole of the enterprise. Not everywhere will be settled at the same time. So we should know where to locate the first trading posts, and which will come later. A little vagueness about the future is understandable, but it is important to understand whether we are exploring a land the size of Brazil, or Macau, and whether we have already crossed most of its surface, or if we have only sailed down a river and have yet to tackle the dense forests. I have respect for WeDo’s honesty. They are rightly proud of the value they place on transparency. So in this instance, I would appreciate if WeDo were more extensive in spelling which modules of enterprise business assurance are long-established permanent settlements, which are new and tentative trading posts, and which are areas they hope to visit later. In many ways, this should look like a cross between a geographical map and a mind map. By giving the overview map, it becomes clearer which places are most easily explored first, which come second, third and so on. By doing this, the customer can give more useful feedback on whether they would change the order and priorities for exploration. The employees of the customer also receive a more concrete and realistic vision of what will come in future, helping them to prepare themselves, and to cut the path into new territory so there continues to be a win-win between WeDo as vendor and those departments which use WeDo’s tools and desire the opportunity to expand their reach and tackle new challenges. And this map would also give telco employees the holistic picture of the terrain that would greatly improve their chances of seeing analogies and similarities if they do decide to leave their telco job in order to explore work in a different sector.

Although I want WeDo to provide a modular map of the domain of enterprise business assurance, I do not encourage WeDo to put too much detail into their map, or to get too specific about what belongs in each module. They need to take the continent and think of it as large regions, discussing with customers which regions need to be populated first. They only need to map smaller districts as real work is performed in a region. Priorities will change. Views will differ from customer to customer. If WeDo constructs too rigid a framework, they may put too much investment into areas which yield poor returns, and may miss opportunities to take sensible short cuts to new activities. WeDo needs a plan, but as General George Patton advised, they should prefer a good plan which can be decided upon today, to a perfect plan which will be decided in two weeks’ time. As the circumstances on the ground will keep changing, it is important to strike the right balance. For now, WeDo needs to convey more detail on what it intends to include in the map of enterprise business assurance. But there is no need for a plan which restricts choices that will be made when feet are on the ground, working for the customers who are early adopters of each new module.

Finally, and I recognize that this is a little bit of a cheap shot, but my discomfort with some of the vagueness of WeDo’s talk of enterprise business assurance was made worse by a very slick promotional video shown at their WWUG. In the video, an actor talked a lot about ‘we’, with the conclusion that the members of the audience are not only unique, but they are also ‘wenique’. On one level, I can see that this is an amusing, uplifting and clever play on words. But on another level, it makes me think of perfume adverts. In a perfume advert, a woman is shown walking around, or standing on steps or on a balcony, with a happy or sad or romantic expression on her pretty face. There will be some vague message that implies that if a woman sprays the same smelly water on her neck, then she will become different, and much more special, as a result. The adverts are always inherently meaningless, and try to create absurd emotional connections, because we smell perfume with our noses, but they try to sell the product by stimulating our eyes and ears. In the same way, WeDo’s ‘wenique’ video was trying to sell by accessing one part of our humanity, but not the relevant part of our humanity. We all want to feel special, and we all feel emotions. Telling us we are ‘wenique’ suggests this contradictory feeling of being special whilst also belonging to something bigger than ourselves. But this is not the message I would give to people whilst also saying they should be pioneers who will have to sail across dangerous seas and then beat down the jungles in unexplored new lands. The message that motivates those people is very different. That message is about glory, adventure, rising to the challenge, rolling the sleeves up and getting dirty, suffering some pain and discomfort but it will be worth it because of the sense of accomplishment, pride and reward.

When I think of a pioneer, I want to see a dirty tired man standing alone on the top of the mountain, his face burned from the harsh wind and sun, but standing tall, smiling and joyous as he looks out across a valley below, never before seen by human eyes. And whilst I look at this rugged adventurer, and he looks over the beautiful new lands, we should both hear David Bowie singing Heroes. I do not want to see a smiling, pretty, clean man in a nice tailored suit talking to the camera, saying that we are both wenique. That makes me think of hairdressers, not adventurers. And whilst I recognize that my personal prejudices can never address the vast range of different emotional reactions that people will have from all sorts of different cultures, there is no way around the fact that WeDo is now, primarily, torn between consolidating its position in well-established markets, and pioneering into new markets. Maybe that demands two styles of message, for two kinds of audience. Maybe emotional imagery of pioneers will be counter-productive for some of WeDo’s target customers. But I find a mismatch between aspiring to claim the whole of enterprise business assurance, not just in telcos but elsewhere, and the reluctance to present this as some form of journey, struggle, or endeavour which demands inspiration and perseverance in order to overcome the considerable obstacles in our way. And, of course, when I suggest this, I recognize that WeDo is a Portuguese business which is proud of Portuguese history and culture. That means the emotional associations of explorers and traders setting out on journeys that will take them across the globe is a better and more readily adopted metaphor for WeDo’s vision.

WeDo has executed a very successful business strategy so far, and I know they put a lot of thought into the long-term development of their business. They do this both as a business in their own right, and as pioneers on behalf of their parent group. Thinking ahead and good planning are part of their DNA, so it may seem odd that I find fault by suggesting their is some vagueness in their view of the future. However, my guess is that will not mind my observations. People who like to think ahead do not mind if someone points out spots which we cannot see from where we currently stand, but where obstacles or traps may be waiting for us. As WeDo define their strategy for the future, I encourage them to be true to their pioneering instincts, hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and always open to unexpected opportunities.

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.