Thousand Strong; Commsrisk, Authors and You

This is the 1000th article published on Commsrisk. We have come a long way. The further we traveled, the greater the ambition to venture further still. Starting as the first website to routinely discuss revenue assurance news and opinions, the scope kept expanding, to cover such areas as risk, fraud, cost management and data integrity. Now our range is the greatest it has ever been, encompassing such diverse but connected areas as privacy, analytics, regulation, and the use of customer data. However, it is interesting to reflect on how the journey took us in this direction.

Re-categorizing all the old posts for this new domain yielded an unexpected insight. A surprising number of posts anticipated the themes that now dominate risk management for comms providers. Several articles broached topics like the effect that music and video downloading and streaming would have on business strategies, and the implications for pricing, customer satisfaction, bandwidth and copyright protection. Some of those posts were written when telcos like BT were happy to charge people for fixed line phone calls and internet access. Now BT competes with Murdoch for TV sports rights, and buys mobile networks so it can attract new customers by piping live sports coverage to their smartphone. Other articles identified the potential for increased government control of prices and business models. Now, the US regulator has responded to public pressure by imposing stricter net neutrality obligations, whilst Ghana is thinking of turning the tide of telecoms liberalization by fixing domestic call rates to prevent free market competition lowering prices further.

I know that some readers may have preferred this website to stay tightly focused on operational tasks like the reconciling of CDRs. Commsrisk must and will cover the nitty-gritty of operational assurance; nobody else will do it in the even-handed and objective way we have. However, I am unapologetic about the broader vision of Commsrisk. Those who do not look ahead risk becoming obsolete. This website had all sorts of rivals in the past – where are they now? To thrive, we should move with the times. I have always cautioned against the tendency to hype new sources of revenues and their impact on the business. Nevertheless, it is true that the risk profile of telcos is shifting away from niche technical headaches like assuring the integrity of lots of low-value transactions. For example, we already live in a world where unimaginable volumes of data are collected to track internet users, sometimes for commercial reasons, but not to calculate a bill. The communications sector needs risk and assurance professionals who are fit to deal with tomorrow’s challenges, not just to repeatedly fix yesterday’s mistakes. I believe most of you feel the way I do. The transition to Commsrisk has prompted a rise in the number of visitors and a very positive response on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. I take these as signs that Commsrisk has moved in the right direction.

A broader scope means my role must shift, from writing about risk and assurance to curating content supplied by a wider team of experts. It would be daft to pretend that I know as much about IT security and copyright law as I do about ERM frameworks and FMS vendors. (You might argue that I know too little about all these topics!) Having a revamped website and new brand means Commsrisk can appeal to trusted and respected writers, encouraging them to syndicate their content. This is a key change of strategy. I have always encouraged working professionals to share their hands-on knowledge by writing for the web, and I sought to entice them by offering a larger, better-defined audience than they were likely to find elsewhere. Commsrisk will continue to welcome their contribution. Sadly, I have often been told by decent people that they would like to share an article, but cannot because their employer does not approve. That makes the supply of content erratic, hindering attempts to systematically upgrade the site’s coverage. To deal with this, I have been and will be making agreements to syndicate the articles of writers who already produce relevant content on a regular basis. The key change for them is that their insights will be repackaged for a different audience – this audience. The key change for you is that you will receive more content, of a higher standard, with reliable frequency, from a greater range of experts, without needing to visit many different websites.

I want Commsrisk to become your daily ‘dashboard’ for risk and assurance news. Instead of being caught flat-footed when an exec asks you about some dangers they saw highlighted on the morning TV news, or in a report they received from a consulting firm, I want you to feel confident that Commsrisk will give you a good general understanding of the latest developments in risk and assurance. You can help me to realize this goal, by giving some feedback. This is a brief list of the specialist fields where I am recruiting, or hoping to recruit, new authors to supply syndicated content.

  • Fraud management
  • Security, both technological and physical
  • Billing and payments
  • Intellectual property law

My questions are simple. Which of these subjects would you prioritize? What topics should be added to this list, and covered by Commsrisk more often than before? And is there a writer you regularly follow elsewhere, who might be persuaded to have their content republished by Commsrisk?

It is rare that I directly appeal for comments, because I know that nothing discourages comments than seeing nobody else has yet responded to an appeal for comments! However, I have another important reason to involve you in deciding the direction of Commsrisk. The migration to Commsrisk also involved transferring a vast store of comments associated with all the old posts. Visitor numbers can go up and down, but I have always been heartened by the lively engagement demonstrated by those comments. They contain lots of useful insights, benefitting everyone who reads them. From time to time I chat to people who run other websites, and they impress me by stating how many visitors they regularly receive. However, when I look to see how few comments were left by their readers, I feel proud to write for an audience that may be smaller in number, but interacts a lot more! Because of that, I cannot fail to notice that the number of comments has steeply declined since the transition to Commsrisk. My initial assumption was that this is because I have asked people to change their habits. The new website uses the Disqus commenting system, a cloud-based tool used by top-end publications like newspapers. Has this discouraged comments? If so, I can swap to another comment system, or modify the way Disqus works. But it is hard to know if changes are needed, unless somebody tells me!

Please let me briefly list the benefits that led me to implement Disqus:

  • Many people already have Disqus accounts, and use them to leave comments on websites that rank amongst the most popular in the world. Registered Disqus users can leave a comment on Commsrisk which will be instantly published, without needing to await moderation. Their photo can be shown alongside the comment, and they can easily track responses to their comment.
  • It takes a few seconds for a new user to set up a Disqus account. Users have the option to create new credentials uniquely for Disqus, or they can logon via their existing Google, Facebook or Twitter account. Press any of the buttons to logon or sign-in below, and you will also get the option to create a new account; you do not need to visit another website before leaving a comment here.
  • It is not necessary to sign-in to leave a comment. Everybody still needs to leave a name – which may be a pseudonym, just like comments on the old website. However, if you do not want to access any of the features for Disqus users, just select the checkbox next to ‘I’d rather post as a guest’ after entering your name. The comment will be taken without needing to logon. The only downside to commenting as a guest is that your comment will be queued for moderation before it is published.

The low number of comments on Commsrisk jars with a rise in Commsrisk-related buzz on Twitter and LinkedIn. I suppose if you really do not like the new commenting system, you might want to tell me by tweeting @commsrisk!

I look forward to hearing your feedback. We got to 1000 posts by publishing articles that people wanted to read. The growth in visitor numbers has always been driven by recommendation. I want the next 1000 posts to continue to anticipate your needs – maybe sometimes before you anticipate those needs yourself. Help me to help you, by letting me know what new writing you would like to see on this website. I also want to facilitate a free exchange of information, which means the commenting system should be easy to use, and never an obstacle to interaction. Tell me if changes need to be made.

When coming up with the new brand for the website, I wanted to continue the theme of ‘talking’ to each other. The tagline for Commsrisk is: “the information exchange for communications risk”. Even though the website’s strategy has evolved, the underlying philosophy has not changed: professionals need to share information with each other, in order to do a better job.

Measured by the number of articles, Commsrisk is a thousand strong. You, the audience, are even stronger. If we all work together, we can become stronger still. Please share your views, as we jointly look forward to the next 1000 posts.

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.