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When Words Get in the Way

Telecommunications as a Service is poorly named. Its label gets in the way of an in-depth understanding of what TaaS really is and what it can do for your organisation. Don't let the label stop you looking deeper.

Words matter. I’ve seen huge business cases given the green light and bold initiatives approved because the words used communicated a compelling image. Conversely, I’ve seen good deals blown when too many, often imprecise, words got in the way of understanding and engagement.

Words get in the way of understanding when they close down analysis and stop us delving into what’s really going on. Here’s some commonly misunderstood words to watch out for:

Agile

I hear the word ‘agile’ a lot, and suspect that – for most – it means a methodology IT uses to run teams. Not your problem. But when you really dig into it it encompasses the whole of business – decision making, people recruitment and training, communication, partners and trusted suppliers. Viewing agility as an IT concern means turning your back on a whole raft of opportunities for the business.

Risk

‘Risk’ is a scary, emotive word. But risk is, and always has been, part of our world. It’s not bad or good – it just is. Unmanaged risk, however, is bad, whilst knowing risk and embracing it is a healthy way to transform and grow.

Fail

‘Failure’ is another word that gets in the way of understanding. I think the ICT industry is inherently negative and loves failure. Our gurus are often those who can provide the most in-depth analysis of why things will fail. Those with vision are only held up as positive examples or role models until they fail publicly. This ignores the well known fact that behind every noteworthy success is at least one (and probably a string) of missteps and stumbles. These learnings serve to inform version two, version three, and so on, on the way to success.

Watch out for Shorthand Labels

A lot of times in our industry a label will be attached to something which, while providing a convenient handle for a concept, is also misleading. The label ‘Telecommunications as a Service’ is a case in point. It implies that the thing we purchased and consumed before, i.e. telecommunications, is the same thing now purchased in a different way. It’s not, and thinking about it that way leads you up the wrong mental track entirely.

A better label would be ‘Interaction Capability as a Service’. At least that would encourage us to stop and think about what TaaS really is and what it might mean for us. The reality is that TaaS is very different from traditional “telecommunications,” even though many of the components are the same. We need to view it with a different lens – and as no longer just the problem or domain of the IT department.

The same is true for all the other as-a-Service offerings out there. You need to go beyond the label to understand what capability is available to you and what it means for your organisation.

Don’t Let Words and Labels Get in the Way of Understanding

To sum up, to be really flexible and cost effective (agile) we need to be comfortable with failure; to procure our capability as and when we need it and retire it when we don’t; and to confront and manage risk and welcome people willing to live in a risky world into our organisation. And we need to delve deeper behind words and labels to understand the real meaning and its implications.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.”

 

To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Paul Gordon, on 021 718 190.

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