Prioritize Customer’s Requests Efficiently – Part 3: Decisions

In the previous parts we have done the heavy lifting – got clarity and came to conclusions. In the third and last part we are going to discuss practical prioritization mechanisms and tools. We will also touch sensitive topic how to communicate changes in priorities.

Let’s assume that you have list of clear customers’ requests. You can articulate why they are important and what is the actual need behind the request. They may look like equally important, but they are not. When everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

We need to introduce additional dimension(s) and rank items from our list according them. It is not a rocket science and plenty of tools are available for that. So, here we will touch only tiny percentage of them.

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Book Review: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

I have started new job in September 2020 – after 6 months in a “working-from-home” mode. Some of the questions I was asking myself after signing new contract were:

“Will I be able to connect with my new peers, my manager and feel myself part of the team?”

“How can I connect with company’s culture without meeting people physically?”

These questions are extremely relevant in the modern society. We are becoming more and more lonely, while becoming more and more digitally connected. Paradox. Check out this 30 year vision from SoftBank for more insights on that. It was created in 2010 and their predictions are pretty accurate so far.

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The Fear of Silence or How to Start Listen

I have been in numerous amount of meetings with customers. Long, short, demos and roadmap discussions – you name it. And numerous amount of times I saw the same – some people just could not stop talking. I call it – The Fear of Silence.

Especially, this issue is blooming in sales calls, RFQ defense or roadmap related meetings. It is difficult to calculate how many man-hours are spent annually for useless slides like “Company Introduction”, “Our 100 offices around the globe” and etc. Bragging and pitching how great company or product is. And a lot of talking about a seller and very little about a customer.

Why it is like that? Everybody would agree that we should listen to a customer more, ask questions, collect information. But still, it does not happen often. My observation is that many customer facing people are afraid of silence. They are just simply scared that customer will not answer on a question, will not start talking and awkward silence will fill the space.

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Critical Thinking: Prioritize Customer’s Requests Efficiently – Part 2: Conclusions

In the first part we have discussed what is critical thinking and how to get clarity by asking right questions. It is important to get clear on a problem or request but it doesn’t move the needle. To perform prioritization we need to come to conclusions. In the second part we will talk about how we arrive to conclusions and how personalities affect this process. 

Everybody heard that it is bad to assume and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I believe it is misleading idea and doesn’t help at all. It is very rare situation when the one has all information about a problem or request and doesn’t need assumptions. Moreover if you will wait for all information to be available, you most probably will lose momentum and be late with decisions. We need assumptions the same way we need facts and observations. However, there is a huge distinction between automatic thinking and critical thinking assumptions.

In the end, it is all about premise and its building blocks.

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Book review: Winter road. General Pepelyaev and anarchist Strod in Yakutia. 1922-1923

Beginning of 1922. The Russian Civil War is almost over. Soviet government established on the major part of territory which is soon become known as USSR. The last piece of “old Russia” is Far East with a center in Vladivostok. But its time is running out as well.

Red Army defeated its rival White Army. Ex-officers, ex-soldiers and everybody else who are not welcomed in Soviet Russia are evacuating to all possible directions. Very soon Istanbul, Paris, Berlin and Harbin will become centers of Russian immigration. One of them is my grand-grand-father. He will settle in Manchuria and, like many other his combatants, will train Chinese troops to confront Japanese invasion that will happen in 15 years.

This non-fiction book is about one of many ex-generals Pepelyaev who fought and lost in Civil war. He immigrated to China. After hearing news about anti-communist uprising in Yakutia, he decides to organize last “crusade” against Soviets. He and almost 1000 volunteers will sail to Okhotsk and spend 1 year in deep Yakutian forests. They will fight for their Russia.

On the other side of barricades is commanding officer Strod. He is also fighting for Russia. Just his comrades ideas about world order could not co-exist with ideas of Pepelyaev’s volunteers brigade.

Both sides will suffer from hunger and extreme Yakutia weather conditions. Both sides will kill each other against the background of extraterrestrial Siberia winter nature. People will walk 30 km per day without roads and with -50 degrees outside. People will be on the edge of human body capabilities.

The book is not selecting sides. Instead it is trying to answer what made these people to be so committed to their ideas? What motivated 1000 people to take this suicide journey? How these two antipodes, Pepelyaev and Strod, will communicate with each other?

The book is based on diaries of participants and court records against Pepelyaev and others. It is very well written, I would say one of the best non-fiction books that I ever read. If you speak Russian and like history, I highly recommend it.

Overall score – 5 out of 5.

What is your favorite non-fiction book? Write a comment with your answer!

5G Core: The Battle Plan is Ready

While many of us were working from home during 2020, Mobile Carriers and Telecom vendors were busy launching commercial 5G networks.

Ericsson Mobility Report says that there are more than 100 commercial 5G networks and 220 million 5G subscriptions around the globe.

5G adoption is happening way faster than 4G back in 2009-2010. The same report projects 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions in 2026. 

Source: Ericsson Mobility Report

Majority of launched 5G networks in 2020 are utilizing NSA (Non Standalone Alone) architecture, i.e. existing 4G core network nodes handling 5G RAN and subscribers. (I’m going to write a separate post about architectural differences between 4G and 5G Cores)

2021 is a year of 5G SA (Standalone) networks deployment on a large scale. Some Early Adopters have done that already. Many more to come.

So, what challenges ICT providers and vendors are facing from 5G Core deployment perspective? 

  1. Scalability. Mobile network data traffic grew 50 percent between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020. There is no sign that this trend will change any time soon. Add here much higher 5G Mobile Broadband speed for consumers. A lot of compute and network capacity is required to process this vast amount of traffic.
  2. Elasticity. 5G Core architecture allows now to build highly elastic applications capable for fast horizontal scaling. Infrastructure should support it. It just doesn’t make sense to provision capacity for peak hours traffic as we did it for 3G and 4G Core networks.
  3. Automation. Amount of Network Functions and their instances is so huge, that automation became mandatory requirement. Automated lifecycle and service discovery should be part of infrastructure design.

Hmmm… Sound like Cloud can help, isn’t it? 

Indeed, there was a wave of acquisitions and partnership announcements during 2020:

  1. Microsoft acquired Affirmed networks
  2. Ericsson, Amazon Web Services and Telefonica are building 5G Core together
  3. Nokia and Google Cloud announced strategic collaboration

Key 5G ecosystem players selected partners among Cloud providers. Now vendors should address technical challenge – test, certify and polish 5G Core products on selected platforms.

Commercial challenge is different. Vendors should come up with new pricing model. The legacy one is based on amount of subscribers and hardware capacity, it is not applicable for “pay-as-you-go” Cloud financial model. I’m personally curious to see how 5G Core commercial offer and deal structure looks like.

The battle plan for 5G Core is ready now.

Consolidation of Telecom industry continues. In 4G era there were 7-10 major vendors, today this number shrank to 4-5. So, it is good that new players are coming on board.

What does it mean in long term? 

First of all, Cloud providers are part of telecom world now. They will inevitably influence overall ICT industry path. Check out my previous article to get more insight on it.

Second, we should expect 5G Core vendors start to refactor Telco applications to utilize managed Cloud services. 

Last but not least, we maybe will see All-in-Cloud Mobile providers, like we see it in Banking industry.

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Critical Thinking: Prioritize Customer’s Requests Efficiently – Part 1: Clarity

Any customer facing organization deals with questions, asks and demands coming from customers. Some of them are easy to answer and some of them require investments of time and resources.

How can you prioritize them properly?

In this article I will show you how to use Critical Thinking framework to make your decision making process more efficient. I’ll share with you common mistakes in prioritization and how to avoid them.

Moreover, in many mid and large size enterprises there are two different organizations who are responsible for process of receiving customer requests and prioritizing them.

But how the process of prioritization works? Obviously, some thinking is involved here. But what impacts the thinking? What kind of techniques can we apply to do it more efficiently?

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Book Review: New Sales. Simplified by Mike Weinberg

I have started my career as account manager for Small and Medium Businesses at mobile service provider in Novosibirsk, Russia.

While I was reading the book New Sales memories of that period of my life started to appear in my head.

It was a time full of cold-calls, sales pitches and a lot of leg work. One time per week I visited random business center where 20-30 small businesses were operating. I was going door to door, knock and start a sales call with phrase below:

“Hello, my name is Roman Gorge from XYZ Company. With whom I can talk about you Internet and mobile connectivity needs?”

Sometimes I was asked to leave immediately, sometimes I was lucky to pitch my sales story and find a new customer. There were no PowerPoint slide decks, I even didn’t have a laptop in my bag – only printed materials, my business cards, pen and notepad.

I met all kinds of people during that time – entrepreneurs, IT guys, accounting and business owners. I will never forget this difficult but great experience.

The book New Sales. Simplified provides well structured guidance how to attract new customers. It covers all aspects of prospecting:

  • How to build a sales story
  • How to create finite list of prospects
  • How to execute sales calls and meetings

Here is what I take with me from this book:

  • What is sales-oriented culture and why it is important?
  • Too many times I attended meetings where time was wasted for “Introduction” and “Company Overview” slides, but now I know how first-call deck should look like
  • How to create sales power statement and use it as a tool for meetings, cold calls and emails
  • Best practices for a sales call structure

I’m not in Sales today, but if I will one day, this book will be the first one I read again.

Total score – 5 out of 5.

Check out Reading List 2021. It has some great titles.

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Certification: 2020 results

In 2020 I have cleared 4 technical certifications – AWS Certified Solution Architect (January 2020), AWS Certified SysOps Administrator (November 2020), AWS Certified Developer (December 2020) and AWS Cloud Practitioner (December 2020).

My strategy for preparation was fairly simple – I have used combination of self-paced video course from A Cloud Guru, practice exams from Jon Bonso and AWS public whitepapers.

Total preparation time was 9-10 weeks, in average 1 hour per day. In total, around 70-80 hours.

I’m using Pomodorro technique to track productive time. Picture below is from Pomodorro app that I’m using and shows time investment categories over last 3 months .

60% of total time I have spent on “Technical Training” category which mostly consist of preparations for technical certifications, reading whitepapers and etc. So, it is quite time consuming.

If I will range exams from easiest to hardest, it will look like:

  1. AWS Cloud Practitioner
  2. AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate
  3. AWS Certified Developer
  4. AWS Certified Sysops Administrator

For the next year my targets are AWS Certified Solution Architect – Professional and, potentially, AWS Certified DevOps – Professional exams.