Q&A with Teresa Cottam, Research and Publications Director at Telesperience

January 7, 2011

Teresa Cottam shares her views on analyst engagement, industry trends and making the most of MWC 2011.

Q.  Tell us a bit about you:

I’m a gardener – I like to see how the market grows and changes, and I love discovering new technologies or new firms. I’m a market gardener, though – I’m cultivating vegetables, not growing flowers. I’m a practical person and flash new technology doesn’t impress me per se: I always want to know how it solves problems.  I also like to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty by analysing some of the less “sexy” but nevertheless systematic, challenging, endemic or persistent IT and data problems service providers face.

Q. Tell us a little bit about the analyst firm you work for and their interest in mobile technology:

Telesperience analyses software and data challenges facing communications service providers globally. We look at how software and data can increase the operational efficiency of CSPs, their commercial agility and the customer experience they provide. We’re very opinionated – hopefully insightful – and we try to be a little irreverent, quirky and amusing. I believe that if you work in telecoms software and data, you need to cultivate a sense of humour to stay sane. I also think it’s perfectly possible for analysis to be hard-hitting without being boring. We’re very focused on service providers and what they need to know, and we try to be good citizens in the business and operational support systems market.

Q. What’s hot in mobiles and telecoms this year?

Wow it’s such a great time to be in telecoms, and indeed in telecoms software and data. In fact one of the best things about doing my job is that there’s always something new going on.

I expect to see the capacity crunch rolling on as a key issue in mobile this year. Telesperience conducted a piece of research at the end of 2010 and that clearly revealed that QoS is set to become an ever-more important issue for both CSPs and their customers. Our research revealed that the capacity crunch is a very complex business issue and there is no single strategy that will solve it. So that’s great for us, because there’s a lot of scope for analysis and to help service providers solve the challenges they’re facing.

I’m really excited about the impact of mobile in markets like Africa, for example, where it’s not just about the digital lifestyle it’s about the power of mobile to transform people’s lives. When I see what some people are achieving with mobile technology in some really challenging markets it just blows me away – it’s truly humbling.

I also think that personalisation will continue to resonate as CSPs start to get to grips with the practical aspects of becoming customer-centric and the impact that has on their business & operational infrastructure and processes.  I think “social” will continue to buzz, but I’m hoping to see social silos being integrated deeper into the infrastructure and then the benefits we expect to derive from the next stage in “the social story”. Social media can certainly transform the customer relationship, but its effects are more fundamental and its potential far greater than many yet realise. There’s certainly lots for us analysts to get to grips with there!

What will the marketers be pushing at us this year? Well if 2010 was “the Cloud” I think the next big topic is going to be M2M. Data analytics of all kinds will continue to be a big story too. And perhaps more controversially (well I do work in BSS) I expect to see far more focus on billing, charging and payment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say billing will be “sexy”, but I think the industry will start to see some great innovation in tariffing over the next few years.

Q. How many events do you attend each year?

As few as I can possibly get away with! I’m not a great attendee of events any more. Earlier in my career I went to dozens of events each year, but I’m now very picky about what I attend and I prefer to go local if I can.

Q. How many MWCs have you been to? Is you are not there this year but will want to know what’s happening. Any top tips for ARs or Companies planning to engage with you?

A lot – I used to work for Chorleywood Consulting which became part of Informa, so attending MWC was a “three-line whip” for me. I am a judge at the GSMA awards this year, so I really should make the effort to go. Like a lot of analysts I do find that MWC and other big shows are not the best environment to engage with companies. After a while it becomes really difficult to remember any more information, because everything is so very hectic. My advice is to try and understand before the show what the analyst’s key areas of interests are and introduce them to the right people in your company for follow up later. Use the show to begin forming a relationship, or renew contact, and give a sense of who you are and what you’re about.

Don’t try and brief us in detail (unless we request this) because it won’t all go in. Some years at MWC my head literally felt like it was going to explode with all the information I received. Make it easy for us by giving us a card with maybe a couple of bullet points (eg we’d like to talk to you about billing, policy control and the capacity crunch!). Be good at getting back in touch post-show. Don’t expect the analyst to carry lots of paperwork etc – either provide a data key (which is light for us to carry) with all the relevant information, or send the information after the show.

Q. Which event are you most looking forward to?

I’m afraid I don’t really look forward to events as they are a bit of a “trial by fire and water”. I usually have a very heavy calendar to get through and for MWC people start trying to book me up before the holiday season these days. Sometimes though you go to an event and you hear a service provider tell you something that really opens your mind or gives you a new perspective. Or you meet a new company and they tell you something that makes you sit up straight and pay attention. Those moments are gold dust – if somewhat unpredictable – and I guess that’s what we’re all hoping to have at MWC.

Q. What types of companies are likely to attract your attention this year?

We try and listen to just about everyone within our community – BSSOSS. We particularly love talking to CSPs, SIs and consultants and getting their perspectives of what’s important and the kind of practical problems they face. I’m a fairly open person, but the company needs to have done the prep work and have tailored their message to my needs. I don’t care if the company is big or small to be frank: I’m just looking for that great idea that solves the problems I’m seeing our service providers face. The very best ARs I deal with come to me with an angle they know fits with Telesperience’s remit. They don’t waste my time; they know what I need. They’re patient, but they also know when to politely remind me and give me a nudge.

Q. How many interviews do you do per week?

I like to talk to a lot of people, but it depends where I am in the cycle as to who I’m talking to. Some weeks I might do 10 interviews and the next week none. When we’re doing an issue of the podzine, that’s going to be five or six interviews packed into typically two days. I don’t like to go into interviews blind, so I do prep work such as reading up on the company and asking around about them. If I’m interviewing the company I will put a set of questions together to guide the conversation and that can take quite a lot of time to do. Interviewing is therefore a big commitment for me, so I can’t do too many. Sometimes the output may not be immediately obvious for the firm. I’m not going to write about you for the sake of it; but if I like what I hear then that info bubbles away in the back of my head, and I’m going to be positioning you in the right places (e.g. I mention you in the right ears at a service provider who needs your technology and doesn’t know who you are; or I mention your name to investors or SIs etc) and ensure you get in the right story for you.

Q. What’s the best way to pitch a company to you? Email? Phone? Twitter? By mail?

Never phone. My phone rings so much I never answer it any more. Literally I could do 50 calls a day and no “proper” work. I am accessible via Twitter, via LinkedIn groups – particularly the Telesperience LinkedIn Group – and email. I tend to be connected via Skype with people I work with regularly (PRs and ARs) or else they’re in my phone book so I know it’s them ringing. My biggest hint though is to tailor the message. If I’ve just written about the capacity crunch and you come to me with a fresh perspective or angle (eg you might write a comment on my blog or twitter me) then you’re more likely to get my attention than a standard press release. We do make a real effort to rotate the people we work with, so even if I can’t cover you immediately then if I know you then your spot should come around.

Q. Who is worth listening to?

For vendors, please don’t give me someone who can’t answer all my questions! I don’t mind the person saying they don’t know the answer; but don’t send me a spokesperson who isn’t technical or doesn’t know software or data. I’d rather work with someone who is technical but maybe a bit “dry” or not slick, than with a professional spokespeople with “off the shelf” PowerPoint slides. Please do not send me or try to present a 75 slide deck: if you can’t sum up the key points you want to make in say three or four slides then you’ve lost me… I know I’m a nightmare for professional spokespeople because I’m going to interrupt, ask awkward questions and generally be a pain. I’m not aggressive – I always try to keep my sense of humour (see above) – but I am persistent and I do like to take you off your patter to see if you really know your stuff.

I do have a bunch of trusted consultants I know spread throughout the industry who I talk to regularly – they tell me if vendors are selling me a line because they tell me all the problems they face integrating or working with products.

I also love talking to people at the “coalface” such as billing managers, as well as the strategists and business staff. I see a key role of analysts as mediating opinion – that is, opening up debates and helping us truly analyse the problem from a number of perspectives, garnering opinions and hopefully coming up with some insightful information and perspective.

Q. – What’s your favourite blog?

So let me lead you off the garden path a little and suggest some you might not have read before. I like Dylan Jones and the lovely DataQualityPro community (Twitter: @dataqualitypro), including Henrik Sørensen (@hlsdk) and Jim Harris (@ocdqblog). I like Mohit Agrawal’s www.telecomscircle.com.    Comptel’s blog is worth reading as they do some great “round up” pieces on there. And I like Amdocs’ microsite where they put all their OSS articles and content. Of course don’t forget Telesperience’s blog. We recently decided to have guest bloggers on there too, so if you haven’t got the time to run a full-time blog but want to push out the occasional well-thought through piece on BSS or OSS then get in touch with us!

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

Well since we’re talking mobile here, let me declare that I’m a Nokia gal. I love the fact it a) always gets a signal b) is a great phone c) doesn’t break when I drop it. Remember you’re talking to a woman who cannot see the point in paying £500+ for a handbag when pockets come free with trousers.  The most useful freebie I ever received was from the lovely guys over at Telcordia who sent me a cleaning kit for my mobile. I think they know me too well: it’s true, I’m a techno-scruff!

Q.What do you think is the most important development in mobiles and telecoms to date?

I must say that being British I do like to champion the underdog. I think there are some technologies that we totally take for granted that are so very important to make the whole thing work – hence my love for BSS and OSS. With that in mind I have to say that I am in awe of the work the battery guys have done. My first ever mobile needed a car battery and worked for half an hour before needing recharging. When you see those beautiful slimline phones of today, with big colour screens and hundreds of power-hungry apps, you realise what a great job those guys have done. Cerillion’s Dominic Smith told me recently that one of the key takeouts for him from Africacom was how important power was to open up the African rural telecoms market.

I also think the SIM is pretty neat and another thing we take for granted. I heard O2’s Colin Hamling speaking about SIMs recently and he really inspired me. Firstly, because I realised that billing was not the driest subject in telecoms, and secondly because I recognised that we totally take the SIM for granted (actually rather like BSS and OSS) and yet it is a pretty unique technology that has great potential.

Q – What was the best press trip you’ve ever been on? Worst? Why?

I’m actually always grateful to be included in trips and I guess we all have our favourite venues. It’s really nice to be taken somewhere you haven’t been before, but what’s nicer is to spend a couple of days exchanging ideas with clever people in a convivial environment. The funniest trip I ever had was to Madam Tussauds where after talking to a very nice man for a while about billing systems I found I had been conversing with Jean Luc Picard from the Starship Enterprise! I’d just thought he was a bit of a techie and I needed to draw him out a bit… Incidentally I’m hoping that someone will invite me on a trip to coincide with the British Royal Wedding in April. I’d much rather be talking telecoms and I’m keeping the last week in April free if anyone would like to book me up for then!

Q.  What’s your favourite restaurant?

I’m a sucker for Bettys (in York and Harrogate, UK) tea shops. I’ve been to most of the great places to eat in London thanks to my job, but I have to say I’d rather have tea with sandwiches and cakes than something messy like spaghetti, as when I get excited about your technology (as I’m sure you’d like me to be) I have a tendency to start waving my hands around. Blame it on the Italian genes! I am a cheap date. And I’ll eat most sorts of food, so long as it is washed down with real ale.

Q. Are you a social media lover? Which ones are you on? FB? LinkedIn? Twitter?

Yes we love social media, and Telesperience has a lot to be grateful for with regards to social media. We’re on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Telesperience / @TeresaCottam); we decided to bypass Facebook because there are only so many hours in the day.

Q. Tell us something no-one knows about you? Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies/interests? Do you have a claim to fame?

I’m a good cook, I love my family, I try to remain humble and maintain my sense of humour. Most of all, I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to work in a great industry with some really lovely people and learn something new just about every day. To get anything else out of me you’ll need to buy me a pint!

Copyright ©Launchpad Europe 2011. All rights reserved. You may copy and distribute this material as long as  you credit the author where possible; the copies are distributed only for non-commercial purposes and at no charge; and you include this copyright notice and link to Countdown2MWC.com, the original source of the work.

If you have any questions, please contact Launchpad Europe, info@launchpad-europe.com.



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