OSS re-write – Terminology

This is the seventh in the Complete OSS re-write series of posts and relates to What language are you using. This series is designed to pose ideas on how the OSS industry could take a Control-Alt-Delete approach to all aspects of delivering operational support, which coincides with the inflection point underway in our industry via technologies such as network virtualisation (eg SDN/NFV) and sensor networks (eg Internet of Things). This series also draws inspiration from the re-write approaches that are disrupting industries such as taxis, music, hotels and many others.

Earlier posts in this series have highlighted the importance of ruthless simplification in OSS, of standardisation and reducing the need for customisation. There’s no doubt that a lot of the complexity we deal with originates upstream of us and we cope as best we can. But we are brilliant at introducing unnecessary complexity within our own domains too, for which there’s no excuse.

It all starts with the language we use. If we look at industries like medicine, lawyers, etc. They’ve been talking the talk for centuries, with their jargon originating in Greek and Roman times respectively.

In the network operations / OSS industry, we struggle with consistency in our most basic jargon and are constantly, and unnecessarily, introducing new phrases for old concepts. Even the most basic terms like services, products and circuits can mean different things to different experts.

I start most large OSS consultancies with an exercise in terminology so that all parties (eg project team, operations, sponsors, vendors, integrators, etc) have a common understanding of our most oft-used terms. On one project, it took the organisation’s senior leadership team (of a telco with tens of thousands of employees) and the OSS implementation team about a week to agree on what a circuit is. It was a ridiculous waste of important peoples’s time, but I was still receiving comments from them about how valuable the exercise was months later and how it was helping to reduce their entrenched miscommunication problems.

The inflection point that is looming for our industry will be introducing a wave of new terminologies, so it is the right time to come up with the “ICT Terminology for Dummies” guide.

So simple. So contrarian. So unlikely to ever happen. The irony is that so much miscommunication awaits the communications industry as a result.

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