Asking your colleagues to give you AIR

Let me tell you a story. A love story. A story about data. A story about AIR.

On my first OSS project, all the way back in 2000, I was brought in as a network SME. But it was only after getting involved in the data modelling and data migration activities that I really became hooked. I already knew it was possible to get a much better understanding of how the network worked by looking closely at all the network domain data that was available from EMS and NMS. But OSS and BSS take it to the next level. It was only once I started looking at all the domains and trying to figure out how to stitch all the data sets together that I got a much deeper appreciation of the network as a whole.

The cross-domain data and rich cross-linking of data sets was a real eye-opener. But even more exciting (to me at least) was that after the data started to become aggregated, I could ask questions of the network that simply weren’t possible from EMS / NMS alone. And not just questions about the network.

As much as I am Passionate About OSS, the reality is  I fell in love with the data that we assemble with our OSS / BSS and the questions we can ask of it. It also unlocks perspectives on operations, business models, workflows, revenue streams, what’s working (or not) in all parts of the business, and so much more. The awesome thing about getting involved in the data migration activities was that I could ask questions of the data that weren’t constrained by what had been pre-canned, designed into the OSS / EMS / NMS user interfaces or reports. I could write my own queries that traversed any part of the database that nobody had ever thought to link in the GUI.

Fast forwarding to today, this “curious questioning” concept has never been more important. Due to tools like Google and AI chatbots, we now have the power to know almost anything we’re curious about. It’s no longer about raw knowledge or canned knowledge (as baked into OSS UIs). Our ability to excel comes about from the quality of the questions we can ask and our ability to implement. As already outlined in this article, Do you know what the most widely used OSS/BSS application is?, I believe our next generation of OSS GUIs will give more power to users to ask questions and not be constrained by baked-in logic at the business-logic layer of an application stack. The next generation of AI co-pilot applications from companies like Microsoft are sure to see to this. It will be like having an AI-driven powerpoint slidedeck or excel spreadsheet as your personalised, customised OSS GUI.

But today’s story is not just about next-gen OSS architectures or UIs. It’s also about building our “question asking” muscle when dealing with people as well as data.

For many in this industry, I still get the impression that asking questions (especially “stupid” or “novice” questions) is largely seen as a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately (or fortunately??) this is an industry where we have to park our ego. We’ll never know everything there is to know. The more I know, the more I realise I only know the tiniest tip of this iceberg above water that we call OSS. I’m not sure if it’s global warming, but my tip of the iceberg seems to be getting smaller and smaller every day! 🙂  Although in my defence, the OSS iceberg is undoubtedly getting more massive every day.

Let me put it another way. The very best-of-the-best that I know of in this business are incredibly curious. Ravenous askers of questions.

At the risk of looking stupid sometimes, I strongly suggest asking everyone in your network for AIR:

  • Advice
  • Insights
  • Recommendations

And just an extra R for good luck – R for referrals – to ask for, and to provide, AIRR. The immense power of connecting (and being connected) is something that has dawned on me far too late in life (I’m a bit slow on the uptake!!). I’m constantly seeking ways to make referrals / connections for others (thanks Dave!!).

After all, your colleagues are your original ChatGPT. You, dear readers, are my original ChatGPT.  I’m always delighted to receive your AIRR! Please leave a comment below or DM me with any AIRR you wish to share (I’m a poet and didn’t know it!)

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