Getting hands-on with the OSS espresso machine

Is there anyone in this room who can go with me to an espresso machine and make a latte?”

That’s what Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz reportedly asked his executive team at a November 2022 meeting, according to this WSJ article. He added: “I don’t think we can fix the systemic problem with the level of lofty knowledge that exists in this room.

There’s an important lesson here for every leader: The insights you need to tackle your company’s toughest challenges? They won’t be found in the cozy confines of your corner office. Rather, they’re hiding in plain sight amongst your frontline staff.”

Jon Picoult


As OSS and BSS builders, we’re creating the user interfaces that are used by the frontline staff… and the people in the background who support the frontline staff. Oh, and all those distant people who make our lives uncomfortable… The ones we call customers.

There are plenty of systemic problems facing the telco industry.

There’s certainly a level of lofty knowledge that exists in the OSS room (and telco more holistically).

Most of us don’t work out of the corner office, but the concept is the same. We could certainly spend more time on the front lines.

And I put myself into this category too BTW, not just righteously pointing fingers at everyone else. I do get the chance to talk with frontliners regularly, but don’t often get the chance to walk in their shoes these days.

It’s been a few years since I last took irate and confused calls on a contact centre or a help desk. It’s been even longer since I put on the high-viz vest and got out in the field to help build physical networks. It’s even been years since I last spent a day solving problems in a NOC (though I have helped set up the systems to support NOC staff more recently).

Interestingly, I do often suggest the value in customers joining me on the front lines at their company before designing their next-generation OSS or solving existing problems. Unfortunately, most don’t see it as being a worthwhile use of time. I understand their perspective of not wanting highly paid resources doing “coalface” tasks. The closest either of us get is interviewing the front liners (which is a valuable exercise in its own right).

But if it’s worthwhile at Howard Schultz’s effective day rate, it’s probably worthwhile for us too.

If you’re designing or building tools for the front-line, I’d encourage you to ponder, when was the last time you used telco’s equivalents of espresso machines (if at all)?

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