January 9, 2017
Precision in Language
One of the reasons that I do this blog is that I love words and how we can put them together in a way that communicates a clear message or argument. Through this lens, I began a review of messaging from a variety of tools in our market. As various companies attempted to communicate value in their product, I realized how much language can be confusing and often misleading. My wife is an educational therapist and apparently the official term is “precise language”. Precise language is a vocabulary of precise nouns and vivid verbs that helps create strong mental pictures and avoid wordiness. A key complement to precise language is concise language, which uses the fewest possible words without sacrificing meaning to make writing more understandable. Finally, effective communication avoids using vague or ineffective words. If you are presenting content, precise language ensures your audience accurately receives the message you are trying to deliver. If you are receiving content, you may have to compel others to use precise language to avoid confusion on your part.
Depends on What Your Definition of “is” Is
One of the most common “value” terms in our market is “real-time”. Everyone claims some level of “real-time” monitoring, but everyone seems to define “real-time” in a different way. Not coincidentally, each definition best matches the company’s perceived value of their tool. Whether the tool will bring value to your organization depends on what your definition of “real-time” is.
The Blogger’s Humble Brag
Last weekend, I won my fantasy football league, so football and football scores and stats are top of mind for me. So, please forgive the overuse of football scores in my following analogies.
I came across language from one UC tools provider that defined real-time in terms of “as soon as the manufacturer made the information available”. For example, if Cisco reported a call statistic, this vendor’s tool would report that call statistic as soon as the platform did. Technically, this data is forwarded in real time, but it bases competitive differentiation on how quickly each tool can regurgitate a snapshot from the manufacturer. This is akin to competing on whether ESPN.com or Yahoo sports updates the latest score first. It can be convenient, but not all that valuable.
In our own product discussions, we talked about using information from the platform on the start and end of time of calls to create a “real-time” dashboard of all live calls. Again, this list would be real-time in terms of all active calls at the moment in time, but it is still very high level. Yahoo sports can show all of the current match-ups in our league. Even if this updated in “real time” at scheduled intervals like each quarter, it would be great at a high level but would not provide differentiated insight into any particular game or player (or UC conversation).
“Real-time” Event Summaries
When I was in business school, I took classes on Monday nights. Since I went to school on the West Coast, during the Fall Semester this meant I was in class during Monday Night Football. If you looked around the classroom, more than half of the screens had the ESPN Gamecast running. The Gamecast would highlight drives with lines on a screen. They would update it whenever a play moved the line of scrimmage one way or the other (as fast as the platform reported it). This was a bit more detail than just the score, but was still pretty high level and dependent on the source. Those lines going back and forth and seeing the final score were all that was available, but they could not replace the drama of listening to or watching many of the key plays live.
I have often differentiated Nectar’s UC Diagnostics module and its probes based on their “real-time” analysis. As I looked around the market, I realized how much of a disservice I was doing to this tool. Real-time is vague and fuzzy and anyone can claim some level of “real-time”. What precise language could we use to effectively communicate the value of probes in a UC environment? I am beginning to settle on “live streaming of active calls”. On my mobile phone, I can watch NFL games live. This live look at the actual game (or replays of key plays) tells me a much better story of what happened in the game. I was in a tight battle for our Fantasy League Super Bowl and had Dez Bryant against the Lions. I was excited to see my fantasy points increase by 6 points, but that didn’t tell the whole story. Seeing my points increment by 6 did not accurately represent the drama of Dez receiving the hand off (would it be a rushing touchdown?) and then throwing the touchdown pass. As “valuable” as it was for me to see how Dez got me those 6 points, consider the Cowboys opponent in the first round of the playoffs. Although the coaching might see some usefulness in a score update showing Dez threw a pass for a touchdown, the real value would be in watching the play and seeing the various factors that led to that successful play. Although stats and scores can provide some detail, scouts and experts can only truly analyze the play or the player by looking at the actual video of the play. Although stats from the platform can provide some value, true correlated diagnostics can only be achieved by looking at a “recording” of the actual packets through the interface.
Precision is Key
So, when you’re evaluating a tool for monitoring, diagnostics, and reporting of your UC deployment, be precise in your language. Will reporting what the manufacturer reports as quickly as they report it be enough? If so, make that the requirement. Do you feel that in depth analysis of how the actual packets traversed the wire will give you the detail you need to effectively troubleshoot those poor UC conversations, then be specific in your requests. Finally, be aware of the precision in the language of the vendors you are evaluating. Based on the words used, are you 100% sure that vendor is providing what you are asking for? If not, ask them to clarify and, of course, be precise.