|The times they are a-changing: Quality versus Quantity at the CMA 2009 conference|
|Written by David Brunnen|
|Tuesday, 24 February 2009 00:00|
Reporting from Day 1 of the CMA's 41st Annual Conference.....
For any speaker at the CMA’s annual conference, facing a sea of predominantly male delegates, it has always been impossible to avoid noticing the gender bias of the telecoms sector.
This year’s event might have given much the same impression in terms of gender count but was entirely different from a leadership perspective. Leadership through the crucial first morning of this 2-day conference was conspicuously in the hands of the sisterhood.
The brisk and business-like analysis of the opening session led by Camille Mendler of Yankee Group, the perfectly-pitched assurances of Ofcom Chairman-elect, Collette Bowe, determined questioning from the floor by Anna Bradley of the Communications Consumer Panel, all served brilliantly to prepare delegates for CMA Chairman, Carolyn Kimber and the launch of the CMA’s Manifesto.
Such was the reception for Carolyn’s speech that she was instantly booked to give it a second reading at a PITCOM meeting later the same day at the House of Lords.
The more-perceptive delegates may also have noticed another quantity versus quality characteristic of this conference in the way speakers (of any gender) used presentational graphics. The distance between the easily comprehended graphical images with powerful messages and the over-laden texts (that seemed only to serve as large-print auto-cues for PowerPoint-challenged presenters) was greater than ever before.
Most, but surprisingly not all, of the Analysts, plus of course Google and the Community Broadband Network, had clearly been inspired to use the technology intelligently, or at least had learned a thing or two about capturing audience attention. This must surely be yet another digital divide. As the best get better and better, the gap in practical IT skills is, judging by the frequent references to generations Y and Z, set to grow even wider we start employing post recessionary graduates.
A third contrast was found in the quality of questions from the floor. Delegate engagement is often what makes the difference between an interesting and a brilliantly informed conference. Sometimes it needs only a simple question – like the chap who, during the ‘Green’ session, quietly questioned the duplication of infrastructures. His remarks, coming hot on the heels of Ofcom’s assertion about their commitment to competition at the deepest possible level of infrastructure, lay bare the issues in a way not previously perceived by business leaders.
If anyone ever doubted the quality of this CMA audience they had only to note the senior functions of those who mastered the floor. If anyone doubted the quality of the speakers they had only to note the tolerance of questions from those who had either not been listening or still harboured child-like addictions to story repetition.
Some presentations seemed to have been written by corporate thought police. When you hear ‘vertical integration’ and ‘application-driven demand’ umpteen times over in a single speech from a functionally separated access provider you find yourself asking ‘Why is he telling me this?’
Another contrast in the conference agenda demonstrated yet again that these changing and challenging times are invoking interesting impacts in unexpected arenas. Devoting the entire second half of the opening morning to Green issues worked remarkably well considering that responding to the recession might seem to have been the highest predictable priority.
Sometimes we need tough times to make us better focussed on cutting out waste. The 30% of energy wasted by less-than-intelligent ICT systems and their air-conditioning is surely a very good place to start. But, suggested David Hardcastle CTO of Redstone, beyond the calls to cut costs there are huge opportunities to use IT systems far more effectively. Here again we seem to need that recessionary kick to rethink and to do what should at any time be blindingly obvious.
Anyone measuring the value of this year’s CMA conference, whether in terms of the agenda, presentational quality, the strength of debate or the gender balance, would have been left in no doubt that the times are indeed a-changing. The last word inevitably goes to Carolyn Kimber for the sharpest link between the roots of recession, regulatory performance and public policy. “Efficient market theory seems to be increasingly recognised as deficient market theory.”