Something important dawned on me only recently. It’s fairly obvious that most of us who manage communications networks and their supporting solutions are information workers. As Daniel W. Rasmus declared, “An Information Worker is a person who uses information to assist in making decisions or taking actions or a person who creates information that informs the decisions or actions of others.”

Famed management consultant, Peter Drucker was the first to coin the term "knowledge worker" all the way back in 1959. It was a category used to describe workers who use their own knowledge and skills to generate value in their roles.


Like doctors, lawyers, accountants, IT workers and dare I even say it, influencers, most of the people who manage communications networks are knowledge workers. All of these worker categories rely on their brains and how they gather, then process information. It often takes years of experience to gather information by the truckload, know where to find cutting-edge data and then understand how to interpret it into a form that helps them to make wise decisions consistently.


We don’t associate any of these white-collar roles with tools in the same way we do for blue-collar work though. Builders use hammers and saws. Factory workers rely on the factory’s machinery. Gardeners rely on shovels and lawnmowers. Painters slather on paint using paintbrushes and rollers. None of these types of workers could get their most basic tasks done without tools.


And yet, all of these blue-collar workers also need information. They often need to take on an apprenticeship under a master tradesperson to learn the right ways to use their tools in particular situations. As Tim Denning suggests, “The right information only gets you so far. The right tools get you the rest of the way.”


The major realisation that dawned on me was that knowledge workers almost all rely, not just on their brains, but on tools too. Perhaps almost as much as blue-collar workers. Doctors rely on medical diagnostic devices. Lawyers rely on the legal system. Accountants rely on spreadsheets and ledgers. IT workers on computing devices. And influencers, like almost everyone else in developed societies, rely on their mobile devices.

Despite holding enormous amounts of information in their heads, those who manage communications networks are hugely dependent upon their OSS (Operational Support Systems) (or NMS, EMS, etc).


But you might be asking, why was this revelation so important?


To go back to Tim Denning’s quote – no matter how much information you know, the right OSS should get you the rest of the way. If your OSS is broken or inefficient, you can’t do your job effectively. On the contrary, an advanced OSS can make up for a lack of information or experience by the person using it. Automations are ensuring that the OSS tools do most of the hard, high volume, high complexity work.


Reverting to Daniel Rasmus’ quote – network operators definitely use information to assist in making decisions and take actions. However, sophisticated OSS (and their automations) are responsible for even more of the decisions and actions required to operate our networks.

Since we all have so much reliance on our tools, one may ponder to ask whether the quality and upkeep of the tools have a material impact on performance. A builder’s saw and a gardener’s shovel must be sharpened. Factory equipment must be maintained. Paint brushes and rollers must be cleaned.


In an OSS, it’s the upkeep of data quality, optimisation of workflows / processes, refinement of user interfaces, etc. that are important.

But perhaps the most important consideration is to find the right tool/s for each job, then ensure that all the tools and workers operate together cohesively to make the right decisions / actions. No matter how knowledgeable your OSS information workers are, if any single machine in the network management factory is ineffective or is poorly integrated with adjacent machinery, then the performance of the whole factory is impacted.