Global Innovators | Tom Foottit – Enabling Innovation in Performance Analytics


Global Innovators | Tom Foottit |

As telecom and communications service providers look for better ways to increase their network performance, better network insights and the right analytics play an important part in determining the winners.  

Accedian’s performance-analytics-as-a-service platform is a revolutionary innovation that is bringing both modern technology and modern software delivery capabilities to its global set of customers. By adopting DevOps and managing the service for its customers, the company is been able to transform its ability to deliver value for customers.

An amazing Global innovator – Tom Foottit is behind this innovation and is working as the Senior Director of Product Management at Accedian. He speaks with Zia Askari from about his innovative spirit and why it is important for the industry.

How do you define innovation today and why do you think it is important for an organization of your nature?

I think innovation means being able to chart your own course. A lot of organizations spend time following what the competition is doing or chasing trends, but really successful organizations don’t worry about those things, and work instead to move in innovative and disruptive ways.

That is particularly true of smaller companies like Accedian competing in our market against larger players. We can’t differentiate without innovating.

Please share details of your innovation that you are driving or have been an integral part with?

Accedian has a long history of generating very high quality network, service and end user performance data. We saw that our end customers were using older legacy reporting platforms to access that rich data and decided to do innovate and change that.

Instead of building another reporting platform, we developed a performance analytics software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform leveraging modern big data and machine learning (ML) techniques.

Why is this innovation important for your organization and your end customers?

Accedian’s performance-analytics-as-a-service platform brings both modern technology and modern software delivery capabilities to our customers. By adopting DevOps and managing the service for our customers, we’ve been able to completely transform our ability to deliver value for customers.

Traditionally, a similar solution like this would be used by a handful of people in operations and engineering. Now we can bring value from the C-suite to the Network Operations Center (NOC) and right across a customer’s organization.

Different teams, comprising hundreds of employees, can use and customize the insight on networks, customers and services generated by Accedian to improve their business every day.

How did you conceive the idea for this innovation?

This innovation was really a team effort from our Board to our Executive team and R&D leadership. We all realized that we could transform what we do by innovating in how we build and deliver an analytics platform.

If I had to name one individual, I’d thank Peter Griffiths from the Accedian board who championed this idea inside the company. He has been inspiring and also tremendously supportive throughout the process.

Please share details of some of the big or small difficulties / challenges that you faced while carving out this innovation for your company?

Innovation means change, and change is always challenging. While new ways of building and delivering software might have their advantages, it represents a shift from how this was traditionally done in our markets.

We need our sales team and our customers to embrace these new ideas. Early success stories have really helped people see the benefits of what we can deliver.

What does the future hold for this innovation now? How relevant will this innovation be in the coming years? Please share the roadmap for this innovation?

Although our performance analytics-as-a-service solution has been available for 10 months now, we’re really just getting going. We think there is so much more value we can provide to our customers and their end customers by continuing to provide new and innovative ways of looking at data and providing valuable information and insight.

One area that we see this innovation making a real difference is in automation – or what we call in our industry “closed loop automation”. Essentially, rather than providing insight on network, service and applications to people, we provide it to the IT orchestration layer which allows networks to change and adapt automatically. We’ve done proof of concept work here, and I think there is a very bright future ahead.

Please share details of some of the technologies / solutions where you are working on now and from where future innovation is likely to emerge?

Like many industries that rely on data, ours is really going to benefit from machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Beyond the buzzwords though, we can leverage these kinds of technologies to make a transformative change in understanding how networks, services and applications are performing. This is absolutely an area of focus for Accedian going forward.

The Personal Side

Please share details about your family?

I’m married with a teenage son and daughter.

In what way do you think your family helps you in terms of ideating well?

I’d say three things; first watching my family succeed and grow has always been a source of inspiration to me. Second, my family knows that work frequently takes me away for travel, and their support and understanding when I am away makes that possible.

Third is that my wife is a university statistics professor, so she is an amazing sounding board for bouncing ideas about what we do (collecting data and getting insight in to it).

Creating innovation is not that easy – one has to look beyond the horizon, so what are some of the books or tools to innovations that have helped you personally on thinking aloud on innovation?

I don’t have a specific book or tool. My strategy is reading as much as I can, and not just in our industry. I leverage sites likes LinkedIn, Medium, Longform and others for sources of reading material. And one of the advantages of spending a lot of time on planes is you end up having a lot of time to read. I’m convinced being well-rounded helps you think with an open mind, which in turn helps innovation.

Personally what is your way to process innovation so that it can see light of the day?

The way to make sure it sees the light of day is making it relevant for your customers. That means talking to your customers as much as you can, and getting engaged in a true DevOps engagement with those customers; making small changes and iterating in a tight loop. Innovation doesn’t happen in one massive leap, it happens in a lot of small steps, and each step taken with your customer allows you to change and make that innovation relevant to them.