Are You a Revenue Assurance Muggle, or a Tom Swift Wizard?

datePosted on 15:29, March 8th, 2011 by grapa

The big news this summer has been the release of the last Harry Potter movie. I am not ashamed to admit, that I too, fell in love with Harry Potter and the magical world of Hogwarts. It wasn’t hard for that to happen. I have always been a huge fan of science fiction and sword and sorcery stories.

Those of you of my generation might remember a series of books about a teenager named “Tom Swift”. Tom Swift was the scientific genius son of a scientific genius millionaire father, who went around the world inventing, creating and using dozens of fantastical, futuristic devices.

In each book, Tom would invent and use his amazing devices, fighting off spies, villains and other bad guys while getting the chance to play with the coolest set of toys imaginable. While there are several situational differences between Harry Potter and Tom Swift, the real difference between them was not their situation, but the nature of the ‘magic’ that they wielded.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, or maybe I am just part of that “older generation" who are just not “cool enough” to take new technology innovations for granted, but can you believe this latest generation of telecom technology? You would have to be pretty much dead and buried to not realize that we are in the midst of an evolution of a whole new world, a world where the pretend magic of Harry Potter is replaced by a very real and significant form of magic, delivered through a combination of small, lightweight personal devices and near speed of light telecommunications capabilities. A world where even my grandmother can learn how to run an app.

Let’s face it; the telecoms business was crazy enough ten years ago, when GSM rocked the world. However, the rate of change of telecoms today makes that world look like the Stone Age. It’s time to grow up; it’s the end of Harry Potter and the End of Old School Revenue Assurance. What simply baffles me is the way that so many of those “old school” revenue assurance professionals, like Harry Potter’s “muggle” relatives are clueless as to what is really going on. These revenue assurance muggles stick their heads in the ground and obsess about things that might have been important ten years ago, but today, represent such a small part  of the nature of the real revenue assurance challenge facing us that it makes me cringe.

It’s time to get with it. Trying to do modern revenue assurance, while clinging to the concepts and approaches of even a few years ago, is like trying to get rid of a troll with a ugliramius spell.

US Government Schedules the Extinction of Wireline

Last week Adam our IT guy forwarded a new article to me. This article mentions the US government forecasted and scheduled the elimination of all Wireline phones in the US by, would you believe, 2018. That’s not that far in the future.

The Demise of GSM

How long before GSM, the young, maverick technology that took the world by storm is displaced by LTE, HSPA, UMTS, Wifi and Wimax? – five years? Ten? That is certainly in a very short amount of time. In a world where the very core technology that we work with, and the fundamental business models that drive the success of our businesses changes almost daily, it is difficult for me to understand how anyone can fail to realize how revenue assurance (that is the revenue assurance defined by the GRAPA standards, principles and professional practices guidelines) is turning into the single most critical factor for improving a company’s probabilities of success.

Two Kinds of Companies when it comes to Revenue Assurance

What we are seeing in the telecoms industry, at least from a revenue assurance perspective, is an incredible schism between two kinds of companies.

First, are the companies that continue to cling to the old school view of revenue assurance. These telecom revenue assurance teams have all the classic signs of an antiquated Revenue Assurance environment; KPIs that focus on leakage, Teams that pour unbelievable amounts of time, energy and focus on driving ever more infinitesimal improvements into revenue streams and controls that already cost far more time and money than they are worth.

While these teams focus on making the antiquated, soon to be eliminated revenue streams close to perfect, they blithely ignore the major, survival-critical issues upon which the survival of their companies depended; the rampant deployment of new technologies without adequate AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting) controls, the insane launch of dozens or even hundreds of new rate plans, promotions, bundles and programs with absolutely no attempt at the standardization of “market” or “margin” controls, the investment of millions of dollars in speculative, untested and high risk to revenue hardware and software with no due diligence regarding the billability or assurability of the “bet the bank” business models they are based upon. While these dinosaurs are counting CDRs for the 10th time, and reducing their CDR error rate from .001 percent to .0001 percent, their companies are experiencing multi-million dollar losses due to:

  • Roaming Frauds
  • Bypass Frauds (Simboxes plus so much more)
  • GPRS Billing approaches that cannot be assured.
  • A “bet the bank” confidence in “deep packet inspection” as the magical potion that will solve all IP billing ills
  • The exposure of the company to astronomical risk through the implementation of Mobile Banking systems, and convergent billing systems where the love of “flexible billing models” outvotes the needs for Depending billing results
  • Literally investing in network infrastructure where no one is sure how billing can be done

The New Breed of Revenue Assurance Professional

In dramatic opposition to the old school revenue assurance companies, are those companies that are coming to realize, that the real “payoff” from any revenue assurance investment will come, not by mopping up loose change along the bottom line, but by the way that revenue assurance can add to the “top line."

What the true revenue assurance professional has realized, is that while assuring old and current technologies is important, the real payoff comes when the revenue assurance professional takes the knowledge gained from that exercise and applies it to the “big problems” that CEOs face.

The new-generation revenue assurance professional, while keeping leakage in mind, is focused on bigger game. The very vocabulary of the RA revolutionary is different. They talk about margin controls, market assurance, increasing promotional lift, improving forecast dependability, reducing margin risk, and dozens of other concepts. The modern revenue assurance professional does not sit back and hide behind the old technology and lament “I can’t assure it. It’s not stable.” They do not play the “the Network Engineers are mean to me” card. They are not afraid to open their mouths and make it clear to the CEO when a major program or CAPEX decision bring with it a risk to revenue that none of the people involved has mentioned. And the professional does this like a professional, with facts, figures, method and logic.

Will You Choose Or Will “The Hat” Choose For You?

As a revenue assurance professional, you, like an incoming student at Hogwarts, have a choice to make. You can simply let the situation, and the magical hat that assigns students to a house, tell you what kind of professional you are going to be, or you can, like Harry Potter, tell the hat where you want to go. As a professional, it really is a choice.

Undeniably, revenue assurance is turning into the critical success factor for the 21st century telecom. Indeed, the faster things change, or the more radical the business models get, the more critical it is that we, as revenue assurance professionals up our game, and meet the challenge.

There are colleagues of ours, who are out there blazing new trails and inventing new, exciting and effective ways of getting involved with the bleeding edge of these new technologies, and helping their companies master it more quickly and effectively than ever before.

For each major new challenge that telecoms face in this brave new world, there are newer, better and more effective approaches being developed by revenue assurance professionals to address them.

It’s not easy. It isn’t always fun. And you need to have sharp mind, a lot of self-discipline, patience and a hefty appetite for risk. But there are many people who are making it pay.

Using Your GRAPA Membership To Gain Access

The GRAPA standards, blogs, Linkedin group, websites, social networks, training and certification all provide the revenue assurance professional with a large pool of resources to help the revenue assurance professional develop their career. Our training classes are continuously updated (and I mean monthly), to reflect the latest and most effective approaches to help the revenue assurance revolutionary to success. Margin assurance, market assurance, billing architecture design, learning how to balance “old school demands” with new telecom needs, being more efficient, learning how to increase your scope and effectiveness, better ways to team with operational managers–all come as part of participation in the GRAPA revenue assurance world. It’s an exciting world out there, and I am honored and excited to be a part of it, and I hope that you are too.

If you are one of those people stuck in an “old school” mode of operation, the first step is to start figuring out what you can do about it. Plenty of others have gone before you, and you can too. If you are one of the people lucky enough to be part of the more dynamic, exciting, pioneering environments then, keep at it. There are only good things, more opportunities and better situations to look forward to. Well, that is enough for now. Until next time, this is Rob Mattison saying….Be Safe.

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