Cape Town : My Kind of Revenue Assurance Town

datePosted on 05:31, November 27th, 2009 by admin

There is a famous Frank Sinatra song that goes something like this:

This is my kind of town…
My kind of town,
My kind of people, too.

When it comes to revenue assurance, Cape Town is definitely my kind of town. Our second annual GRAPA South Africa Revenue Assurance Training and Certification event was held at the base of the famous “Lions’ Head” rock. The weather was typical of Cape Town: rain, cold, sunny, warm, windy, foggy, and then sunny again. Cape Town is famous for its erratic weather changes, but that did not stop us from having a productive and intensive five-day dosage of revenue assurance. We had participants from many of the South African telcos including MTN and Telkom, and we had quite a respectable representation from other African companies as well.

Cape Town with its beautiful scenery, nightlife, shopping and incredibly friendly atmosphere is clearly a favorite destination for many Africans. I think any city with a large surfing culture is a great place to hang out and enjoy life. Where else in the world can you sit over a cup of coffee and hear stories about diamond smugglers, gold exporting and the latest FIFA Football competition all in the same conversation?

Deep Forensics and Deep Controls

There is nothing I enjoy more than spending five days with a group of intensely dedicated revenue assurance professionals, hashing out the details of how best to do revenue assurance in diverse operational environments. As usual, there were several points of controversy we needed to work through, and at times, the “atmosphere” in the classroom was as tumultuous as the weather. This time, discussion centered on roaming and the method for containing credit risk when customers who roam on another carrier’s network exceed their credit limit.

Roaming risk is increasingly an area where carriers are losing a lot of money. Carriers around the world have reported tens of millions of US dollars worth of losses due to roaming fraud (internal, external and partner based). It seems that trusting the TADIG and IDREG processes as the “final word” in revenue assurance for roaming revenue can be a serious mistake.

Many people assume they understand the process, but the specifics and details of managing roaming risk can be incredibly complex. The reason is, no matter how well you handle your own credit management and High Usage Report processes, you have no control over what your roaming partner does. Exacerbating the problem is that the GSM Association has been trying to require Near Real Time management of customers and their credit risk, but the number of carriers actually ready, willing and able to implement this aggressive new standard is far from unanimous. The result is that every carrier is maintaining a different level of sophistication and capability when it comes to Roaming Credit management and if you are not careful, you will experience large revenue risks that you did not realize you had.

One solution that GRAPA members are implementing is covered under the concepts of “deep forensics and deep controls”. These terms were created for, and are still utilized in assuring Virtual Network Operations relationships, but we are finding the concepts, controls and approaches are equally relevant to roaming cases. Deep forensics is the process of being aggressively involved in understanding how your partner intends to implement and complement your roaming credit management strategy.

A deep control is a control implemented by the partner and shared with your organization so you can keep current on the shared credit exposure that a roaming relationship represents. (The GSM Association Near Real Time Credit monitoring solution, where the partner sends the actual TAP FILES to the partner, so that the carrier can do its own Traffic, Fraud and Credit risk analysis is a perfect example of this type of control).

After debate and controversy, we were able to develop a better understanding of the different ways to implement these solutions and greatly increase everyone’s understanding and appreciation of the risks and issues they need to address when they return to their own operating companies.

I love this business and I am always impressed with the incredible dedication, intelligence, curiosity and commitment to digging down to the root of the problem that typifies the revenue assurance professional.

Certification, Credential-ization

This week also saw the graduation of another group of certified bachelors of revenue assurance. I am amazed at the rate at which people are being certified, as well as the diversity of people involved–with many people certifying in Revenue Assurance, Fraud and Internal Audit. Our newly instituted standard bank of questions has been “calibrated” and we continue to raise both the bar and our confidence that certification establishes a real value to employers for both existing employees and new hires.

Our new certification tracking pages are posted on the GRAPA site. Certified GRAPA member now have their own personalized home page, showing their membership and certification status, including courses completed, tests taken and grades assigned. (These pages are password protected and available only to the members themselves).

In addition to this news, GRAPA continues to pursue our “credential-ization” efforts. We are negotiating with several universities in Asia, Africa and North America, to offer a sanctioned GRAPA certification for new college graduates. Just imagine a new generation of revenue assurance professionals trained in GRAPA standards at the beginning of their careers! We continue to pursue recognition and verification of the GRAPA standards by a number of global industry certification bodies and work for the acceptance of GRAPA training for continuing education credit with internal audit standards and certification bodies. All of these processes take time, but we are well on the way to accomplishing all of the objectives.

GRAPA has surpassed yet another milestone: 3000 registered members. I never thought we would have that many people. Clearly, the number of people who are getting into revenue assurance is growing along with the rest of the industry. Now, we have set our goals even higher. We have members from over 1300 operating companies around the world and next month we will launch a series of campaigns to increase our membership numbers
a region-by-region basis.

In December, we will make a concerted effort to bring our program to North America with our Las Vegas Revenue Assurance event and our Bundling and Reseller Assurance Town Hall meeting run by our US National Chair John Myers. In January, we will launch our Spanish Language website, blog and translated versions of the standards books available free to our members in Latin America, and later in the year, similar programs will be launched for Northern Asia and South East Asia.

Yes, GRAPA is growing faster than we ever imagined, so stay tuned. So until next time, this is Rob Mattison saying… Be safe.

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