Conferences, Vacations and Education – GRAPA User Groups

datePosted on 12:21, August 17th, 2009 by admin

How many times have you heard conversations like this?

“Are you going to the IMAZ Conference this year?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“Oh, it’s being held in IBIZA, great beaches, super suntans”

“Yes, but what are they going to be talking about?”

“Oh, you know the usual. A couple of software companies will be trying to sell the same old stuff. Jim is going to give that same speech he gives every year”

“Sorry, the beach sounds nice, but I just cannot get excited about that same old conference routine. Same talks, more than half the speakers do not even make sense. My time is too valuable for that kind of thing.”

“I guess you’re right. I guess I will not go either.”

I am sure most of you have overheard or had this conversation or thought the same things many times over. Yet, despite most people’s opinions about these conferences, they tend to fill up year after year, with more and more people attending. What is the big attraction? Why do people go year after year? I can actually think of several good reasons. These include:

  • It is a break from the routine, a chance to get away on “official” business.

Face it; we all need a break from work (and from our hectic home lives one time or another). Often vacation time (if you can even get some), turns into yet another kind of work. Getting away to a ‘conference’ can be the best breath of fresh air that many of us can imagine.

  • It is a company paid vacation.

I know what you are thinking. I would never try to get my company to pay for a holiday. But, realistically we all do it, and it is certainly part of the allure of conference events. It is a chance to go somewhere different and exciting, fly across the continent or the world, and experience something new.

  • Something to get excited about – the gala ball of the year.

Conferences tend to be like the annual ball, the spring dance or homecoming. They are like a “national holiday” for everyone in the profession. We all need the sense of order and regularity that helps us have a sense of belonging in the universe.

  • The chance to get some recognition.

Who does not need to get out of the same old routine and get away from the same old faces? Who is not tired of working hard, and performing well and performing so many spectacular feats of revenue assurance magic, only to have our peers and managers take us for granted. No, we all need the chance to “strut our stuff” and to show off to people who actually appreciate what we do. Conferences create the opportunity for things like that to happen.

  • The chance to compare notes with peers.

Another major function that conferences provide is the chance to compare notes with others of like mind and skill. It allows us to meet people who we can talk to about new ideas or approaches, sympathize with our unique challenges, or be a sounding board when things seem crazy. The relationships created at these events make this kind of thing possible.

  • They give a sense of professional identity.

Without a doubt, in our highly compartmentalized world, it is very easy to become isolated and feel like we are the only people like us in the world. Conferences provide a critical function in that they help us to understand, identify with and develop a true sense of profession and community. They break down the isolation barriers and increase the professional camaraderie and espirit d’corps.

  • They provide continuing education

Most critically, these events provide us with a badly needed “shot” of continuing education. Where else can we go to feed our own need for input and direction in the world of chaos we live in?

Having a revenue assurance conference is more than just a good idea, it is critical to our success and development as professionals. So what is the problem?

The problem, at least up until now, is that most conferences available to revenue assurance professionals have lacked several key ingredients to make them optimally effective. Oh, they allow us to get some of the benefits, but they leave us far short of the sense that we are getting a good value for the time that we spend (the most critical aspect), and secondarily for the money.

I think there are several reasons for this.

First – conferencing companies, not revenue assurance associations, put on the vast majority of revenue assurance conferences.

That means the people running the event do not really understand revenue assurance, and do not really have stock in your success. These companies put on hundreds of events a year for oil well drillers, lawyers, shopping mall managers, accountants, street merchants and janitors–you name it. Unfortunately, what that means is that they are good at putting on events – but not especially good at revenue assurance. They can’t help it. It’s what they are.

SecondRevenue assurance conferences can fall short on the education and quality of experience dimension. Since these event groups are not actually dedicated professionals, they have no way of knowing if the talks given are quality or bogus. They have no real sense of order, structure or quality. These conferences are more like a game show than an educational event. You show up and hear a random number of speakers talking about a random selection of topics based not upon what is important, but on who is available and is a good speaker.

Third – Legitimacy and value to your business may be questionable. While many of us have been able to convince our management teams that sending us to these conferences is a good idea, it is getting harder and harder to do. The benefits are getting less and less, while the costs keep going up.

Having said all of that, it might come as a surprise to some of you that GRAPA is going to be piloting a new program this year. That is right; we are getting into the revenue assurance conferencing business.

Actually, I do not want to call it a conference, because there are several things about it that are going to be different and we will be calling these events GRAPA User Groups. We call it that because we want people to understand that this is much more like a User Group event than a conference.

The objective of the GUG will be to provide as much of the value and positive aspects of a conference as possible, while minimizing the negatives. So what does that mean? How will we do it?

First, the event will be structured and focused in nature. Topics will not be random. The agenda will based upon the most critical issues and challenges facing revenue assurance professionals today. The agenda will be set by the need to discuss things, not upon the ability to find someone with an easy answer. In other words, it will be based on need, instead of availability.

Secondly, it will be focused on community and sharing. While the basic agenda of a conference is for many people to show up while a handful of people talk down to them, our format will be to encourage interaction and participation at every turn. Our goal is interaction and collaboration not entertainment and lecturing.

Thirdly, we will have a purpose for what we are doing. Getting together at a GUG is not about watching, it is about contributing. Each activity scheduled will be tied to some aspect of the definition and validation of our standards, the development of a common vocabulary and understanding of our profession and the enhancement of the shared knowledge base of all of us –in other words, a continuation of the GRAPA mission to an even higher level.

Fourth – and not inconsequential is the fact that attendance and participation at a GRAPA user group will provide you with recognition. Attendance and participation will earn attendees ongoing continuous education credit towards attaining GRAPA Certification or maintaining your status. In other words, the GRAPA User Group will provide you with a legitimate, measurable, provable quality that can be communicated to management.

For the first time, you can look your manager in the eye and state that you are going to the conference because you really are going to learn something of value that will help the company. There is so much more that I could say about the GRAPA User Groups but we are running out of time. So let me just provide you with some closing thoughts.

The GRAPA User Groups represent an exciting new addition to the repertoire of training, networking, certification and recognition options available to the revenue assurance professional.

These two day events will allow professionals to capitalize on the benefits of a conference (networking, sharing and collaboration, earning recognition, building relationships, education and expanding your horizons) while minimizing the downside (random agendas, unfocused curricula, questionable quality, erratic consistency and massive irrelevancy).

We will be starting out small, piloting limited attendance events in Capetown in October, Dubai in November and Las Vegas in December, in order to get a handle on things, and in 2010 we will be ready to launch the full blown round of events.

The 2010 schedule calls for events in Europe, South America, North America, Middle East, Africa, India and South East Asia. Stay tuned for more information.

And it is not too early to get information now for inclusion in your budget for 2010. I guarantee you, these events will be different, interesting, exciting and educational in a way you have never before imagined. I want to invite you to join us in this exciting new attempt at shaping the future of the revenue assurance profession and the telecommunications industry.

Until next time, this is Rob Mattison saying “Be Safe”.

You can get more information about GRAPA User Groups at or contact us at

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