Join the Revenue Assurance Tea Party

datePosted on 04:06, September 30th, 2010 by grapa

I don’t know how many of you have been following politics in the US the past couple of months, but there is a new “revolution” happening called the Tea Party movement. Now, what the “Tea Party” stands for in the US is open to a lot of debate, and we certainly don’t want to talk about that here, but the concept that these people are building on is one that I think is very appropriate for revenue assurance and GRAPA.

For those of you who don’t know the story, the “Tea Party” everyone is talking about refers to an event at the beginning of the American Revolutionary war called the “Boston Tea Party”. It seems that the British rulers decided that they needed more money to run their castles and knighthoods and things, so they figured the best way to do that would be to increase the tax on all tea sold in the American colonies.

At that time everybody drank tea, so this was interpreted by most Americans as yet another expression of arrogance by the British crown.

The result was:

  • A group of Boston colonists got together, dressed up as Native Americans sneaked onto ships in the harbor and dumped out all the tea, making it impossible for the British to collect their tax money.
  • Americans, en masse, decided to stop drinking tea, and started to drink coffee instead. (Now you all know why Americans drink coffee).
  • Eventually, the American declared the revolution and severed ties with their British masters. And so the US was born.

So now, when people talking about have a “Tea Party”, there are two interpretations. For some, a tea party is a fancy sit down affair where people eat pastries and sip from tea cups. For others, a Tea Party is a movement where people take control away from the fat-cats that have been running things, and put things on a more equitable footing.

As a true blooded American and a dedicated revenue assurance revolutionary, I think it is very appropriate to talk about the Revenue Assurance “tea party” that GRAPA is witnessing and participating in.

As unbelievable as it is to me, even though we have been seeing, documenting and participating in this revolution for several years now, there are still lots of people who haven’t heard about it yet. So, if you haven’t heard about it, let me try to help you get caught up, and into the 21st century when it comes to revenue assurance.

The End of Old School Revenue Assurance

In the olden times, (like in the 1990’s and early 2000’s), revenue assurance was a job pretty much dedicated to the care and feeding of CDRs and billing systems. Telco was a simpler, quieter world, and the companies were so profitable and complacent, revenue assurance was a kind of a spectator sport. Revenue assurance was kind of like Cricket. It was something that polite people did on weekends. It took a really long time, but as long as you followed the rules you got some of the results you were looking for.

Well, unfortunately for the “Revenue Assurance Stars” of those times, the telecommunications industry has taken several nasty turns over the last few decades. The dot-com bust, the Enron-Global CrossingMCI scandals, Sarbanes-Oxley, the BT-3G debacle and a host of other course corrections left telecoms in a world much leaner, meaner and more volatile than ever. Almost overnight, the calm, polite, proper way to do revenue assurance, with massive I/T budgets, bone-crushing political turf wars and overall tedium started to get replaced by a completely different animal.

What telcos CFOs, CEOs, auditors and managers started to realize was that they needed a new kind of revenue assurance. They needed revenue assurance based upon flexibility, the ability to change focus quickly, and the ability to assess and manage ALL aspects of revenue and the assurance of that revenue in all of its forms.

And so, the revenue assurance revolution started to happen. This revolution took many forms, but in general there were several main initiatives:

  1. Revenue assurance started to focus on all revenue streams, not just post-paid voice. Revenue assurance quickly expanded to include the assurance of prepaid, roaming, interconnect, data, streaming video, content and all other lines of business.
  2. Revenue Assurance professionals started to expand their technical knowledge to include not just I/T, but network, SS7, SIP, switching, cable, satellite and WIMAX.
  3. Revenue assurance started to expand the meaning of the word assurance. Old school revenue assurance people were satisfied with assuring that all CDRs were delivered safely to the door of the billing system. The new school revenue assurance manager takes a comprehensive view of revenue assurance. That means that revenue assurance is concerned not only with revenue stream integrity, but with margin and profitability, credit and collections, provisioning and activation and all other activities that have an impact on the assurance of the revenue.
  4. As might be expected, the revenue assurance professional stopped being a “lone wolf” type of super secret specialist, and became part of a well – oiled, well integrated team, working in partnership with business managers, auditors, I/T professionals and network engineers in order to help provide badly needed balance and perspective on the ever increasing complexity of modern telecoms.

That is clearly a revolution in every sense of the word, and what we are seeing today is a massive migration of revenue assurance teams into these many different areas.

The net result, is today’s’ modern world of revenue assurance, a world where revenue assurance professionals serve as critical members of the CEO/CFO strategic leadership team. A world where revenue assurance is not the “data janitor” but is, in fact, the “revenue engineer” providing badly needed direction and discipline for the entire telco team.

GRAPA, The GRAPA Standards and The RA Revolution

Ironically or maybe prophetically, the GRAPA organization, and the GRAPA standards and certification programs have been at the forefront of these revenue assurance revolution initiatives. The GRAPA Body of Knowledge requires that revenue assurance professionals understand and be able to assure all lines of business (GSM, CDMA, EVDO, LTE, Cable, Satellite and all the rest), and that they be able to assure not only the revenue streams themselves, but the 360 degree view of those revenues (revenue stream, margin, market, new product development, asset profitability and more).

And GRAPA certification programs provide people with the ability to gain this knowledge, and apply it to specific, tangible and practical situations. A person with GRAPA certification has:

  1. proven that they have worked in at least some of these areas in the past.
  2. proven that they understand how to approach and assure all of these domains.

So, if you are reading this, or listening to this, I guess you will fall under 1 of 2 categories.

  1. You are already a part of the revenue assurance revolution. You are taking part in the redefinition of the revenue assurance job, and in the professionalization of our activities
  2. You were not aware of this trend, and are surprised (and probably sceptical) about what I am saying.

Well, if you are in the first group, then there is a good chance that you have already attended some GRAPA training, or you have at least been involved in our activities.

If you are in the second group, then you are probably wondering if this even makes sense and more importantly, why you should go through the trouble.

I can’t speak for all GRAPA members everywhere, but my guess is that most of the people who get involved in this revenue assurance revolution are doing so for a very simple reason. They want to:

  1. improve their salary and professional growth opportunities.
  2. have more responsibility and respect from management and peers.
  3. be more effective in their jobs.
  4. be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

I know, based upon the testimonial of dozens of revenue assurance professionals, that moving into this exciting new perspective on revenue assurance is accomplishing these things for them.

If you are interested in learning more, than the next steps are easy:

  1. Get a copy of the GRAPA standards from our website.
  2. Find a certified GRAPA professional and find out what they think, and how they did it.
  3. Take a good hard look at the certification programs, the body of knowledge and course content.
  4. Take a look at your own company and situation.

And try to figure out if there is anything of value for you here.

If there is, then, we look forward to seeing you again.

The fact of the matter is that the revenue assurance revolution is happening, and will continue to happen whether we like it or not. Just as in the days of the American Revolution, eventually it will not be possible for you to stay neutral. Sooner or later you have to choose your side.

You can make your “tea party” a sit down event with the Mad Hatter and Alice in Wonderland, or you can take up the banner and throw out the old ways of doing revenue assurance and approach it with a completely different perspective.

Either way, it’s going to be an exciting couple of years, and with that thought, I’ll say goodbye until next time. This is Rob Mattison saying…be safe….

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