Luxembourg Reprise and a Visit With Some Revenue Assurance Royalty

datePosted on 01:43, February 8th, 2010 by admin

I once again found myself conducting GRAPA training in the pretty little country of Luxembourg. In my world, ending up in the same city twice in the same year is a real bonus. I did not even have to buy a new SIM, I still had top-up on my “Tango” SIM from the last trip. I think Luxembourg with its castles, cobblestone roads and grand homes in the French royalty tradition, more than many European countries, brings to mind the “olden days”. Yes, Luxembourg clearly speaks to the grandeur of old. It would be easy to imagine fine women in billowing gowns, and aristocratic men in powdered wigs walking the streets.

However, I was not here for sightseeing. This time, we had an entire training center full of experienced revenue assurance managers. I really enjoy teaching the Core Curriculum classes. However, when I get a chance to spend a week with a group of experienced revenue assurance managers I really get excited. Just imagine a room full of men of women whose accumulated experience in telecom revenue assurance is over one hundred years. Over a century of expertise was in one room–amazing.

Of course, whenever you get a group of seasoned revenue assurance managers together, you are going to have some differences of opinion. After all, being cantankerous and assertive is clearly how we have all been able to survive this long in our high-pressure jobs. However, several things about this group stood out. When we teach our manager class, we still spend time on technical issues and techniques for revenue assurance, but we spend the major portion of the class discussing those things most critical to managers, namely:

  1. Politics
  2. Staffing and Team Management
  3. KPI’s
  4. Politics
  5. Working with network, billing and customer service
  6. And Politics

It is interesting to sit down and take a good look at where we have come from, and where we are going, in each of our respective groups. The average size of staff for this class was six, with some dealing with startup scenarios and others dealing with departments that have been in existence for many years. This group, like most other groups of managers we have seen had a couple of characteristics in common and that always upset me, to a certain extent. If I were to write a list of some major shortcomings in the typical revenue assurance manager, the list would look like this.

1. Pro bono work

2. Terminal Uniqueness

3. Dirty Laundry

4. The Search for Revenue Assurance Royalty

Pro Bono Work

In the legal profession, there is a special kind of casework lawyers are expected to take on known as Pro Bono work. Pro Bono work is work done by lawyers for free for people who need it, even though they cannot pay. Lawyers are expected to do this kind of work in order to “give back” to the community and to keep their skills sharp.

In the revenue assurance profession, we all have our own versions of pro bono work–like when the CFO asks you to do this or that analysis. Or when the internal auditors ask for your help on a special report or an operational manager asks you to analyze revenue reports because they know that when you look at them, they will be correct.

Do not get me wrong, I do not think there is anything wrong with revenue assurance teams doing Pro Bono work. In fact, I think it is very important they do this. It is critical to our effectiveness and the management of our relationships and marketing.

The problem I see is revenue assurance managers think they have to apologize for doing this work. They assume this kind of work is not in scope, because it does not involve counting CDR’s or building elaborate and often foolish controls over a process that works just fine without.

No, in my opinion, the problem is revenue assurance managers need to stop apologizing for doing this kind of work, and start looking for it, and including it in their scope. The problem goes back to understanding exactly what we are supposed to be doing. If our job is to count CDR’s and spend too much money on ineffective systems and solutions, then yes, this is out of scope. However, if our job is to help management and operational managers to understand their revenue risks and to maximize revenues effectively, then the more pro bono work they do, the better.


Terminal Uniqueness

It never fails to amaze me how many revenue assurance managers walk around convinced the situations they face are unique to them. Class after class, whenever we can get revenue assurance managers to compare war stories, we find everyone is facing pretty much the same problems and addressing them in very similar ways. The problem has been, of course, that “alleged experts” in revenue assurance never talk about the real problems that revenue assurance managers face, because they are too busy trying to convince you:

a) You are incompetent.

b) You cannot do the job without a consultant or software product to help you.

c) All of the real problems you face, and real value you add to the busy “don’t count”.

Dirty Little Secrets 

Every time I hear an revenue assurance manager talking about these “special projects” they do for the CFO or Interconnect manager (or whoever), they always begin sheepishly talking about it. They are actually afraid people (specifically other revenue assurance managers) will think less of them for tackling these kinds of problems.

Looking for the Revenue Assurance Royalty

Ultimately, I typify the situation as a condition where revenue assurance managers are convinced they need to seek out the Revenue Assurance Royalty. They look for the kings, dukes and duchesses of revenue assurance who can bestow the ‘Okay-ness’.

Why do we look for the Royalty? I think that is simple to understand. We work in jobs where we are alone. Nobody understands what we do, or how we do it. We move from network to I/T, billing to call center, sales to accounting and back again with equal dispatch. We call no place home. We have no hierarchy and within our companies, we have no peers. Having no one to fly “high cover” for us leaves us feeling unattached, isolated and unsure of ourselves.

The New Revenue Assurance Royalty

I have to tell you. In the old days at ATT, we had all kinds of royalty. The Telco Management Team was king. Bell Labs did the research and development. Western Electric built the equipment, and the kings and queens of the telco bestowed their blessing upon the employees like the kings and queens of old. In those days, it was not about competence, or effectiveness. It was about genealogy (who did you know) and proximity.

In the modern telco however, the kings and queens are gone. There is no BOM (Billing Operations Manager). There are no Product Managers. Today’s telco, like all other modern businesses is based upon merit and effectiveness, not positioning and sychophantary (kissing up). In the modern telco, it is the revenue assurance manager who survives for more than six months in the job, who develops the trust of operational managers, CEO’s , CFO’s and product developers who represent the real thought leaders.

The “old school” thought leaders of our industry (the people who g
et
paid by over-rich telcos) who sit around and expound on what “revenue assurance should be like in the perfect world” or “how revenue assurance used to be done in the good old days”, are quickly being displaced by the hard-bitten, battle proven revenue assurance pros who know what the game is really all about and survives the many different “trends” we are forced to deal with, while still delivering true, hard value to the firm.

Revenue assurance managers are learning what they need to do to find true royalty in our profession is to either:

a) Look in the mirror

or

b) Get on the phone and call a peer at another pock.

That is exactly what GRAPA is all about. The reason we exist. To help revenue assurance managers come to realize it is, in fact they who are the thought leaders. The biggest problem most revenue assurance managers have, is themselves. They have been so focused on delivering value and fighting the good fight, they have lost sight of the fact that this investment has turned them into something more than what they were. It actually turns them into the very Revenue Assurance Royalty they were looking for.

So the next time you have the urge to feel like, “surely there is someone who can tell me what to do in this situation,” try looking in the mirror. You might be surprised at what you see.

So for me, the week ended, as so many of my weeks do, with a who room full of new friends, associates and colleagues, yet another set of fresh perspectives and of course, and a renewed respect and admiration for the men and women who make revenue assurance work on a daily basis.

Until next time , this is Rob Mattison saying, be safe.

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