Summer in Luxembourg; Christmas in Las Vegas

datePosted on 11:28, September 4th, 2009 by admin

I really love my job! Who else gets the chance to go so many different places and meet so many different, interesting, intelligent and talented people?

For the next few weeks, I will be teaching and working in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Usually at this point, I would joke about how my American friends have no idea where Luxembourg is, but I have a feeling that the majority of our GRAPA membership may not know either.

Luxembourg is nestled in the hills between Belgium, Germany and France. It is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of about 450,000 people. It has a duke, and covers only about 1,000 square miles (2600 sq km). They have their own language, Luxembourgish, (a mix of German and French), and the country has recently been declared the “safest place to live in the world”. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the fact that the citizens of Luxembourg are the richest people in the world (the highest income of any nation) and also not too surprising, they have more banks per capita than any other country (with over 220) .

Luxembourg was not always this scene of wealth and tranquility. Most history buffs and movie fans are familiar with Luxembourg and its critical role in the famous “Battle of the Bulge” during World War II. In fact, I am sure that I am staying in the hotel where General Patton and Bradley stayed during a part of that battle.

So what, you may ask, am I doing in such a haven? Well, as usual, I am teaching a class in Revenue Assurance for a group of telco revenue assurance professionals and internal auditors from all over Europe. Our training class in Madrid went so well, that we decided to continue with our European coverage. By the end of this year, I am happy to say, we will have held three successful events in Europe: Madrid, Luxembourg and London.

It is clear that revenue assurance is not only thriving in Africa and the Middle East, but Europe has its own interest as well. Of course, the focus this week, while still covering the basics, has its own unique wrinkles as does every class we put on. This time, the emphasis has turned more and more to the issues of internal audit, IFRS and their relationship to the revenue assurance function.

It is amazing how incredibly complicated things get in our business. The good old days of “revenue is revenue” have been overtaken by oceans of regulations and laws that define what revenue is, what it is not and the myriad different ways that it can be computed, counted, collected and credited depending upon dozens of factors.

Yes, the simplistic revenue assurance professional of yesterday, who could simply count CDRs and let the managers worry about the rest are quickly fading to the background. Today’s revenue assurance professional must be part accountant, part I/T, part operations and part detective.

I am gratified to find that since the publishing of our 2009 standards, the financial community at large, and especially the audit community has responded with enthusiasm to the GRAPA message. Our principles of rationalization, integrity and consensus, and our insistence upon the positioning of revenue assurance as the partner and supporter of internal audit have resulted in a deluge of internal audit interest in training and certification.

In fact, over the next two months we are scheduled to train and certify over 35 internal and external auditors from a wide variety of operating companies and consulting firms across SE Asia, Africa, The Middle East, Europe and South America. This trend is one we hope to continue in the coming months and we are redoubling our efforts to gain official sanction from audit certification organizations so that auditors can get continuing education credit for their attendance at these events.

As well, I have continued my status as a member in good standing with the IIA, the Institute of Internal Auditors. No, I am not planning on defecting and becoming an Auditor. I just think that it is critical that we, as revenue assurance professionals, understand and find ways to work with and support our “brothers and sisters” in the battle to support telco financial integrity and fraud/revenue loss in all of its forms.

You can immediately tell the difference between the RA people and the IA people in the classroom. The Auditors, of course, are wearing conservative suits, ties and well-shined shoes. Their biggest concerns are fraud prevention and determining whether the correct controls and procedures are in place. The RA people are a bit more relaxed and informal, but share the same dedication to detail, completeness and getting to the heart of the problem.

The class started out, as it usually does, with many questions about territoriality and responsibility. “Who is going to be responsible for what,” and other such issues were the first thing we hashed out. After that, the tone of the class changed. We began the journey of discovering that there is more than enough work for everyone, and that territorial squabbles do nothing more than slow everyone down and distract us from the huge job that we face; figuring out how best to assure and secure telecom revenues in this crazy ever-changing world. By the end of the class, everyone agreed that there was a lot more work ahead of them and that by working together, everyone would benefit.

This process of consensus building and the development of a shared, cooperative and proactive vision of how we can all work together to accomplish our goals is a real benchmark of the training classes we deliver, and we hope to be able to continue this activity for some time to come.

For the rest of this year we have already scheduled training and certification events for London, Cape Town, Dubai, Kuwait, Mexico, and Jamaica. We will be finishing off the year with our last event of 2009 in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada.

That is enough rambling for this week. You know, I cannot help thinking about the fact that the people here have so much money, and are so safe, and that one of the reasons they have been so successful, is because they have focused on their own personal brand of revenue assurance. With that thought to inspire me, I look forward to a week of walking down cobblestone streets, passing by castles, farmhouses and picturesque rural vistas on my way to work, and feeling a real sense of safety and assurance–not just because I am in Luxembourg, but because I know that the job that we are doing is helping telcos around the world secure their revenues and improve their profit positions.

Stay safe,

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