Winning at the Revenue Assurance Game: Who Are You Competing With?

datePosted on 05:03, January 7th, 2010 by admin

No matter where I travel in the world, what airport I happen to be in, or what hotel I am staying at, one thing is guaranteed to be on every television or radio in a public place; sporting events. Football, cricket, golf, Formula One Car Racing–the world is obsessed with sports and competition. And why not? Competition is a good thing…right? What can be more exciting than competition? What else can get your blood pumping and your spirit soaring?

Look at the good things that come out of it. Who is going to be motivated to run faster; a person running alone, or running with others in a race? Why, the person in the race, of course! Seeing a competitor catch up spurs you on to try harder and accomplish more. Of course, competition does not always get us the results that we want. In Germany recently, the big news is the football fraud. Gambling houses have been successfully bribing dozens of football stars to “fix” matches. Competition has also lead to the football violence, and the recent stoning of FIFA players in Egypt. Competition that gets out of control, can result in negative consequences.

Does competition have a role in our professional lives? I know for many people it does. Many of us are in competition for our jobs. Especially in these hard economic times, the world is full of bright young people chaffing for the chance to take our jobs. Obviously, we need to stay aware of what our competition is doing and be competitive to stay in the game. We also have competition within the organization. Different departments, managers, and co-workers are constantly competing for budget, attention from management, to expand their departments, to make things easier for themselves or just to be able to win by making other people do things their way. And as if that wasn’t enough, there is the pressure from the outside. Software vendors, consultants, and others claim they can fix the company and do our jobs better than we do. Man… talk about competitive pressure.

So, the question then is, what do we do about it? Denying competitive pressure in the workplace is a set up for disaster. To go our merry way and pretend competition is not out there is the best way that I can think of to make it easy for others to take advantage. On the other hand, we do not want turn into professional sycophants either. (A sycophant is a person who is professional at “kissing up to the boss” and agreeing with everything he says. In the US, we call them “yes men-or women”.

So how do professionals manage these situations? One strategy is to develop an attitude of aggressiveness–attack before they attack. Being aggressive might win you a few battles, but I think ultimately, it will cause you to lose the war. After all, who wants to deal with a person that is always pushing and insisting they are right. For some revenue assurance professionals, the lack of guidelines, support and the competitive environment results in an attitude of bravado and bluster that may seem arrogant and bossy. In other words, sometimes, RA professionals can be pedantic and didactic. What do those words mean? They mean that the person tends to be “narrow minded with an often tiresome focus on or display of learning and especially its trivial aspects.”

Then we have the other side of the coin with the sweet faced, non-confrontational revenue assurance person. This person does not make many enemies, but at the same time, can be exceedingly ineffective because of their unwillingness to face up to difficult and often emotionally charged situations. As I discussed in one of my earlier blogs, the key here comes in the manner in which the revenue assurance professional perceives the situation and their ability to adapt. Sometimes, the iron fist in the velvet glove is the best approach. Other times, however, especially when serious revenue losses or fraud are involved, the more assertive “in your face” approach is best.

It all boils down to two basic ingredients. First – revenue assurance is primarily about politics. It is about people, their situations, their idiosyncrasies and the limitations they face in so many high- pressure-impossible-to-win situations. Secondly – it is about sensitivity and being aware of, and sensitive to the nature of the problems, the severity of the challenge and the conditions that generated the problem in the first place. But, in the chaotic ever-changing world of telecoms, how can the professional hope to walk this thin line between gentleness and firmness?

This is where competition and standards come in. What makes it possible for people to enjoy sports? What makes a sporting event interesting, without becoming a free-for-all, gang war each time two teams meet on the field? It is the rules and standards of professional conduct to which athletes, coaches and referees adhere. Every enjoyable and engaging sport has its rules, and only when people follow the rules can the sport be well and fairly played. It is surely the same way for us Revenue Assurance professionals. The GRAPA standards, and specifically the principles and ethics guidelines, provide the professional with a clear set of guidelines that make it easy to relax and “play by the rules”.

Some of the more critical standards that come to mind include:

1.    The Sovereignty principle – The primary responsibility for operational integrity lies with the operational manager and his team, not with the revenue assurance team. We are here to assist them, but ultimately the decisions, the failures, the successes and the consequences are something they must live with.

2.    The Rationalization principle – Foremost, the revenue assurance professional bases his actions, and sense of urgency and priority in proportion to the amount of revenue actually at risk in a given situation. We apply the dual filter of “how much revenue is at stake” and “what is the probability of the loss reoccurring” as our primary yardstick for defining our “level of excitement” regarding an issue.

3.    The Integrity Principle – We must always strive to be accurate, efficient and realistic in our dealings with top management, operational managers and operational support teams. It is unproductive if we insist on making claims without proof, or “shop for guilty parties” before we even fully understand the situation.

If I was to summarize the GRAPA standards in light of competition, I would say the standards dictate the only competition that the RA professional is in, is a competition with themselves.

The revenue assurance job:

a.    can never be done perfectly.

b.    will always require that the revenue assurance professional take risks both professionally and interpersonally.

So ultimately, the only person there is for us to compete with is ourselves. In my opinion, that is a trademark of a true professional. The true professional knows that what he or she does is valuable but also unique, and knows ultimately that the only competitor worth comparing to you is yourself. If you doubt me on this, check out some of the blogs, or articles about the truly great professionals of our time and read what great football players, cricket players or other professionals and athletes have to say about their competitiveness.

I hope that what we have talked about today has given you a little bit to think about. I know for me, it is important to stop worrying about what others say, or do,  focus instead on the job that I am trying to do. A great man once said, “It is none of my business what you think of me. It is what I think of me that is important.” I think that quote provides all of us with something to think about.

Until next time, this is Rob Mattison, saying … BE SAFE.

No matter where I travel in the world, what airport I happen to be in, or what hotel I am staying at, one thing is guaranteed to be on every television or radio in a public place; sporting events. Football, cricket, golf, Formula One Car Racing–the world is obsessed with sports and competition. And why not? Competition is a good thing…right? What can be more exciting than competition? What else can get your blood pumping and your spirit soaring?

Look at the good things that come out of it. Who is going to be motivated to run faster? A person running alone, or running with others in a race? Why, the race, of course! Seeing a competitor catch up spurs you on to try harder and accomplish more. Of course, competition does not always get us the results that we want. In Germany recently, the big news is the football fraud. Gambling houses have been successfully bribing dozens of football stars to “fix” matches. Competition has also lead to the football violence, and the recent stoning of FIFA players in Egypt. Competition that gets out of control, can result in negative consequences.

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