2009: The Year of the Revenue Assurance Professional

Will 2009 be “the year of the revenue assurance professional?” It’s funny how things work out. Since the earliest days of telecommunications there’s always been someone, some small group of people, who kept their eyes on the revenue stream and fought to make sure that the telecommunication company realized as much revenue as possible. Back in those olden days the job wasn’t given much credit and it certainly wasn’t formally defined. In those days it was just expected that everything would and should be working without those pesky “leakages”.

Of course over time, things changed. The complexity of the technology went up astronomically and exponentially. We went from a world that we thought was really technologically sophisticated (the world of circuit based voice telecommunications), to a world that makes those technologies look simplistic and childish.

The simple 1:1:1:1 business model of the telco (one product, one market, one price and one sales channel) has been replaced by a cacophony of products, technologies, market segments, price schemes and sales channels. Yes indeed, telecommunications has grown up. The level of service delivered today is a thousand times greater, of higher quality and reaches billions of people, while at the same time delivering at a lower cost and lower margin. So for this industry, the economic hard times of 2008-2009 are nothing new.

Telco teams are no strangers to credit crunch, budget cuts and the need to do more with less. Heck, for most of us it is more than “business as usual”– it’s the challenge that got us hooked on working for telecoms in the first place.

So what is so different about 2009? Why do I believe that 2009 is going to be a banner year for revenue assurance as a serious professional endeavor? Well, it’s really just a matter of timing.

RA  Pros Becoming the ‘Go To’ Resource

For the past decade or so, the once small and dedicated (and informally assembled groups) of revenue assurance professionals have been gaining momentum. More and more, the revenue assurance team is being turned to as the “go to guys (and gals)” for an ever widening circle of telco operational and financial challenges.

When GRAPA first surveyed of the scope of revenue assurance in telcos around the world, the vast majority of the groups were relegated to the traditional “switch to bill”, CDR policing role. Over the past few years, this scope has exploded. Larger and larger numbers of telcos are turning to the revenue assurance team to address and solve some of their toughest problems.

Telcos asked, “How do I make sure that new products are released with the right price, and with the right infrastructure to guarantee financial success ?” Increasingly the answer is, “Let the revenue assurance team tackle that one; who else is better qualified?”

These are only a few of the questions:

  • How do I determine the actual loss of revenue represented by radio network failures?

  • What do I do about these losses?

  • How can I maximize my revenue stream by making my pricing plans sensitive to the regional, metro, MSC or BTS level?

That’s the kind of puzzle that those RA guys should be able to handle. Yes, management’s respect, or at least tentative, wary and provisional hope for big gains from the revenue assurance teams has been on the upswing for some time now.

The reason why is clear. Revenue Assurance people are Darned Good at what they do. I have met hundreds of revenue assurance professionals and managers from around the world, and there are several characteristics we all seem to share.

  1. Curiosity: A natural desire to understand how things work, or why they have gone wrong.

  2. Stubbornness. Revenue assurance people just won’t let go until the puzzle is solved and the problem is resolved.

  3. Mental acuity: (In other words, the ability to be very flexible in our thinking). Revenue assurance people can take a problem and simultaneously review and understand it from a technical, logical, operational, political and market perspective and weave all of those perspectives together into an optimum solution.

  4. Creativity: Revenue assurance people are good a “patching together solutions” that nobody has ever thought of before.

So, over the past couple of years, the revenue assurance teams at hundreds of telcos have been earning their stripes. They have been earning respect, recognition and the attention of quite a few CFO’s and CEO’s.

So what is so special about 2009?

Well, from one perspective, nothing at all. It is just business as usual, and I am sure that the majority of revenue assurance teams will continue to do what they have been doing, building up their credibility in an ever widening circle of influence. But from another perspective, I think that there is something else happening here.

You see, as the RA teams continue to grow and expand (evidenced by our benchmarks), the very culture of the telco is changing. Revenue assurance is becoming more than just that “weird concept” or that “receptacle for miscellaneous finance and leakage issues”. It becomes legitimate.

Yes, we as a profession, and so many of the hundreds of teams that I have met with, are coming of age. And with that maturity come some benefits, but also some responsibilities. You see, when you have managed to “score so many goals” in such a short time management comes to expect this as a matter of course. They expect a goal every time you get onto the field. And therein lies the risk.

I believe that 2009 will be the pivotal year for revenue assurance because if we are going to survive as a profession we are going to have to figure out how to make ourselves viable and valuable players every day. Oh, discovering and bringing in the “big win” is gratifying, but sooner or later all of the long hanging fruit has been harvested. This then, is the real challenge of the revenue assurance team.

Positioning RA Professionals as Part of the Team

How do we position ourselves as the group that provides this kind of value every day. In other words, how do we formalize, normalize and make ourselves a truly functional part of the team, and not just the “one hit wonders”. That’s what I believe the challenge of 2009 is really going to be all about.

I believe we’re going to find there are two situations that revenue assurance teams will find themselves in this year.

The first group will be those who are just getting their “feet wet” in the serious game of revenue assurance. These teams, if they execute well, will find ample opportunities to deliver big value to their companies as the current economic crunch forces management to make cuts and try to figure out how to do more with less. Indeed, these teams are sitting in the perfect position right now. They have the chance to deliver high value gains to management just at the time it is most needed.

The second group will be those RA teams that are more mature. These teams have harvested all of the “quick wins” and are now faced with yet a new set of challenges: how to expand their scope and expertise, allowing them to gain insight, access and understanding of an ever broader range of operational areas that badly in need of assurance activities.

For both teams I think that there are several imperatives that they need to take into the year of 2009.

First – focus on rationalization. Make sure that everything that you work on and invest in results in a clear return on investment that management can see. This is not the time to be trying to “clean house” and “make things nice”. It is the time for bold action and serious cost savings, revenue recovery or loss prevention.

Second – focus on the expansion of your domain. Crisis = Opportunity. The RA team will find more areas than ever where operational teams have “dropped the ball” on key revenue chain integrity issues. The chances of the existing operational teams to suddenly discover leakages is low. The chances of these teams “cutting corners” and allowing vast, new risks to revenue streams to appear are great. A vigilant RA team will deliver more value than ever during times like these.

Third – focus on the expansion of your knowledge and skills. You are not going to be able to expand your domain without a concomitant expansion of expertise.

  1. You need to hire people who can quickly add expertise in those areas where it is most badly needed. Are you light in the network operations knowledge area? Then find someone who knows that domain. Are you short on business intelligence, forensics and analytics depth? Time to start looking in uncommon places for uncommon skills.

  2. You need to make more partnerships with more operational teams. Beg, borrow, steal and “wheel and deal” to get the inside access to the information that will make it possible for you to do your job.

  3. You need to commit yourself and your team to continuing education. No one can do this job without training, knowledge and access to education. No network engineer would pretend to be viable without a continuous commitment to learning all of the latest technologies. No internal auditor can maintain his professional standing without meeting the industry’s continuing education requirement, and no revenue assurance professional can hope to keep up without the same commitment.

I am sure that if you pursue the new year with these key perspectives in mind, you will create for yourselves and your department a much stronger, more respected and more formally recognized revenue assurance role in your organization.

So, will 2009 be ‘The year of the Revenue Assurance Professional?’ I think, that yes, it will for Revenue Assurance Professionals who take advantage of the incredible opportunity that has been presented to us.

Rob Mattison


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