5 RA Questions You Dare Not Ask (and I will not answer)

We all know what revenue assurance is like. People ask about how to pick the correct KPI mediation threshold when reconciling your roaming ADSL IPDR spoofers to your erlang-DSOs. But nobody really wants to know that. That is just nonsense you talk about to fool the auditors. Or maybe you heard the auditors say it, and have been pretending you know what they mean. What people really want to know is how to keep their idiot boss happy. This can be hard when the boss expects you to generate several hundred million dollars a year, using only a combination of Excel, Powerpoint, a highlighter pen, some sticky tape and a disaffected school leaver. The answer is simple: get the school leaver to do some Powerpoint slides that say you generate several hundred million dollars a year, and assume the boss is too ignorant to ask intelligent questions about where the number comes from. If he does ask, quickly print off twenty pages of Excel spreadsheets full of random numbers, tape the printouts together into one long roll, and pick a big number to highlight on every third page. Show this to the boss and explain “with all this data to crunch, the only way to properly answer your questions is if we had a new RA system.”

Here are five other questions you have asked yourself, but you are too embarrassed to admit it. Feel free to share your answers, if you dare!

You buy an expensive new Fraud Management System, but the one employee that got trained to use it leaves within three weeks of plugging it in. There is a headcount freeze. Do you:

  1. Wait a year, then tell your boss that the last FMS needs an upgrade, and try to hide the additional cost of training yourself within that budget?
  2. Replicate the format of the FMS report in Excel, changing the date at the top each month, and show this to your boss. Explain that the FMS is paying off because you have found no frauds since it was implemented, a 100% reduction on the number of frauds you used to suffer?
  3. Join GRAPA and ask them how your FMS works?
  4. Make threatening phone calls to your former employee, insisting they keep working for free during their evenings, or else you will make it look like they left because they were a fraudster too?

You are 10 months into the financial year, and have just beaten your annual targets for financial recovery. Do you:

  1. Work super-hard for the last 2 months of the year, in the hope of getting a bigger bonus from the boss?
  2. Hide any remaining revenue leaks between now and the end of the year, so you can get off to a flying start at reaching next year’s impossible targets?
  3. Finally get around to checking some of those overbilling problems customers keep complaining about?

You and the CFO are discussing next year’s performance targets, including the target for leakage. Do you ask for a leakage target this is:

  1. Lower than last year, because you are driving down leakage and it would be unreasonable to expect you to find as much again?
  2. Higher than last year, because high leakage means job security whilst low leakage means you cost more than you make?
  3. The same as last year, because nothing got fixed properly and you will spend all of next year doing exactly the same things as you did last year?

One of your rating accuracy tests finds a big systematic overcharge. Luckily, the tariff plans are so complicated that no customers have noticed. Do you:

  1. Report it immediately and include the value of the overcharge in the calculation of the benefits you added, even though it means less money will be made?
  2. Report it immediately and conclude you have stopped a big scandal and stopped lots of customers churning, and hence calculate an even bigger benefit that you delivered?
  3. Keep quiet because if the auditors did not spot it, why should you?
  4. Keep quiet because your boss will subtract the value from the benefits you earned, making it even harder to meet your target?

Some consultant succeeds in arranging a meeting with the CFO, and tries to convince him that he can boost the returns from revenue assurance. The CFO calls you into the meeting to get your opinion. Do you:

  1. Agree with whatever nonsense the consultant says, because maybe he will persuade the CFO to spend more money on revenue assurance, and every little helps?
  2. Disagree with everything the consultant has to say, because you do not want him nosing around everything you have done so far?
  3. Agree with everything that will lead you to get more money and disagree with everything that will lead the consultant to nose around with what you do?
  4. Keep quiet, knowing that the consultant will just talk nonsense that the CFO will not understand?
  5. Keep quiet, because the CFO never pays for consulting and if you talk you will just make the meeting last longer?
  6. Try to impress the consultant because you are looking for a new job?

How do I know that, at some point in your career, you have wanted to ask these questions? Best not ask.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.   Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.   Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.
  • Wendy

    You were in a humorous mood this weekend, eh? Defo recognized some of these questions.

  • @ Wendy,

    With my career, it’s a case of ‘laugh or cry’. First I laugh at the things I get told to do, then I cry when I realize they’re being serious.

  • Joseph Nderitu

    Eric,

    An excellent post!

    If I were to ask who is guilty of these things, silence may reign. Hmmm, but let me not be the first one to cast the stone.

    One additional qn:

    Having read this particular post from Eric, do you:
    1. Show it to your idiot boss as-is
    2. Copy it and change a few things then show your boss.
    3. Present it at a conference but pepper it with words like “leverage”, “Optimize”, “dichotomize”, “bla-blah-ize” and a title that reads “Revenue Assurance Awareness Challenges: Modern-day Complexities that Tier 1 RA Operators are grappling with.”

  • @ Joseph,

    Thanks! In answer to your question, it’s gotta be 3 for me ;) Except I’d change the title to “Revenue Assurance Awareness Challenges: The Real Modern-day Complexities that Tier 1 RA Operators are failing to grapple with.” :P