A Memory for Revenue Assurance

I love the LinkedIn group that Morisso Taieb set up for revenue assurance. However, there is one thing that frustrates me about it. Many of the questions being asked have already been asked – and answered – many times before. There are all sorts of public forums on the internet, and many of the questions seen in Morisso’s LinkedIn group cover well-worn topics like “where should RA be in the organization chart?” and “what is the scope of RA?” which, although good questions, are going to have answers which do not change very often. It seems to me a shame that new answers keep been written from scratch, when good answers already exist somewhere on the internet. Some of these questions have even been answered elsewhere in LinkedIn. Having a forum with questions and answers is one thing, but having some memory for which questions have been asked, and what answers were given, would be a leap forward. Think of it as the Google principle: you can make the world a much better place not just by creating content – much of which will just replicate existing content – but by finding a way to search through the content that already exists.

Where am I going with this? I am not sure entirely. I know that if revenue assurance does not develop a collective memory, it is doomed to ask, and answer, the same questions over and over. For example, if the LinkedIn group remains as it is, there is the danger that, a year down the line, new people will join, asking the same questions as previously answered. This will be boring and frustrating for people who have been active on the forum that whole time. This is one of the challenges for open group activities using the internet – how to integrate new members whilst sustaining old ones. Some just close themselves to new members, or become so wrapped in their own world that nobody new feels welcome or wants to join. Others remain accessible to new members, but at the price of never progressing, which leads older members to lose interest.

I have an analogy for this experience, one that I take from traditional mass media, specifically television. I am British, but I am a fan of two overseas sports: American NFL football, and Japanese sumo. Of course, being British, I am not going to go to the US or Japan just to see sport on a regular basis, so my primary mode of watching these sports is through television. Because they are not familiar in either country, a lot of the specifically British television coverage focuses on introducing and explaining the game to new viewers, which is fine when you are a new viewer… but not when you move beyond that stage, and are wanting more in-depth analysis and news coverage. That is where the frustration begins, as there may not be good alternative resources to turn to. Either you stick with the same introductory-level presentation, or perhaps you try to jump ahead and watch imported coverage, whilst trying to understand the full-fat presentation given to the more sophisticated audiences in the US and Japan respectively. Where this analogy breaks down is that, for my sports watching, at least those really advanced resources exist somewhere on the planet. That is not the case for revenue assurance. The RA community needs to build them first, and its best chance of doing so is to not get stuck in an interminable loop of introductory debates.

So what is the solution? I am not sure. Perhaps a company like LinkedIn will keep on releasing more functionality, and that will help to solve the problem. I could suggest that talkRA becomes a broader resource, but going beyond the existing search and archive functionality will be a lot more work. I am conscious of the extra effort it would take to aggregate answers from a wider collection of sources. Whoever does tackle this problem, will either be in a closed group and hence there will be limited visibility of what they are doing, or they will face problems with spam. Let us not forget that Papa GRAPA Rob Mattison spammed the Wikipedia page on revenue assurance to the point where it had to be ripped down permanently by Wikipedia’s administrators. Another problem is covering the cost of the effort involved in maintaining and managing any collective resource. Wikipedia depends on donations and goodwill from volunteers. A similar resource for a commercial study like revenue assurance will inevitably tempt people to manipulate it for gain, and even fair and reasonable advertising for any given vendor will likely discourage involvement from anybody representing a rival company.

So there you have it. I have posed a problem – how to generate a memory for revenue assurance – for which I have no answers. Anyone care to make a suggestion? I promise, whatever answers you give, I will not let them be forgotten ;)

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.
  • Lionel

    This is true but not surprising. LinkedIn is a place where people want to show-off their expertise in the field and professionalism more than anything else; whether they have a legitimacy to do so or not. Some people will just want to post obvious questions to build a public image, and hope to benefit from it professionally, not really to work towards improving Revenue Assurance best practices. So every opportunity to post an old (but still good) question will be taken. No matter how many other websites might have already discussed the subject.
    As for Revenue Assurance not having “memory”, this is, in my mind, the result of 2 things: First, that the industry is full of people that got into the area by accident and had to learn the basics from scratch. Second, maybe a lot of these people don’t see a long term career plan in the field and move-on to do something else after a few years … which leads to new-comers having to learn the basics from scratch again. The lack of career-path and big turn-over is in my mind the reason for this lack of memory and why we’ll still see basic questions popping up on these RA websites.
    Just personal thoughts.

  • Hi Lionel,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with everything you wrote, but is there also a circularity in your final observation? No career path leads to turnover of staff… which in turn means no memory as new people are regularly being brought in. But because there is no memory, what kind of career path could there possibly be? If you can learn everything there is to know in a few years (or at least, learn as much as anyone expects you to know) then that also limits the potential for making revenue assurance a long-term career choice. Increased sophistication in the discipline is not sufficient on its own to persuade people to think of revenue assurance as a long-term career choice, but it would help.

  • Lionel

    Hi Eric.
    It’s an interesting point of view. I think the complexity is definitely there if you embrace the job. The concepts of RA, yes, are very simple and easy to get. But doing the job right can be a real challenge. Especially, if you want to have a hands-on approach, which is what I prefer, instead of just shooting questions and hoping for answers. I would see the lack of long-term career options differently. I see mainly two reasons.
    RA is like a quality stamp on things produced by others. Your satisfaction is on making sure the company sees the value of your stamp. But it’s the same satisfaction as the guy controlling tickets in the metro. It can get frustrating to put people on the spot. You need positive reinforcement from your management to keep the spirit. In the long term, it might not be the satisfaction you really want.
    The other reason I see is precisely the complexity of the job, once you realize what it takes to do it right. To put RA controls in place, you need to be comfortable with areas as different as finance, network platforms, IT, billing, etc. Most people will want to invest a career in the area that really appeals to them, instead of touching it a little bit while doing a lot of other stuff. If you embrace that variety and the complexity that comes with it, then, yes, RA is a great career choice for you. Otherwise, people will move to something more one dimensional.

  • Guera

    I have experienced conference goers as wanting to collect as much info on RA as possible. It is almost a one-way absorbing only mode. I experience Linked In the same way.

    Do we think that there is more about RA out there than we already know or do we hope that somebody has a one size fits all silver bullet? I have worked with many CFO’s who thought RA was about a few recons and pressing the magic button on a tool that will be the be-all-and-end-all.

    Some questions come from real inexperienced people who think it is as easy to be enlighten as asking a question on a web site. It would be interesting to see how many of these requesters leave the RA space in less than a year. I know of 2 in South Africa who did not see the year out and both were in positions where they decided or provided the basis for the operator’s RA work.

    Sad indeed.