Slip by BT Highlights Reality of RA Targets

If you want to be good at revenue assurance, you need intelligence. And by intelligence, I mean more than just having a big brain (though that helps). The winners of the assurance game are proactive at gathering and analysing data. And by data, I mean more than just internal data. And by proactive, I mean more than buying a computer program called ‘proactive’. The good revenue assurance manager needs to know what his peers are doing in other telcos. The more he knows, the more he can borrow ideas from them and check for the same leakages in his firm. He also gets an idea about the levels of accuracy attained elsewhere, how to set realistic aspirations and how to persuade his boss to stick to attainable goals. After all, the theory behind setting targets is that they should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive. But setting a SMART target is one heck of a challenge, when the target involves finding out how much you did not know about the leaks you were not aware of. One sensible option is to find out about targets and performance in other telcos, and to understand how your telco compares.

And lo, the revenue assurance industry created its own micro-industry, the scientifically-conducted-and-not-at-all-biased-survey-of-opinion industry, where the name of the game is to complete the following well-known expression:

Industry reports estimate that a typical operator suffers revenue losses between 1% and…………

It is funny how 1% becomes a lower bound, without anybody challenging it. So what should your target be for recovering leakage. Should it be 1% of revenues, as the minimum that could possibly be deemed acceptable? Heck no! You will not be in a job for long with that attitude, laddie. Thankfully, you came to talkRA to discover the truth, instead of being clobbered by unrealistic expectations. You must be as smart as Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott, Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise, who knew how to respond to the unreasonable demands of his boss…

I cannae change the laws of physics!

… but always managed to do the ‘impossible’, by overestimating the length of every task by a factor of five. Unfortunately, your job does not involve changing the innermix chamber on the warp core, so we cannae learn more from Scotty about how to set your revenue assurance targets. So where should we turn for intelligence?

A very good place to start would be making friends amongst your peer group. A few off-the-record phone conversations can prove very helpful, especially if your attitude to intelligence is to share-and-share-alike, and you make friends with people who feel the same. Or you could join an industry group. That is like making friends, except you typically make fewer friends, spend more time travelling, and find out less. And that is because 80% of the room will be adamantly against share-and-share-alike, unless that means you do all the sharing, and they do none. What else might you do? You could set up a successful website, and use it to develop an intelligence network with people all over the world, only publicly sharing a small amount of the gossip that comes your way. But too late! I already did that, and you cannae change the laws of the internet, which say that competing head-to-head with talkRA is doomed to fail. (Trust me, many have tried, and we kept the HTML skeletons to prove it.) So what other option does that leave you with? Job vacancies. Excuse me? Yes, job vacancies. Even if you do not intend to change job, checking out job vacancies can be a useful source of intelligence. Adverts for jobs, and a quick call to recruiters, can give away useful information about where RA sits in an organization, the priority given to it, the size of the team, what systems they use, and the scope of responsibilities. The qualifications asked for is not only a useful indicator of the kind of work done by that team, but also tells you the qualifications of existing team members. Generally, bosses do not ask for candidates who are more qualified than themselves, unless they work in a completely different kind of role, and will treat you like a specialist (i.e. they will ensure you get stuck in a dead-end position with no hope of promotion). And if you review job adverts long enough, you even see if some company writes their job profiles by shamelessly copying another company’s job profiles (tut tut, you know who you are), or if the same company keeps recruiting and replacing people on a regular basis (probably because of unrealistic expectations).

I once had a boss who actually let me go to job interviews at other telcos, just so we could find out what they were doing. Seriously. I loved that boss, so I was not going to go anywhere, and he knew it. If you know how to do RA, then a face-to-face interview is a great opportunity to find out what other telcos are doing, (and what they are not doing). Never mind what people say in public – half an hour hearing that a telco has nobody to do anything and/or the RA chief will be expected to produce a report which may be read by the caretaker’s dog on an annual basis and/or being subjected to technical questions which are really really clever but not actually about revenue loss will do wonders for your confidence. However bad you think your current RA job is, an interview like that makes you realize it could be much much worse. But now that I shared that with you, it means I will never go for an interview again. Oh well. I can imagine worse things than getting a job in RA. Though not many.

The secret to all data gathering is, of course, to keep looking. In some case, statistics is a short cut that saves us needing to look under every rock… Hmmmm, I’ve looked under these thousand identical rocks and found nothing, should I look under the thousand-and-one-th rock? Or should I start looking under different kinds of rock? Hmmmm… In other cases, there are no statistics for what info might be given away. So today I give thanks to BT Global, who decided to share their internal targets with the rest of the world. Thanks BT Global! According to their latest job advert, the lucky winner will be…

Responsible for reducing complexities around recovery activities within LOBs by initiating, owning and driving resourcing and process plans to deliver benefit against the £20M target across all functions.

So they have a GBP20mn (USD30mn) target – how difficult can that be? Darn, now I need to work it out as a percentage. If only I had a convenient data source for the total revenues…

Lead and define the Revenue Assurance Plans and targets for a combined P&L of £3.4B

… thanks again BT! Your informative advert saved me some work. 20/3400 = 0.59%. And suddenly, you have a useful bit of data for comparison to your telco’s RA target. Though that does seem a bit high, compared to what you might find elsewhere. Either the ‘lucky’ candidate is going to have a hard time meeting the target, or else BT Global must suffer from plenty of leaks. And how did I deduce that? You cannae change the laws of physics…

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 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. 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.