The RA Review for 2010

According to some quarters, 2010 was the year of the revenue assurance professional – for the third year in a row. But looking past the marketing spin (RA people are good at that) what was the big revenue assurance news in 2010? From the only site that can and will tell you what is really happening in revenue assurance, here is the talkRA review of 2010.

January

cVidya wraps up the purchase of fellow Israeli vendor ECtel, and then makes some bold claims about being the leading vendor of ‘revenue intelligence’. Subsequent cVidya press suggests a backtrack – to being just a leading vendor…

Mark Yelland and David Sherick publish Revenue Assurance for Service Providers, the first new book about RA in longer than I care to remember. Mark joins me on the podcast to talk about his 5-dimension analysis of revenue assurance.

February

Subash Menon, boss of Subex, puts his money where his mouth is and shows just how much he believes in Subex’s turnaround. Menon buys shares in his own company at a 30% premium to the market, in line with the new conversion price agreed in a deal with FCCB holders.

March

Bell Canada is investigated by its regulator because of overcharging. The greatest embarrassment for Bell Canada is that the overcharges were caused by an RA project to fix undercharging.

April

Comcast does everybody a favour and shows how to be transparent about metering accuracy. They employ NetForecast to test the accuracy of IPDR-based usage metering, and make the results public.

The rejuvenated Subex gets back to setting the pace for rivals, launching a Fraud SaaS offering under the banner ROCcloud. A few days after launch, their dedicated new site, roccloud.com, is not available on the web, though Subex insist this is due to planned maintenance and that customers had advance notice of the outage.

May

Subex’s year end results confirms their business is back to being profitable.

The fracturing of the RA consensus increases as Connectiva makes Customer Experience Management a new offering in their solution suite.

At their annual user group meeting in Madeira, WeDo levers their Sonae group connections and shows they are a national champion in more than one sense of the phrase. They invite an unrivalled selection of industry experts to attend… plus me.

June

US vendor TEOCO offers USD58M to buy Israeli OSS firm TTI.

The Canadian regulator reaches its conclusions about Bell Canada’s overcharging. Overcharging did occur, but the regulator is satisfied with how Bell Canada contacted and reimbursed customers.

July

Stratecast, the research business, reports that WeDo has a 25% share of the global RA market and is the market leader. They estimate that in 2009 the market was worth USD235M, and predicts compound annual growth of 22%.

August

Subex makes an unprecedented string of sales announcements, publicizing more deals in a month than some leading rivals announced all year.

Meanwhile, TEOCO completes its purchase of TTI in a deal that values TTI at USD27M.

September

Martin Dawes Analytics highlight which direction they see the market evolving, arguing that utilities now need RA in the way that telcos did in the 90’s.

October

TEOCO issues a report claiming that US carriers lose USD400M annually due to ‘traffic pumping’.

cVidya responds to Subex’s move by announcing their own cloud-based offering.

A milestone is passed in the development of the practice of revenue assurance. Our very own Güera Romo becomes the first person to submit a study about RA for genuine academic review.

November

TEOCO launches teocotalk.com, their own attempt at creating an internet community. The blog is especially useful for anyone working in North America.

December

In a radical move, cVidya offer a product to tackle internal fraud. It works by sniffing the activities of employees; cVidya’s Senior Director of Product Strategy talks about the product on the talkRA podcast.

Eight arrests are made in Ghana as the government clamps down on illegal termination of international calls.

Summary and Outlook

It was a bumper year for news in revenue assurance. The last of the low-hanging fruit was picked at a feverish pace, meaning the pressure will be on in 2011.

With no greenfield telcos left to sell to, RA vendors will need to keep pushing at the boundaries of the market. Each major vendor took a different direction in 2010; in 2011 we will get a better idea of who went the right way. Those firms that have yet to break even and which have dwindling financial support may find 2011 to be a very tough year. In contrast, those in profit will hope to enter a virtuous circle as they can afford to spend more on R&D and hence get a lead over competitors.

Professionalization continued to be a recurring theme but there was little substance behind the chatter. In particular, the job market lacked either the fluidity or the rigour to suggest that those who invest in qualifications can expect to get a better-paid job. The prospect of academic-grade RA content is the bright light at the end of the tunnel, but only for those who really want a genuine profession with barriers of entry, as barriers mean that some will be left on the outside.

Introducing some real science to RA will make life harder for those pushing pseudo-science, but the biggest problem will be reinventing the business case for RA if returns dwindle (because RA has been successful) or if returns do not dwindle (begging the question of how much value RA adds). Expect some to shift emphasis towards risk management and corporate governance as a way to justify their existence. However, those lacking a firm grounding may find the tactic will back-fire. Unlike RA, good governance does not encourage a ‘pioneer spirit’ where practitioners work things out from scratch. In risk management and corporate governance, there are already established global standards and expectations; increased transparency will also be a problem for any practitioner that cannot show how their work supports the objectives. Others will focus more on the reorientation towards BI and business analytics in general. This will be an easier transition for those with a background in technology and data. They may also find it easier because the expectations are not so well established. On the other hand, when expectations are not clear, then neither is the scope. This will create opportunities for some, headaches for others.

A lot of revenue assurance is about testing: testing data, testing hypotheses, testing hunches about what might go wrong. 2010 was a year when a lot of tests were set up for the discipline of RA. In 2011, we should expect to see the results – both good and bad.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Director of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.