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 ;)