Broadening the application of RA

It’s been a while since I last posted to talkRA so in the interests of transparency, I now work for Ernst & Young and anything I post is my opinion only. With that now officially declared, on with the post.

Though I’m still an EY newbie, what has become apparent to me already is that lessons learnt in telecoms RA have a broader application across other many other industries and business processes.

It is common to hear that telco RA skills are well suited to high-volume, low-value transaction industries like financial institutions and utilities (as examples). It’s also an emerging (or even emerged) trend that RA skills are being used to tackle other challenges within a telco. Both the above are evident from where the software vendors are positioning themselves and taking their bets about where they believe the growth exists. This can also be seen in discussions within telcos about where to next for RA to continue to add value, and be seen to add value, once the low hanging fruit has been picked.

However, it would be unwise to think that only telcos or those with large volumes of transactional data face challenges with the loss of value through a business process. Some of the fundamental RA activities are around ensuring all calls, sessions, events etc that should be charged, are being charged; checking that all services provided are being charged for and that everything on the bill is charged in accordance with agreed terms. Hopefully nothing controversial in the above but remove the telecoms terminology and simplify – ensure everything that should be charged is being charged and this is at the right amount. If you can work with the complexity of telecoms data and business rules then working to achieve the same end objective within other industries should be possible.

And indeed it is, but while I haven’t yet experienced the complexity of telecoms data, I have found that there are more data quality issues that need to be addressed before making use of the data. It’s also fair to say that the business rules of how to treat that data and how to add value to it (e.g. price it), is equally complex outside telco as it is inside telco. As RA people we often complain of the complexity that the marketing people dream up when setting pricing structures but this is not unique to telco as revenue risks are sought to be stablised. In order to manage the risk of revenue variations due to both known and unknown external factors, I’ve seen many contracts established between organisations which seek to account for every possible variation (if oil goes up, your cost will go up by a factor; if shipping costs change, same story etc). And of course, where there is complexity, there is risk of error and loss of revenue or incorrect inflation of costs.

This leads me to my concluding remark. For most, if not all, organisations, the bill for telecoms services is not the most significant one. Organisations issue and receive invoices every day – many of which, at least on the issue side, are business-to-business transactions rather than business-to-consumer. The value of these B2B invoices and the complexity of the contracts negotiated mean that telco revenue assurance skills, methodologies and tools can, and should, seek a broader reach beyond telco.

All the best in 2011 to all talkRA readers.

Mike Willett
Mike Willett
Mike is a Partner at Ernst & Young, Australia. He is responsible for enterprise intelligence, helping clients to improve their management and use of data. He can be contacted at:

Mike was previously the Director for Fraud & Revenue Assurance at Telstra. He started his career at BellSouth (now Vodafone) in New Zealand and then moved to Praesidium Services in the UK. Mike graduated from the University of Auckland in New Zealand with degrees in psychology and marketing.