I like the idea of democracy. I think there is something to be said for sharing authority between a large group of people rather than giving it to an elite. That is why I like blogs. Why listen to one person’s view when you can listen to many? Check out this blog about user-centric revenue assurance, which started me thinking about revenue assurance and democracy. I always enjoy listening to points of view which are more sophisticated than the usual “buy this stuff and it will fix all your problems” marketing blurb.
The problem with democracy is that if you give responsibility to many, you may find nobody takes responsibility. Revenue assurance is like a public good. For a start, revenue assurance is something that benefits everybody (unless you actually want to work for an unprofitable and wasteful business that makes lots of mistakes). However, measuring and allocating responsibility is virtually impossible to do. Many revenue assurance big-shots would no doubt choke, or laugh, after reading that last sentence. But that is because they like to take all the credit for any successes, and take no responsibility for any failures. Holding an RA department responsible for revenue assurance is like holding environmental activists responsible for global warming, making the Police responsible for crime, or holding a doctor responsible for the health of the community. Sure, they have some role to play, but they do not cause the problems they deal with, and many of the solutions are outside of their control. So if things get better, they may deserve some credit, but much of the credit must go to other activities too (think about the impact when people recycle, or take better precautions to prevent crime, or exercise regularly). The same is true of revenue assurance. Spending money on a revenue assurance department so it can employ people or implement tools is like putting your faith in centralised solution to the problem that people make mistakes. I say people, because systems do not make mistakes – only the people who choose them, design them, implement them, and use them make mistakes. There are lots of ways to avoid mistakes, live emphasising simplicity in design, taking a modular approach, or being thorough with testing. Encouraging people to avoid mistakes, or to identify and correct mistakes, is like encouraging people to recycle or to exercise. It would be a bad doctor who wants his patients to be unhealthy just so he can then give them expensive treatments. But it is very hard to measure the benefits of preventative medicine, and hence to reward it, either in terms of the doctor’s efforts, or of the community as a whole. Hard though it is, a service provider must remember the importance of collective action, or else he will end up with very expensive doctors trying to cure a sickly business that never gets well. So revenue assurance is not the problem of the RA department, it is everyone’s problem. That means the first step is the same as with any public good: educate the public. If people do not know what the problem is, they will never start to work on the solution.