A striking pattern has emerged by analyzing Commsrisk’s readership over the last few years. I often refer to the Commsrisk audience as if it is a single whole, but it would be more accurate to say there are two largely distinct audiences for Commsrisk’s articles, as evidenced by the reaction to new content. One audience could be described as the mainstay of this website; they are the majority of readers who are interested in the majority of articles. That audience is not tied to a specific line of work, but represents a blend of people working in security, risk, fraud, audit and compliance. The most energetic members of this group will engage directly with me, other members of my team, and with other professionals in order to pursue common goals and exchange information.
The second audience also exhibits interest whenever they see something that specifically appeals to them, but this group exerts far less influence on the content published by Commsrisk. This latter audience is comprised of revenue assurance professionals, who perhaps visit because of the history of a website created by a guy who wrote one of the few books about revenue assurance. Or perhaps they continue to visit Commsrisk because there is literally nowhere else that discusses revenue assurance on a regular basis after rival sites that covered the topic died for lack of ideas. Either way, the second audience is remarkable because they plainly exist, but their level of interaction has steadily declined to the point where they no longer contribute new ideas for content.
If an article has a title that is especially stimulating for RA professionals, such as “Revenue Assurance Has Lost Its Way”, there will be a noticeable surge in impressions on social media and visits to Commsrisk. That particular article was the 18th most viewed article of 2022, out of the 260 articles published last year. It was the most popular article specifically about revenue assurance and it demonstrated there is still a sizable number of people who want to read about the topic. But looking beyond the web statistics, there is almost no evidence that the revenue assurance profession is active at all. Other stories, as liked by the mainstays, will generate feedback. Revenue assurance stories do not. Is this because the revenue assurance profession has become so passive that nobody working in the field has anything to say about it?
Over the years of working in risk management I came to appreciate how I was unusually interested in what I called ‘talent’ because of the analogy to the talents of actors and performers that audiences like to see on a stage or on a TV screen. I wanted to identify risk professionals with a talent for speaking and writing about their work because their talent would make it easier for me to learn from them, just as students learn more from a talented lecturer or schoolteacher. My goal was to connect with them so we might speak on the phone or exchange emails, thus leading me to accumulate knowledge more rapidly than if I passively waited for someone to give it to me. This conveniently segued into my organizing conferences run by the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), where my goal was to put talent on a stage so other people could learn.
The approach taken to running RAG was crucially different to how most other conferences are organized, because they focus on the job titles of speakers, and not on whether the speakers are any good at speaking. Impressive job titles are great if you want to advertise an event, especially to potential sponsors and ticket purchasers. But there are some people with grand job titles who have nothing of value to say. There are also vibrant junior professionals who would never be given a chance at other conferences despite being talented communicators who can light up an audience by talking about their recent work. So I ended up ignoring the boring conferences run by others and spending a lot of my time looking for talent.
Increasing the effectiveness of the search for talent required me to change how I interact with fellow professionals. One aspect involved approaching strangers far more readily than was natural for my formerly shy personality. Another aspect involved paying attention to any sign of talent: an unexpected email from a stranger; a thoughtful comment posted online; the names of people who ask clever questions; and so on. Feedback to content on Commsrisk interests me because this is also a useful signifier of talent. I use feedback as a way to identify individuals who I will get to know better and perhaps consider as speakers for RAG conferences. But as nobody working in revenue assurance ever gives any new feedback, that means nobody new is being identified as a potential new speaker.
An exciting line-up of guests agreed to participate in the reboot of our weekly web livestream but none were asked to talk about revenue assurance. The same problem afflicted RAG’s in-person conferences. It is with a heavy heart that I admit that my enthusiasm for those events has waned because RA people want to turn up and listen, but not to talk. There is little new being offered by commercially and financially oriented assurance professionals to balance agendas that are increasingly dominated by exchanges of information about fraud and security threats. If the RA community has nothing new to offer then there are no tricks that will allow me to magic interesting RA speakers into existence. There are some heads of RAFM departments that have so little interest in the RA part of their work that they literally tell me their needs are completely satisfied by attending meetings of the GSMA’s Fraud and Security Group. This speaks volumes about the reasons why fewer and fewer professionals have anything interesting to say about revenue assurance.
It is not obvious if anyone reading Commsrisk has the drive to offer themselves as a counterexample to my observation. And if this audience contains nobody with the spark and imagination to inspire their fellow revenue assurance professionals, then which community does? It is not going to come from the dullards who hang GRAPA certificates on their wall. They think all good ideas in revenue assurance originated with a man whose only real qualification is that he worked in AT&T’s Billing Ops department in the 1980’s. Nor will it come the people who have the right job titles to speak at those for-profit conferences that still claim to cover revenue assurance. The presentations at those events are almost always a rehash of what somebody else said years ago. Perhaps somebody will show I am mistaken, but I doubt it. This essay is best understood as the equivalent of a schoolyard taunt: I dare anybody to prove me wrong.
The audience for Commsrisk keeps growing impressively, and I could not be more satisfied with how it affords me the opportunity to connect with dynamic and intelligent professionals who do exciting work in their field. I also know some people who do revenue assurance, but I genuinely cannot recall the last time any of them ever had something exciting to say about their work. The revelation in this essay that surprises me most is about my own feelings: I have discovered that I feel fine with RA’s decline into a career backwater. I no longer worry for the most capable and energetic RA practitioners because they will metamorphosize into genuine data scientists. My conversations with individuals like Michael Lazarou show me how some are moving beyond RA, although nobody has yet established a name for their hybrid form of data science and business optimization.
It is only worth teaching people if they have a desire to learn. I search for talent because I want to learn, and that is why I will keep on searching for talent in the places where I am most likely to find it. That requires me to become increasingly involved in the exchange of information and data relating to security and crime, because those are arenas where professionals know they excel when they teach each other things they do not already know. Nobody is learning much about revenue assurance any more, which is why it is no longer relevant to include revenue assurance on a conference agenda, or interview RA managers about work they have done, or even to write about it here. But I may be wrong. Will you be the person who proves me wrong?