Follow the Smart Money – Or Not?

This brief interview with revenue assurance tycoon Subash Menon is of some interest. I met him once, in China. I have not been back there since, but I am sure Subash has given his international deal-making agenda. For me, the article confirms two things that presumably everybody should be starting to realise by now, if they have not realised it already.

1) Fewer people will write code for revenue assurance in future

Lots of code hackers have done well from revenue assurance, whether they were employed by a telco to rig some bespoke reconciliation or worked in one of the many tiny vendors who each sold their own vapourware promising to do much the same thing. Economies of scale mean the party is coming to an end for these guys. You cannot effectively compete with an army of developers in India whose code is sold to hundreds of customers worldwide. The small vendors and in-house developers most times will be beaten by a business like Subex Azure in terms of both quality and cost of the product offered. Instead, they will usually produce something of lower quality, higher cost and which cannot be maintained or extended without the involvement of the one or two hackers who wrote the code in the first place. This also means those people who tried to have a revenue assurance career by trying to combine being an okay hacker with being an okay business consultant need to stop being okay at two things and start being good at one.

2) In future, “traditional” revenue assurance will be a part of service assurance

Some traditional views on revenue assurance treat it as a subset of the responsibilities of the Billing department, or think it is about Finance creating and running their own automated checks every day. That way of thinking is the past. That kind of revenue assurance is all about data, some of which is about billing, some of which is about the network, some of which is about other things like the data sent between businesses. There is plenty of data in billing and CRM systems, but the people with jobs that require access in real time to data of the highest integrity, from the source systems, and in the most detail, are the people working in service assurance. Compared to the problem of managing data for service assurance, revenue assurance is easy. It is much easier to extend service assurance into revenue assurance than the other way around. So instead of people sat looking at problems in billing and then trying to work out how that relates to a network they are ill-equipped to understand, you will have people who understand the network, and have all the data about it, steadily expanding their influence and control of downstream billing. They will have to, as billing is increasingly going to be real-time anyway, and it will be too expensive to keep trying to train finance and billing people to (poorly) understand a network when you can more easily train people who understand the network on the importance of downstream data integrity. So automated checking of downstream data is going to increasingly be part of the responsibility associated with service assurance. If revenue assurance persists as a separate activity, it will be because it is about the things that cannot be done by simple brute force using existing data: analysing future risks, defining controls to address those risks, setting objectives for the data crunchers, and prioritisation based on understanding the financials and wider business objectives.

The smart money – like that of Subash Menon’s investors – is backing the consolidation of the revenue assurance software industry and linking it to service assurance. So the choice is simple, you can follow the smart money and give up trying to compete with it. Or you can invest in the kind of thing that no software firm can compete with: the human brain.

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 Chief Executive 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.