Business needs are constantly changing and evolving. At Saudi Telecommunication Company, stc, we have always prided ourselves on being on top of any industry change, so when the concept of business assurance was first introduced, stc was one of the first companies to adopt the latest thought processes of expanding the focus beyond revenue management and moving from a reactive to a proactive position by adopting business assurance best practices.
Since 2019, the Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management General Department headed by Mr. Sami Bin Ghadir has focused on the transformation of RA, the associated change in mindset and has successfully widened the scope of assurance, putting in place an ambitious vision supported with an entrepreneurial innovative plan.
The first step in this long-term strategy for stc was the formation of a new operational function dedicated to the business assurance transformational journey. Mr. Yasir M. Asiry led the team in this new department and as the strategy progressed, several initiatives were explored including financial risks that were previously unaccounted for; these were identified and reviewed according to the available best practices at the time.
Being a ‘first mover’ in adopting a new vision has benefits but also significant challenges, including that there are no other peers in the industry to seek support, advice or learn, discuss or collaborate. The best way to add short and long term value from the investment in resource, time, management and cost was to complement the undertaking of this new direction with learning from past experiences by stc’s RAFM team and from other risk and assurance professionals in the telecom industry. The RAFM department looked to build a risk coverage map that draws upon the RAG Business Assurance Leakage Catalogue.
At RAG New Delhi 2020, the last physical conference before the pandemic, Mr. Geoff Ibbett, the principal author of the RAG Business Assurance Leakage Catalogue, delivered a workshop on a survey undertaken that ranked key risk areas by telecom risk professionals. It was apparent from the survey results that many telecoms operators were focusing on traditional revenue assurance coverage areas such as billing, charging, rating and usage. As stc’s RAFM department was already covering these areas with mature processes in place, they looked to investigate areas with less maturity. Reporting Assurance documented within the catalogue was the closest category related to finance, yet it had only five risk items listed.
Although the RAG Risk Catalogue provides an extensive list of key risk areas with their root causes, the risks listed per the Reporting Assurance category was not exhaustive and reflected the ranking given to this category by respondents of the survey – 13th on the list of 25 key risk areas within the Catalogue.
stc’s RAFM department explored ways to increase the scope of this particular key risk area and discovered there was a tangible opportunity to contribute positively to the company’s top and bottom lines as well as better internal and external customer experience. The stc findings presented at the recent RAG Dubai 2022 merited a change of the leakage catalogue with the reporting assurance category becoming the new finance assurance category. Based on our experience, two additional threats and eight root causes have been added to the leakage catalogue to cover the following areas:
- Tax calculation
- Tax refunds
- Deferred revenues
We believe that ‘finance assurance’ is a better-suited term for what is now a broader set of risk objectives that the term ‘reporting assurance’ did not adequately reflect. Geoff Ibbett, the author of the leakage catalogue, agreed as he sees finance assurance as a natural evolution of reporting assurance. The change was announced during RAG Dubai 2022 where stc were recognised for their contribution. The new updated release of the leakage catalogue was announced in RAG New Orleans on the 5th of April and will contain the addition of the finance assurance category along with the contribution stc has made to this category.
stc, and in particular its Business Assurance team look forward to using the new version of the leakage catalogue. We hope that stc’s unique experience in this particular area may reach those who may encounter similar situations when expanding the business assurance remit within their business operations. We see this as part of our duty to share knowledge and experiences to enrich the industry and support our fellow risk and assurance professionals.
When you dedicate a specialized team to transform your business activities, you will be able to see things in a different way and make better use of existing capabilities and undertake more informed decisions. With a mix of experiences, the ability to listen to internal concerns, and the courage to explore new paths, you can go a long way and achieve remarkable results. The clear benefits that the Business Assurance operational function have brought to stc has prompted the larger RAFM department in stc to be restructured, expanding its scope as a result of these successes and renamed as the Business Assurance Management Department.
This unique experience has informed us of the need to continually contribute to the leakage catalogue. If we do not collectively document our successes, or describe our failures, we cannot effectively counter the ever-evolving threats the telecom industry faces in revenue protection. Sharing our own experiences with our fellow risk management peers assists us all in protecting our organisations from leakage and cements the importance of business assurance.