Indecision, Indecision

Apart from people randomly copying in other people on totally irrelevant emails, executive indecision is the single greatest curse of working life.

Wearing until recently an RA vendor hat, I was always puzzled by the (in)decision making process in many telcos. While it is evident that in many cases RA projects demonstrate financial merits which are usually easily quantifiable, it was always a challenge for me to understand the pathetic indecision phenomenon. The lamentable part of this paradigm is that the monthly revenue loss, which usually cannot be claimed back from the customers, is piling up and the overall system cost of a typical RA solution is often less than the monthly expenditure of the telco on bathroom tissue.

I was rather unimpressed by the full scale decision paralysis and an inability to action. The only thing brought into being are hundreds of pointless meeting where reports and judgments are made. I hope I’m wrong, but how else could someone explain to me the fact that a sales cycle of an RA system lasts for an average 15 months, for a system that costs less than a monthly expenditure on bathroom tissue, while not considering the daily leakage, which usually cannot be reclaimed a posteriori.

David Leshem
David Leshem
David is an expert in enterprise solutions: billing, profitability, business intelligence, customer retention, churn and revenue assurance.

Away from the office, David is a keen photographer. Visit to sample his photographic work.

4 Comments on "Indecision, Indecision"

  1. Ashwin Menon Ashwin Menon | 26 Sep 2008 at 9:38 am |

    Hi David,

    Working for a RA vendor, I would be tempted to agree with you (when you compare price versus monthly losses, it definitely make sense). But there are a couple of points that we need to keep in mind.

    In an earlier post, we had tried to identify countries where RA is held in high esteem. Here we find the crux of the matter. It isn’t easy for operators to get a flawless and complete view of Revenue Leakage within their system.

    Many of the RA issues get swept under the carpet as maintainence issues or upgradation project costs etc. Overall, the view of Revenue Leakage gets diluted and skewed. Add to this the complexity of factoring in Fraud factors, Credit Management factors, operational factors, Route Optimization inputs etc. and we get people who are overwhelmed with massive volumes of conflicting data. It becomes difficult to put a clear demarcation on what to tag as a RA loss.

    Another important thing to keep in mind, which I would link to my earlier statement, is that RA maturity and understanding is still in a growth phase. I would like to be sure that I need a system, and to be sure, I need metrics which can quantify the amount of money I’m losing as a result of not having the system/process in place. This discovery phase would be time-consuming and often the operator is losing money in areas which he/she is not even aware of. Often these discovery phases are not comprehensive, but merely tracking of key performance indicators.

    Its not the cost of the system, but the need for the system which needs to be justified in the buyer’s mindset.

    Having said that, to get all analogical…certain items, for example airbags, need to be implemented before we enter a unfortunate discovery phase!!! ;)

    Would you agree?

  2. Avatar Mike Willett | 27 Sep 2008 at 12:16 pm |

    Hi David,

    Yours is a valid question and probably one asked by RA managers as well.

    Lets assume though that the decision makers are not in the RA area but perhaps in a centralised area which reviews and approves/declines all requests for funds. This would probably represent appropriate governance over all the spend by an operator to ensure it does not get out of control.

    Now then, the RA business case is one amongst many. It is competing with everything, that everyone else wants to do – insall more cell sites, build a new trouble ticket system, launch a new sales campaign, undertake some marketing research etc etc.

    And now this centralised group has no comprehension ncessarily of RA so what are your benefits? Finding and quantifying leakage is certainly easier than finding and quantifying leakage and then estimating how much of that leakage will actually turn into revenue. We all know customer behaviour changes if we change the price…and if I find a leakage, fix it and the bill of the customer goes up, they may stop using that product or use less of it so I won’t get the full leakage amount.

    So who will sign up that the benefits being stated for the new system are tangible enough that they will commit them in their forecasting and planning? RA managers rarely seem to have accountability for revenue, this sits elsewhere, where is not impt but that it is not RA is key. If I am own a product and am measured on revenue and RA comes to me and says “we’ll add x% to your revenue”, what would you do – especially if your management would hold you to that.

    Now lets assume you do get everyone to commit, then you have to convince the centralised group, whos job is objectively assess your business case and assumptions against everything else. How do you convince them because they will surely see your benefits as somewhat rubbery if its based on industry statistics?

    These are just a few of the things can add delay – frustrating for the vendor and frustrating for the RA manager.


  3. Hi David,

    It is perhaps a mix of indecision and time constraints.

    I have been involved with a tool procurement process which lasted more than the 17 months I was in the post. The delay was not all due to indecision. I am listing a few factors that contributed to our delay but yes I can imagine that it looks like plain indecision from a vendor’s perspective.

    1. Time lost in vendor discussions which were put on hold when my predecessor left and I started. Inevitable I guess.
    2. I did not have access to competent project staff to prepare and issue the tender documentation within our strict procurement process until later in the process when a super guy took over.
    3. Too few RA knowledgeable personnel that could translate our requirements into tender questionnaire content. This is a skill which not all RA Analysts have and cannot be done by project staff on your behalf. Note to vendors: perhaps consider issuing tender templates to prospective clients free of charge. Tell them what you need. Remember these guys have not done something like this before. We spend about 6 week sorting that bit out.
    4. Time availability of senior management to engage in tool evaluation while running the department. There are only so many hours in a day and operational issues come first.
    5. Democracy. This is fact of the flatter organisational structures we have and the more complex, cross-functional processes. As we break down functional silo’s we need to consult with many other people and yes, this has become an excuse for not making a decision I agree. Part of this is further hampered by the fact that we have people in position where they cannot cope or do not have the competency required but may be excellent con people. They appear in charge but will not commit. Add to this the limited time available and it is very easy to spend weeks on a decision
    6. Culture. Having meetings for the sake of meetings has become a cultural phenomena of organisations that overload their senior staff with too many objectives. No person can execute on more than 5 objectives in a year. It is not uncommon to see performance contracts with 15+ objectives which dilutes focus and achievement.

    We were fortunate in that we had budget. It was a non-issue to try and motivate the business case or savings. We had an Audit Committee directive to procure the tool….and it took this long.


  4. David Leshem David Leshem | 4 Oct 2008 at 7:23 pm |

    Hi Guera, Ashwin and Mike,

    As a famous comedian once said “I agree but not”.
    Yes, you provide logical & valid reasoning why the situation is such. I have no choice but to accept it, since this is how business conducted. And I guess, when dealing with large enterprises there is no other way. Which is frustrating as Mike said. We all agree that life is almost never black and white, but shades of grey. The challenge is to apply the right “safety” measures while considering the costs of doing business.

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