Is this the wrong question?

I was speaking to the new Revenue Assurance manager at a previous employer and was thrilled to hear my friend took over that department. The wellbeing of those team members has been renting space in mind for some time. I emailed an ex-colleague to say thanks for looking out for what remains of this team and was struck by a thought. What exactly was renting space in my mind? The wellbeing of the function I am passionate about or the great many people putting heart and soul into it?

The mind and language philosopher Wittgenstein says language belongs to groups, not to individual or isolated minds. Language reflects communal practices and specifically how those communities use the words in that language. The language also has context and is infused with socio-cultural detail, which further informs the common understanding and adoption of the specific language as practiced.

The term Revenue Assurance has a generic meaning to all who are interested in the subject, yet not specific enough to categorise its components when we reduce the term to a cipher, or a bit, or an atom. A lot of what is going on in blogs, advertorials, vendor white papers and certification efforts are based on pretty much the technical stuff. The how to, or with what cool tool. The sales pitch is about the technology, with added benefits of consulting and on-site support. It assumes that the question is How to do RA?

Is this the question? Does answering this question inform of us of what exactly RA is? I could not help to reflect that for many of us in the RA industry, RA is a logical certainty. One for which we are prepared to fight, motivate and convince. Is the question perhaps Whether to assure revenue? The answer would certainly be yes. Does this require a dedicated team and specialised tools? Ask a commercial bank or car manufacturer and the answer is no.

Is RA perhaps rather a personal relationship? In some of the material I review for the research I find reference to technique to convince the CFO of the merits and benefits of investing in RA. The mere fact that there are executives who do not immediately see the must have of this function and who need a compelling business case to assign funds in this direction rather than that, is cause to revisit the question.

What is the correct RA question to ask to get an answer of 42?

Güera Romo
Güera Romo
Güera has many years of experience in business transformation in the engineering, defense, government, banking and telecommunication industries. She has experience in mergers & acquisition, rightsizing, re-deployment of personnel, business process re-engineering, system selection and implementation.   Güera holds a BCom Hon (Industrial and Organizational Psychology) degree and is currently pursuing a doctorate that draws on her practical experience of developing human resource capabilities within large corporations.

2 Comments on "Is this the wrong question?"

  1. Wittgenstein’s idea of the language-game was in my mind when starting talkRA.

    To create a community of language, you need people to use language to interact. Online communities tend not to encourage sophisticated use of language – everything is kept too brief to invest in the development of the meanings of words. I had in mind that the RA community initially suffered from a lack of linguistic consensus. This was evident in too many debates about the ‘definition’ of ‘revenue assurance’ and confused and contradictory use of words like ‘leakage’ and ‘proactive’. The aim of talkRA is, in part, to elevate, appraise and critique the language of RA practitioners and hence to elevate the sophistication of the RA language-game.

    However, a more recent trend is that the success of the RA language-game is tending to lead its community to become isolated from the language-game of people who work around it. Words can get their meanings from use by other members of the community – which means that words can be accepted as representing truisms by a community, even when those ‘truisms’ become divorced from real facts. The relative success of the community of RA at developing its own language-game is now in danger of leading to another problem – they start talking to each other in a language that nobody outside the community properly understands, and which becomes separated from reality. For example we all know the word ‘leakage’ – but why is there no word for the mirror concept of an error that inflates and exaggerates the revenues of a telco? It is because the concept is inconvenient to some, so not articulated properly within the community. But if we cannot talk about problems like overcharging, and insist on a lop-sided language that describes the world in terms of problems that generate a simpler business case for RA, we end up with lop-sided view of which problems to solve and how to solve them.

    I’m hoping that talkRA will keep on being a positive influence in the development of the language of RA. An example would be the recent criticisms of KPMG’s RA survey. For a language to develop, semantic norms must not just be established, but challenged and reformulated over time.

    Is this the right answer? Not the whole answer, but a part of it ;)

  2. Güera Romo Güera Romo | 11 Mar 2010 at 8:55 am |

    Getting there yes :)

    It could be more than only the language that nobody outside that circle understands. But then again, the language just labels the concepts we refer to. So perhaps we saying the same thing. Many people don’t understand what we are on about. Period.

    I am trying to take different angles on exactly what it is I am researching and so question the epistemology of RA. In philosophy we differentiate between knowing that and knowing how. My earlier example referred to the knowing how aspect of RA and there is enough of knowing how, to satisfy most inquiring minds.

    Knowing that requires linguistic consensus we certainly do not have but I am suspecting that the consensus may not be forth coming specifically due to the knowing that believe which is not shared. What exactly is there to know about RA except how to do it?

    In Daniel Coleman’s EQ we are taught emotional intelligence in how to conduct ourselves in a given situation. Danah Sohar, in SQ (spiritual quotient), asks why are we in a given situation (in the first place)? What is the benefit of being present in that moment? I don’t think EQ and SQ follow each other in any sequence but are certainly related and together give us a more holistic perspective on human conduct. Emotional conduct will be influenced by the situation and the reason for that engagement. Cause and effect and both can be manipulated to some extent (the situation engagement and the conduct in the situation).

    Assume RA knowledge of that and how above as having a similar relationship. Knowing how to do RA (the works from reconciling to convincing the CFO) will be x within the context of that (what or believe) of RA. So if the what is not fixed, how do you align and standardise the how? When drawing up a business architecture, you go from what, to how to when and these are all tied together with the that (epistemology) or context of the business your are modeling.

    Why does it feel like we are in how mode without having the context? Granted, like EQ and SQ we can move in and out and inform the one from the other. Are we successful in moving in and out of the RA that and how? I have a funny feeling the how is trying to inform the that of this linguistic challenge.

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