Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns: The Origin of RAG

People sometimes ask how I know so many people who hold risk and assurance jobs around the world. It has nothing to do with ability or hard work, but was just a product of dumb luck and good timing. The answer is that I once worked for T-Mobile UK.

Many other people will apprehend my meaning, whether they are currently rolling out ERM for a telco in Myanmar, or they are responsible for billing accuracy as part of managing IT ops for a carrier in Australia, or they are VP of business development for a Californian provider of fraud analytics, or they oversee RAFM for the world’s eleventh largest mobile network group from their desk in Amsterdam. That is because they all worked for T-Mobile UK too. They, and others, were part of an incredibly talented team that did a lot of pioneering work at a time when most other telcos would ask if you were talking about revenue assurance or revenue insurance.

Knowing all those people, who were later recruited for better jobs in all sorts of telcos around the world, meant I was then introduced to many new people they worked with, and everything has mushroomed since. I did not know I was joining an unusually large and gifted team at precisely the time when they would be given the freedom to invent a lot of control activities now considered routine, and before many of the associated vendors were even incorporated. It was only later that I appreciated my good fortune.

These days I visualize this growing series of connections like a family tree, with T-Mobile UK at its root. And I would not have to visualize it if Marcus Bryant would finally deliver the big tree chart he has been promising to draw for nearly a decade. Each year the branches grow, so if Marcus does not start working on the chart soon then I fear we will all be too senile to recognize the names of our peers by the time he completes it.

Another stroke of good fortune was that T-Mobile UK had its headquarters in Britain – though you might have surmised that from its name – which meant it was invited to participate in RAG meetings from their inception. The UK meetings of RAG have been going so long that almost everyone involved thought they had begun in 2004, when actually they started the year before, which shows how easy it is to forget important details when you get older. RAG is the reason I also know a guy who now does risk consulting for a $20bn manufacturer of network equipment, and a woman who manages what is probably the largest and most profitable RA function in the world.

Telcos compete by delivering valuable networked services, but nothing can compete with the value generated by a great network of people. That is why I admire the foresight of the founders of RAG, including retired business consultant Tony Kremer (pictured, right) who recently shared some insights into the beginnings of RAG. He told me about the objectives he set for RAG in the very first memo that called for a meeting of like-minded professionals:

1. To allow revenue assurance professionals within European telecoms operators to develop and promulgate best practice in their discipline, in order to:

  • help telecoms operators to become profitable and attractive to investors;
  • protect users from being disadvantaged by errors and poor customer care; and
  • anticipate revenue assurance problems that might arise through the introduction of new services and technologies.

2. To encourage the development and validation of training courses that spread the understanding of revenue assurance practices through the industry.

There is still a lot of work to do, but it is easy to forget how much progress we have collectively made since the first RAG meeting was held in December 2003. A small seed can grow into an organism that is thousands of times greater if it is planted in fertile soil and given sufficient time. Our industry keeps changing, and it is good to remember how leaders like Tony Kremer have influenced its transformation.

Tony Kremer’s interview about the foundation of RAG can be read here.

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.