Time to get back to business as usual. Recently I spoke with Morisso Taieb, who has established a new LinkedIn network for revenue assurance practitioners. Morisso is the Risk, Revenue Assurance and Carrier Relations Manager at Israeli communications provider Bezeq International.
Eric: Morisso, what lead you to set up a new LinkedIn group for revenue assurance professionals?
Morisso: The idea first came to me two years ago, when I tried to found a group for my university alumni. At the end there was a huge fee. A few weeks ago I saw there was a new and free way to connect people through LinkedIn. The difference between contacting people through LinkedIn and asking them to be your friend or your network contact is that you have to write to someone, get an answer, they do not know you. I had a few problems with that, and people were not happy to connect without knowing me. On the contrary, people are much happier to connect via LinkedIn. The fact that I already knew a lot of revenue assurance professionals, and the fact that I am not a vendor, and only interested in professional matters, helps a lot. I think a lot of vendors have joined, but we have a nice proportion of professionals amongst us. One of the questions I asked myself was whether to accept people coming from HR, who are seeking to network only to find people looking for jobs. But that might be in the end interest of everybody. Not so much in the revenue assurance group, but In the credit and collection group, the people most happy to respond were unemployed people, so if we can help them by having people from HR join, why not?
Eric: You’ve set this group up, and you’ve been involved with GRAPA…
Morisso: Not exactly. I joined the site.
Eric: The reason why I mention GRAPA is that you’ve set up a LinkedIn group, and they previously set up a LinkedIn group for revenue assurance professionals. Do you see yourself doing something completely independent from other organizations?
Morisso: My most honest response is that I can make a statement of being completely independent as long as I am a revenue assurance manager in a telco. I don’t know what I am going to do in two, three, five or ten years. In future, I may make use of that networking, but for now that is not my purpose. On the contrary, I think my position as a revenue assurance manager opens a lot of doors that would be closed if I was a vendor or any kind of advisor.
Eric: What would you say are your main goals for the LinkedIn group? Or is that too hard a question – is the goal to network, and see what happens as a result?
Eric: I ask because you’ve got a lot of members already [the group has 141 members at date of writing]. I think you’ve attracted a surprisingly large group so quickly. You’ve got a lot of people interested, so when you speak to people, what is it that you’re saying is the reason for the group… or are you just saying let’s have a group and then people can use it how they want to use it?
Morisso: I sent two kinds of invitations: one to all my contacts and then another to revenue assurance managers in groups I am in already. The text said:
“I am pleased to invite you to join the revenue assurance professional group. Our goal is to promote our profession, build up a network of professionals and be able to help each other on professional issues like questions and answers and benchmarking.”
What I did with my other LinkedIn group, the credit and collection group, is that I opened a Google group, and put there about twelve, thirteen questions that really interest me, and then… nothing… [lol]
Eric: Oh yes, that’s the problem with things like this. That’s why I am pleased and surprised you have got so many people interested. I once wrote an article, and it was based on a lot of research about these things, and if you look at Wikipedia or any internet-driven activity, for every hundred people who are interested enough to take a look, there may be only one person who is interested enough to provide some content. That seems to be a very consistent statistic. I think the difficulty we face in the revenue assurance industry is that when you take a ratio of 1 to 100, that is not very many people producing material. You have to get an awful lot of people interested before you find even a dozen who will be consistently involved in discussions and debates and the rest of it. That intrigues me, and I am curious to know if your model is more passive – wait and see what happens – or more active, where you will take more of an active lead.
Morisso: The reason why I did not set up a Google group for revenue assurance is that we tried to find questions that were interesting… but for the most interesting questions we have now, the source was the revenue assurance benchmarking we are doing with the TMF. So we cannot share our published KPI’s, and if I put there only very narrow issues, that would not interest anyone.
Eric: True. That is another big difficulty too, isn’t it? People often get very specific with their questions, but too specific to interest other people who have no reason to be concerned with those kinds of problems. Finding common points of discussion isn’t that straightforward, especially ones that are relevant to people on a day-to-day basis.
Morisso: One of the things we did after joining the TMF’s benchmark was that we had access to the TMF’s guidelines, and we created a connection with the COSO cube. We tried to mix the revenue assurance framework from the TMF within the COSO cube.
Eric: Wow! Ambitious!?
Morisso: It is very interesting as an idea. The framework of the TMF gives you two levels, and the COSO cube gives you the third level, the business unit, and then you have a three-dimensional model. But the problem is that it gives us about 500 [lol] points to check… it will take us ten years to do [lol]. My main problem is to set my priorities and goals.
Eric: That’s one of the difficulties isn’t it? You spend a lot of time gathering data. You spend so much time trying to gather data to understand what to do first, you never find time to do anything. I am intrigued… you are involved in the TMF benchmark program, have you been involved in the TMF before?
Morisso: I have been to Nice [to the TMF’s European conference] twice, and we took part in the billing benchmark last year. But the answer to the question, why aren’t we members of the TMF, it is a question of money. It costs a lot of money to be a member, and I have some difficulties to sell it to my boss.
Eric: It is expensive. If only one small part of the business is interested, it does not really justify the fees. If you can get many sections of the business interested, then it makes sense. I understand your situation entirely. But that’s a shame, because it’s one opportunity to share ideas like your idea of using the COSO cube in conjunction with the revenue assurance measurements. Maybe this is the start of creating a new vehicle to share that kind of information. Is that one of your thoughts, looking for a more cost-effective way to discuss, agree and share ideas with other revenue assurance people, without spending so much money or through face-to-face meetings which usually need vendors to sponsor? On that point, were you hoping when you joined GRAPA, that they would be a low-cost but effective organization where you could share information?
Morisso: Yes, exactly. I am coming from the area of credit and collections, then I turned to revenue assurance, and now I am risk manager. And as risk manager, I am responsible for credit and collections, revenue assurance and the risk function. About five, six years ago, I founded an informal group for credit and collections only. In telcos, you have seven or eight telcos in Israel. We are competing with each other. It is easier for me to cooperate with someone based in the UK or Europe, than it is to cooperate with someone based on the other side of the street. So, for me, GRAPA or TMF or similar model is much more exciting and gives more information and much more interesting issues. Discovering what was inside the benchmarking of revenue assurance in the TMF was like seeing Jesus – for an Israeli something very interesting!!! [lol]
Eric: You come from the credit and collections background. In fraud prevention, there are other organizations that are effective in this space. There does not seem to be as many, or the quality, of organizations working in revenue assurance.
Morisso: I don’t have any model in mind. But I would be happy to cooperate with any group which gives a public place to meet and cooperate with people. Take Gadi Solotorevsky from cVidya, who is not really like a man working for a vendor. Most of the time he does research. It is interesting to cooperate with guys like that.
Eric: Absolutely, though part of the reason is he has cVidya to pay the bills! [lol] So he can fly to meet operators and attend the TMF events. The difficulty in this sphere is that you do get individuals like Gadi Solotorevsky who do a lot of good work, but they have to be in a lucky position to have the time and resources to do that kind of thing. We have not really been able to form a professional organization with the business case and the business model that can finance itself and do those kinds of things we would like to see done in this area.
Morisso: Even the TMF is not pushing in the direction of public revenue assurance standards. Rob Mattison did this directly. The TMF is missing something by not publishing standards for use by everybody.
Eric: I agree entirely, but I can understand their point of view too. Rob Mattison has a business model where he publishes, and you buy his advice later on. It is advertising for him. For the TMF, people are contributing the information, for free, to the TMF. It becomes the TMF’s intellectual property, but the TMF does not have a really good and obvious model for how to use this intellectual property. It tries to sell it, or retains it as a way to encourage people to become a member and pays fees. But this discourages people from providing information, because why give information when possibly not many people are going to see it? It would be easier to do something like Rob Mattison has done, and publish so all the world can see it.
Morisso: I have to disagree a little bit with you. I have no problem to give my data to the TMF. I do not care what they do with it, to make a profit, so long as they do not misuse it. As a middle manager, I gain immediately by sharing information.
Eric: Don’t get me wrong, I am not against giving information to the TMF. I’ve given them plenty of information myself over the years [lol]. I just think it puts off other people, who would be more keen to circulate material more widely. There are people like yourself who will see TMF material sometimes, and not other times. Something like what you are doing may be the start of an opportunity to put out material more widely and share it more freely.
Morisso: Two years ago I went to an IIR conference, and there were about five to ten revenue assurance managers. Everybody was speaking about KPI’s. We spent three days there, and we leave without getting one KPI from anyone! [lol]
Eric: That’s not the first time that’s happened [lol]. If information is shared, it may only take place when you fly people to the same place, for a conference. It does not give you something you can maintain. After they leave, they do not keep in touch. The use of the internet, like LinkedIn, gives us another opportunity to share information.
Morisso: I will go in any direction that helps me to be a professional.
Eric: One last question. We have used the word “professional” in this conversation, but there is no professional organization for revenue assurance. Quite a lot of people in the industry, in GRAPA and the TMF and elsewhere, have been talking about the need for professionalization of revenue assurance. They are looking for qualifications and certifications, distinguishing who the professionals are. What are your thoughts on the need for it?
Morisso: We are very poorly represented in the telecom professions. Even when talking about the risk function, nobody knows what we are doing. If you look at something like the Association of Credit Managers in the United States, and with my being from Israel, a country of seven million people, it gives you humility about starting something like that. If you ask me, if there was a professional organization in England, or Europe or the States, would I try to get in involved in it, then the answer is yes.
Eric: The problem is getting it started.
Morisso: The problem is starting. If we look at CPA organizations, which have been in place for 100 years or 150 years, we are not going to be a recognized profession at the beginning.
Eric: It evolves, doesn’t it? You do not jump to being a professional. Consensus
evolves. Getting everybody involved is great, but you have to draw a line on what is professional practice. Part of the problem is that you have to distinguish who is the professional from who is not.
Morisso: Maybe our direction should be to unify enough revenue assurance managers in Europe and maybe the United States, a few hundred revenue assurance managers, and then go to the TMF and force them to publish their standards. Because with independent people located in so many countries, it will be difficult to build up a new organization.
Eric: I have taken up a lot of your time, Morisso, and I do appreciate it, and have really enjoyed talking to you.
Morisso: Me too.
Eric: I could probably keep talking with you for a lot longer [lol] but let me finish here and thank you for talking with me today.
Morisso: Thank you.