Our new book, Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers is out today; to find out more, look here. If you read RA websites, go to conferences, or attend courses, you should be asking yourself one thing: what will you get from this book, that you have not heard a hundred times elsewhere?
There is one thing you will not find in the book: easy answers. The problem with easy answers is that they are often the wrong answers. Step back and think about why somebody would promise you answers to the problems faced by your business, when they have never stepped inside your business. They do not know your business, and they do not know its people, culture, customers, tariffs, customers, network, IT, processes, CEO… in short, they do not know what makes your business unique, and the unique challenges it faces. If there was a universal checklist of how to do RA, everybody would have been following it years ago. Indeed, if the perfect checklists existed, then people could use them to think ahead, instead of waiting for things to go wrong. If human thought processes were flawless, there would never be any unexpected leakage. Leakage occurs because life is complicated, people make mistakes, resources are limited and time is short. Solving problems requires more than a manual. Solving problems requires imagination – your imagination.
We cannot teach imagination, but maybe we can encourage it. If you wrote a story, and I told you which words to keep, which to remove and which to add, then it would end up being my story. You would have learned nothing. But if I can show you how other people write stories – ideally presenting a variety of different ways – then you can take from that experience and develop your own abilities. We believe the same is true when it comes to solving problems. It would be convenient if the problems faced by your businesses were identical to those faced by others. It would be convenient, but unlikely. Not only are there many problems, but there are many ways to solve them. People play up the similarities between problems, but your job exists because of the differences between them. The book seeks to prompt your imagination, by looking at revenue assurance from many points of view. We cannot solve the problems in your business, but you can. What we can do is show you how we think about, identify, manage and solve problems. The most important lesson is that whilst you can copy solutions, but you also need to learn how to adapt them and develop your own.
Why write a book, when we have a website already? Some ideas can be expressed in a few pages, but others take a lot more. Also, some ideas benefit from how they are organized and presented alongside other ideas. The book gave us an opportunity to do something we could not do with a website. We took the best of advice from the site, and presented it alongside new material you will not find elsewhere. Here are some of the things you will find in the book that we feel are genuinely innovative:
- The 4 C’s model of transaction processing – capture, conveyance, calculation and collection – provides a logical foundation to performing revenue assurance. This consistent framework informs many aspects of revenue assurance: designing tests for leakage; implementing controls; assessing the capability of tools; setting scope and responsibilities; documenting flows; and reporting performance. This framework of understanding can be adapted to the assurance of any stream of transactions in any business.
- The book provides an analysis of the role of revenue assurance and fraud management within the context of enterprise risk management and compliance. This enables you to explore the connections and conflicts between the various goals that motivate your work. We evenhandedly explain the commonalities whilst also highlighting the inconsistencies in objectives and methods.
- A straightforward method for evaluating the returns generated by revenue assurance and fraud management gives a practical basis for showing the benefits of your wok. This method is easy to explain and justify to management, fairly recognizes the value of prevention and enables consistent benchmarking.
- The SPIRIT method for evaluating the offerings of RA vendors starts with looking at the problem to be solved, without jumping to possible solutions too soon. The method builds on the 4 C’s whilst encouraging the RA team to consider all possible options for how to meet an objective, including kinds of tools they may not otherwise have considered and reuse of systems already owned by the business.
- A thorough exploration of the role of control frameworks will help you to ground your work, giving it purpose beyond the short-term recovery of leakages. The book includes an entity-relationship model that can be used as the basis of systematically documenting control objectives, existing controls and needed improvements.
- The book presents a proper analysis of the relationship between charging errors, customer perception and customer complaints. This is based on the concept of a value-visibility curve. It explains the flaws in the over-simplistic assertion that more error means more complaints (or that no complaints means there are no errors). This then serves as a foundation to explain what should be the focus of regulation to protect customers from overbilling.
- Instead of asserting a single definition of revenue assurance, which can only limit our perspective, the book discusses the evolving definitions and redefinition of revenue assurance. This is articulated through the paradigms for how people execute revenue assurance in practice. The book explains the two distinct paradigms that dominated the early development of revenue assurance, whilst identifying how changing technology and the changing attitudes of RA practitioners leads to the emergence of a new, third paradigm.
We also bring back some old favourite topics in the hope of rejuvenating them and improving on previous advice. For example, the book contains an all-new version of the classic revenue assurance maturity model, with a self-assessment questionnaire that is easier to understand and quicker to complete. We also present a detailed worked example on how to use statistical techniques to calculate sample sizes. This convincingly disproves the RA folklore that says spending more to test more is always worth the extra investment. In addition, the book recognizes and recommends other useful methods, like Yelland and Sherick’s Five Dimensions, and the guidance of the TM Forum. We also feel that the ability to imaginatively solve problems is helped if people learn to relax and embrace different perspectives. To go with all the serious stuff, we include plenty of anecdotes and entertaining asides.
Like I said, you will not find the new ideas anywhere else. It would be no surprise – and a sort of compliment – if these ideas did end up retread and recast by all sorts of people to incorporate into their talks, guidebooks, and courses. If you cannot wait for them, then buy the book. And if you are willing to wait, ask yourself this: why would you want to learn about how to come up with fresh solutions from people that did not innovate? Innovation is the currency of thought. We did not write this book to present answers to yesterday’s problems. We wrote it to help you solve the problems of tomorrow.
From the little RA literature that I have gone through, I am sometimes exasperated by the shallowness of value. If you are looking to learn fishing, it does not matter how many times you are fed delicious fish. We seem to have formed a habit either giving fish or providing the fishing rods and baits and the techniques. Those two approaches are not enough. We need to nurture people who not only eat fish and can fish but even more importantly, can question different approaches of fishing, adapt the fishing to their environments and generate new and even better fishing methods because they have had some light shone up the path. Without this, the hunger remains (and it’s not the hunger of lacking – rather it’s a frustration of inability to effectively action the lacking in a sustainable manner). I get this feeling that as much as RA has now largely left its newbie status as a new thing (even becoming commonplace at times), it has still not been taken seriously enough to warrant proper book publications – there is knowledge out there in people’s minds, deep insights really scattered across the globe but the organization is lacking. The stark reminder came when we tried setting up an RA library for my department. Blogs are there, some e-how articles, some random white-paper here and there, some Big4 surveys and vendor newsletters all addressing some part but never tying in- there is always something missing and to be honest it has been difficult to place a finger on it.
Güera may be in a position to authoritatively comment on the quality of literature that she has come across in her study but I do recall a post from her that indicated this was really not a walk in the park (power to her as she soldiers on!).
From review of this new book’s summary, I am encouraged and hopefully once I get hold of the book, my hunger will be addressed bit by bit. Might I add that I hope the team behind it is already thinking of another one – once one form of hunger is addressed, a new one comes up, with even stronger pangs, I wonder why we don’t call it the Curse of Maslow but I guess it really wasn’t his fault – he just took note of it!
Joseph, yes, I agree with your experiencing the RA literature as shallow. But at the same time there are exciting things as well. Unfortunately the exciting elements are not fully developed and are therefore not properly embedded in foundational knowledge. We are not creating a foundation through commercial writing. Most of the writing out there has “now” value. If you read it 6 months down the line it is either irrelevant or “old”.
The challenge with building foundation knowledge is that it takes too long to be commercially viable. How many super rich academic professors do you know :)
I just blogged about the roles of RA in context of a learning organisation. Those roles were identified in literature up to 2009. Just last week I saw GRAPA offering training on “revenue engineering”. The term engineer has far reaching implications for personnel management and career pathing. Yet, just like that we have a new concept to deal with. When you start digging to understand exactly what it is and why this hot new topic is worth following you realise that the delicious fish you ate 10 years ago (ala, the basic common sense of RA as an enabler of complete and accurate billing) is still the best to eat. All the hype about sea bash this and blue fin tuna that becomes hot air.
Perhaps we have reached the critical mass in RA. We cannot be wow-ed anymore. Give the average CFO out there a good quality hake and he thinks you walk on water.