New RA Book, New RA Thinking

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.

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.