RAG and GSMA FASG Top Poll of Respected RAFM Collaborations; GRAPA and CFCA at Bottom

Last week I broke a golden rule by daring to run Commsrisk’s first ever opinion poll. I was afraid the poll would be a failure because another rule asserts only one percent of an internet audience engages with activities like polls, so you need to be read by many thousands to obtain what naïve onlookers would consider a small sample. Thankfully, the response to the poll was both tremendous and fascinating. A poll of Commsrisk readers can hardly be treated like a scientifically robust sample but these results will force many to rethink what they thought they knew about the community of revenue assurance and fraud management (RAFM) professionals…

…or not. This poll will have no influence over those professionals who are so disengaged from the rest of the community, who so rarely speak to anyone outside of their business, that their notion of the profession is based entirely on the paltry disinformation fed to them by one or two biased sources. Some of these people will still write social media posts, issue press releases, or speak at events whilst being unintentionally (or intentionally) ignorant of the opinions of RAFM professionals who work for other telcos or live in different countries. Their lack of knowledge will not stop them from influencing others who are equally ignorant. But you will know better.

The poll asked about awareness and respect for the collaborative RAFM work undertaken by several organizations and programs. Respondents were asked to state how much they respected the collaboration on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 = no respect and 5 = highly respect. They were also told to respond with “don’t know” if they had not heard of the organization/program or did not know enough about its collaborative work to have an opinion. The following table summarizes the answers at the time of writing, and is ordered by the mean average score for respect.

Organization/Program Number of Ratings Mean Average Rating
RAG 76 4.59
GSMA FASG 74 4.32
FIINA 48 3.94
PITA Fraud Forum 16 3.69
MEF Trust in Enterprise Messaging 20 3.60
i3forum Fight Against Fraud 40 3.60
M3AAWG 23 3.52
TM Forum RA Program 60 3.35
ARBLE 3 3.33
TUFF 30 3.13
TM Forum Fraud Program 46 3.04
FSWK 2 3.00
CFCA 69 2.90
GRAPA 59 1.71

Here are the same average respect scores as a graph (in alphabetical order).

And here is the graph of the number of rankings the poll received for each organization/program.

Obviously I am pleased that my own organization, the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), came top for both respect and name recognition, but I would be foolish to ignore the inevitable bias that comes from my regularly writing about RAG on Commsrisk. Nevertheless, a few of the respondents to this poll had not heard of RAG, which also illustrates how a website with the reach of Commsrisk must sometimes be read by people who have hardly visited it before. Most of RAG’s ratings were 5’s or 4’s, but it also received a 1, proving that you do not have to agree with my opinions to read Commsrisk.

It would be difficult to argue Commsrisk has any bias for or against the GSMA’s Fraud and Security Group (FASG) because it is difficult to cover their activities without gaining entry to their meetings, and none of their leaders chooses to promote their work to this audience. That 74 readers gave them an average rating of 4.32 out of 5 confirms the widespread admiration this group enjoys.

I was surprised that the Forum for International Irregular Network Access (FIINA) gained the third highest average rating because they are now defunct. My supposition is that there is still a lot of affection for the memories of what they used to do. It is also possible their name is so well known and respected amongst this audience because they, like RAG, allowed telco personnel to participate without charging a fee, which made them accessible to professionals who were excluded from other collaborative initiatives.

The Fraud Forum of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA) is not well known outside that region, but clearly commands respect amongst those who know them. The greatest surprise was seeing how many people based outside of Oceania had heard of them. This shows they are punching above their weight in the international ring, doing a good job of defending the interests of their members.

Messaging fraud and abuse deserves more attention from me and other members of the RAFM community. This is somewhat reflected in the low recognition but commendable level of respect for the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) Trust in Enterprise Messaging program. I will endeavor to raise awareness of their work during 2021.

The i3forum’s Fight Against Fraud program has a niche focus on wholesale carrier voice fraud, but perhaps is better known than some other groups in this poll because of their longevity. They and MEF both secured a decent average rating of 3.6 out of 5.

The Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) began by focusing on messaging abuse, and hence needs to succeed for the same reasons as the MEF Trust in Enterprise Messaging Program. However, I sometimes to struggle to understand how M3AAWG currently define their remit and wonder if similar uncertainty undermines the score they attained in this poll.

The TM Forum’s Revenue Assurance program is the top-rated collaboration that purely focuses on revenue assurance with no element of fraud management. It is well-known, securing 60 ratings from poll respondents, but the middling score of 3.35 for respect highlights the extent to which their rate of output has slowed down considerably in recent years as their work has lost shape and a sense of purpose. I was a founding member of this group but cannot even be sure I have correctly stated their current name because the management team in the TM Forum spends more time rebranding initiatives than finding people with energy who are willing to contribute to them.

Psychology tells us that if you ask somebody a question that begins “do you recognize…” then some people will answer in the affirmative because they are conditioned to satisfy the questioner’s expectations, even though they do not actually recognize the name. That is why this poll included two control questions i.e. two of the listed organizations/programs were entirely fictitious. Both secured a few ratings from people who obviously felt they were real, perhaps because they confused them with something else. Three people gave scores for ARBLE; two 3’s and a 4 gave them an average of 3.33. Two people gave scores for FSWK; a 2 and a 4 gave them an average of 3.00. There were far more respondents who answered that they did not know either name, but these ratings for non-existent bodies should be kept in mind when determining how much confidence to place in poll answers generally.

That ARBLE and FSWK attained average scores in the low 3’s also provides some perspective on what needs to be done to earn respect from the community. Neither ARBLE nor FSWK has ever done anything worthy of respect because they have never existed. However, some organizations received lower average scores than ARBLE and FSWK. This illustrates the danger of confusing a vague sense of liking others with being able to specify what they have accomplished.

The Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum (TUFF) lacks an international remit but has existed for a long time and is often mentioned alongside the GSMA FASG and CFCA. TUFF’s name was recognized by 30 respondents but the organization received an average rating of just 3.13. I cannot explain why they did not receive a higher score as there is a large British contingent to the readership of Commsrisk who must also be conscious of TUFF. Perhaps TUFF’s reputation remains sullied by past problems with their management team, or loyal Commsrisk readers may remember when TUFF stole this website’s intellectual property.

The TM Forum’s Fraud Management program is not as well known as the much older RA program, and its average rating was three-tenths lower. This fraud program seems to fit the marketing objectives of the TM Forum and its backers but otherwise struggles to define its purpose or make any headway when there are numerous older bodies that also focus exclusively on telecoms fraud.

The Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA) was third-highest for recognition (69) and second-lowest for average rating (2.90). Unlike some other scores, their average cannot be blamed on eccentric answers affecting a small sample. 30 respondents gave the CFCA a rating of 3, whilst 15 ratings were higher and 24 ratings were lower, illustrating the extent to which this community sees the CFCA’s work as sitting in the middle of the scale. The CFCA is often talked about as if it does similar collaborative work to the GSMA FASG, but only eight respondents to this poll gave GSMA FASG a rating below 4.

It is my belief that the CFCA has hurt themselves through vacuous over-promotion. Nobody cares about partnership deals whose sole purpose is to cram the name of the CFCA into yet another report, and several organizations listed in this poll now conduct surveys that are larger or more comprehensive than the CFCA survey, begging a question about why the CFCA’s long-running but increasingly outdated survey deserves more publicity than newer surveys. Their organization has had a long life, but now they express childish delight over every piece of flotsam on social media in the hope it will win them new friends. The CFCA have become the Kardashians of RAFM, and this behavior generates antipathy as well as attention. The CFCA even liked GRAPA on social media. A few other adoration-seeking clowns scolded me for complaining publicly about the CFCA aligning itself with the world’s leading RAFM scumbag, but a biblical proverb applies to circumstances like these: as you sow, so shall you reap.

This poll was not about being liked – it was about being respected. People who want respect will sometimes have to do things that are serious and unpopular, such as highlighting corruption or analyzing the misinformation in the CFCA’s survey. CFCA members may enjoy traveling to knowledge sharing sessions that uniformly require three-day business trips to Florida golf courses, Las Vegas casinos and other tourist locations that appeal to Americans, but when was the last time they did some collaborative work that others respected?

And then there was the Global Revenue Assurance Professionals Association (GRAPA), whose name was recognized by 59 respondents and whose average rating was 1.71. That reflects what real professionals think of GRAPA, but that will not discourage the worst of the worst from trying to use that hollow name to impress people who know nothing of RAFM outside their company. Another kind of survey might read through CVs on LinkedIn to identify how many publicly boast about being certified by GRAPA. That kind of survey might convince some to have positive feelings about GRAPA, though they will never be able to say what GRAPA does, apart from selling certificates. This poll tells a different story. This story will not reach as far, because GRAPA makes money by selling itself, whilst nobody makes money by telling the truth about GRAPA. Communities that only exist to buy products and services are not real communities; they are just markets comprised of ill-informed consumers. I believe the respondents to this poll want to belong to a real community of RAFM professionals, and are setting an example for others by showing there needs to be more to RAFM collaboration than simply repeating somebody else’s advertisements.

The poll received answers from around the world. Just under a third of respondents are based in Europe, a quarter are in Asia, then came Africa (18%), North America (13%), South America (9%) and the three respondents in Oceania represented 4 percent of the total. The poll also asked if any organizations/programs should have been added to the list in case I made a grave error by excluding a well-known body. The International Telecoms Week (ITW) Global Leader’s Forum (GLF) was the only one to be named in multiple responses. That four people independently called for their inclusion shows it was a mistake not to have asked about the GLF in this poll.

It is bad technique to leave a survey running indefinitely, but Commsrisk posts have a long tail and I am curious to see if answers will keep coming in without my publicizing this poll further. Responses are anonymous but the time and date are logged, so it will always be possible to apply a cut-off if there are doubts about the quality of later responses. It is possible that some might try to game the survey by giving deliberately extreme answers to increase the score of one organization/program at the expense of others, and some of the last few responses are oddly unlike any answers that came before. On the other hand, it is much harder to game a poll when the number of responses is high, and a brazen attempt to manipulate the outcome will just prompt me to tell the world about which entity has unethical supporters. It is more likely that some respondents will not learn of the poll for months, and I am at least as curious about the opinions of professionals with low levels of engagement as those who visit Commsrisk on a weekly basis.

That this professional community generally suffers from low levels of engagement is evident from the ratings received by the fictional FSWK after its status as a control was revealed during last week’s episode of RAG TV. Using this poll to prompt a conversation about respect and engagement may help more professionals to appreciate the extent to which low awareness and poor information is impeding every collaborative program. For these reasons I will allow the poll to keep running and have included a link to a dynamic dashboard of the results here. This dashboard will provide a summary of all responses received at the time it is viewed, so may diverge from the summary given above as more people submit answers.

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.