Saying “No” Keeps Your RA Healthy

Today’s guest blog is by Sha’ad Hossenbaccus, Head of Revenue Assurance at Millicom in Tanzania. Sha’ad is a long-time follower of talkRA who recently decided he must add his voice to our choir of opinions. A few weeks ago we published an anonymous blog from an experienced practitioner, describing how their telco is too driven by short-term revenue assurance targets. Sha’ad responds with a more optimistic vision for how RA managers can compromise with their bosses, without compromising their revenue assurance strategy.

A Jack of all trades but a master of none, this is how Revenue Assurance (RA) is sometimes being described (still!!!). Many of us professionals of RA do not agree to this statement because we are masters of RA. This is our specialty and we strive very hard to achieve this. But above all this is our bread and butter and as anybody we would not want anyone to take it for granted.

When I started in RA coming in with an IT background (like many), I felt ok with this statement because after all I was querying, analyzing, automating, writing scripts amongst others. Basically this was not much different from the IT job that I was doing. One difference: this is telecommunications. There is this feel-good factor because you learn a lot and it is really fun.

I grew in experience and learned the different concepts of RA, and the fine line that separates it from fraud. I learned about the importance of internal controls and why it is important to work hand-in-hand with the security team. This made me see the bigger picture and how RA fits in the overall equation. You start knowing your boundaries. There is a big difference between what you can do, what you should do, and what you are doing in RA.

Believe me, a good RA professional can do anything within this telco world. He can investigate any claim be it in channels or in the technical department. He can put in place any control and, more importantly, automate them. He will require the right resources and support from everywhere in the organization, but when tasked by the CFO/CEO, the support comes in automatically. Whatever CEOs and CFOs ask for, RA will find a way.

As the RA function grows in maturity you start critically asking a lot of questions to yourself. What am I doing? Is it what I should do? Why should I do this? All sorts of crazy questions. If you don’t contain yourself you can get frustrated, and easily become the rebel out there. Don’t be a rebel, please. Remember this is a corporate world and only sharks survive :) If you are in such a situation, you are actually on the right track but you have to deal with it in the right way – and with the right politics.

You have a strategy in place, with different milestones you want to achieve in order to improve on your maturity levels. Based on this you make your plans and as a team you get cracking. As a good leader you also make time for the “time eaters”. Those small requests that will come in from time to time, mainly from senior management. Often these are things that you should not be doing, or when you go to the right source you understand that this is a request they are already working on. You got the task just because someone wants to ensure correctness of what will be reported. Other times you can be asked things you have no idea about, or the responsibility is dumped on RA because no one else wants it.

It is sometimes very difficult to say no to your senior managers, even when they make requests that fall outside the scope of RA. But you cannot keep accepting tasks like this, because it will impact your strategy and have a negative impact on your RA team. It is important from time to time to take a step back and say NO. This takes a lot of courage but it will get your RA team the respect it deserves. Also if you are able to explain in simple terms your reasons and propose a fair solution, this will show your understanding and grasp of the environment. Yes, you have just scored a point here. You will have to score many to be able to win this battle.

To say no is not easy and this is very much cultural and sometimes personal. I had my challenges when saying no in the past, but I had no other choice if I wanted to be efficient. Being strong is helped by preparation and practice. You should be ready to think fast, and to question the rationale behind the requests that come your way. It is about being critical. It is about knowing the environment, assessing the situation and seeing the bigger picture.

The challenge does not end there. There also needs to be a re-alignment (every time) between you and your boss’ understanding of the scope of RA. But, this can sometimes wait to a later date.

Saying no sometimes is the right thing to do. You cannot and should not accept that your RA becomes a dumping ground. At the same time, you need to remember that you represent a support function, and step in when it really matters to the business. That’s politics. And that is what you have to do to keep your RA function moving in the right direction.

The important thing that matters to your team is that you really believe in what you do, so you are able to inspire them. Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian novelist and lyricist, once observed: “when you say yes to others, make sure you do not say no to yourself.”

From time to time, Commsrisk invites special guests to make an expert contribution.