Straight Talking (Would Make A Nice Change)

Be careful what you wish for. Last post I was asking for an unconference for revenue assurance – a gathering of like-minded people wanting to work together and share ideas, quite unlike conferences that offer little new information but lots of hard sell. Yesterday it appeared that my wish has been granted. Unfortunately, appearances proved deceptive. Because what the so-called World Revenue Assurance Forum really offers is a captive market for pushing the products of its sponsors, cVidya.

The tag line on WRAF’s new website reads “for the operators, by the operators”. Hmmm. At least that is what it read when I looked at the site yesterday. Today, the site has disappeared, replaced with an “under construction” message. Construction looked pretty darned finished yesterday, so perhaps the backers – BT and cVidya – are having second thoughts. To prove the site was finished, take a look at the invite to the first meeting, and a screenshot from the “facilitators” page.

Of course, the silly thing about this organization is that it is obviously a sales front for cVidya, but it pretends to be only for operators. Which means it is only for operators and cVidya. The site says their involvement is one of facilitating. What does facilitating mean? It means paying the bills. Here is a quick quiz for you.

Why would cVidya pay the bills for a meeting where operators are allowed to come, but rival firms are not? Is it because:

A) cVidya just loves operators and wants to give them money, expecting nothing in return
B) cVidya has a deep commitment to improving the practice of revenue assurance
C) Using pliable operators as front men helps with with making new sales contacts
D) Running events like this is cheaper and more effective than paying to attend conferences
E) Controlling your own official-sounding organization fills press releases and makes your VC backers happy

My vote is with C, D and E.

What the heck is wrong with Geoff Hammond of BT, lending his name to this stunt? It seems like every crackpot organization has to pretend it has a worldwide reach, even if it consists of nothing more than two men talking down the pub. First we had the “Global” GRAPA, now we have the “World” RA Forum. “Global” GRAPA, lest we forget, was formed by Moly McMillan and Papa Rob Mattison in a hotel bar in Kuala Lumpur. At least that is how McMillan tells the story. Presumably the story with WRAF is pretty similar, except you need to substitute the names of Alon Aginsky and Geoff Hammond. Unlike WRAF, at least GRAPA has the decency to allow people to (fail to) exchange ideas over the internet, which really is a global tool for communication. Exactly how much of the world is willing to travel to London for a meeting, where there can expect to hear a cVidya sales pitch? Answer that question, then take away the number of operators where the flights are paid for by cVidya, and where the only reason for going is a fun break in London, then answer the question again. City break or not, I cannot see the Israelis from cVidya attracting much participation to this “world” event from the Middle East. I hope Geoff finds that damaging his credibility is worth the addition to his CV – he apparently is the new Chairman of the WRAF Steering Committee. Whoop-de-do. Here is a quick review of who is on the committee so far: Geoff Hammond (Chairman), lots of people at cVidya (his favourite supplier), and…. erm…. nobody else.

Did I forget to mention that today I was appointed Grand Overlord of the Pan-Galactic Revenue Assurance Union? I went down the pub earlier with a couple of guys who work in the industry (for different companies, to make the appointment process entirely legitimate and independent, of course), and we all agreed that the Grand Overlord of PanGRAU should be my new title. I am thinking of appointing the guys who appointed me to other important and not at all bogus positions in the new organization (I was thinking I needed a Sub-Overlord and an Assistant Overlord, for starters). And who can argue with that? :P

RA has been down this path before. Last time it was Papa Rob and his GRAPA cronies, trying to grab the spotlight and make a quick buck by creating a bogus global organization. The GRAPA project has stalled, and looks like it is out of ideas. Despite that, it seems cVidya have decided to copy Mattison’s scheme to set up a pet society. Guess what? The World RA Forum will fail for the same reasons. There are not enough good people doing revenue assurance to split them all into separate camps, each defined by a commercial operation that skews debate to suit the products it offers – training and books from Mattison, software from cVidya. The similarities are startling. GRAPA is global, and headed by a President. WRAF covers the world, and is headed by a Chairman. Nobody knows who appointed the President, and nobody knows who appointed the Chairman. Each talks of a committee, but there is no evidence that the committee makes decisions, and no way to get on to the committee except to grovel to the committee’s existing, self-appointed, members. Both institutions started out saying they are for operators only, and conveniently forgot to mention the notable exception to the rule: the supplier that provides the resources needed to make it happen. GRAPA in the end had to backtrack miserably, when it discovered that lots of operator staff looking for easy answers leaves you short of people with the motive to give answers. cVidya should know all this already, because they were one of the first vendors to join GRAPA. And, like most people, have made no contribution since.

Soon there will be more pan-national revenue assurance groups than there are bodies that sanction championship boxing. I can think of some more names: The Federation of Revenue Assurance Companies (FRAC), the Consortium for Revenue Assurance (CRAss) and the Institute for Revenue Assurance Technical INTegrity (IRATINT).

Here are a few suggested ground rules for anyone else out there dreaming of setting up the next GRAPA, WRAF or CRAss:

  • Equity: Let everyone join, or follow your own rules about who can join. No special exceptions for anyone, no matter how much they are prepared to pay.
  • Transparency: Make it clear who set up the organization, and where the money has come from.
  • Governance: Pick the leaders only after you have some members, and only after you state the rules for how the leaders will be picked.
  • Honesty: Achieve something before you start boasting of your achievements. Get interest from across the world before you pretend to be a worldwide body.

WRAF has broken all these rules. At this rate, the revenue assurance industry will soon need someone to perform assurance over all these revenue assurance bodies! ;)

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.