The Hard Life of the Revolutionary Expert

Contrary to popular belief, I have better things to do than keep an eye on Papa Rob Mattison’s endless self-praise. If he wants to appoint himself Global Overlord of All That is Revenue Assurance that is his business. By which I mean it is his business model, and it seems to work for him. But who am I to point fingers? I also indulge in fantasy from time to time. On the weekend I like to imagine I am the next Roger Federer, securing yet another grand slam as the crowd rises to its feet in rapturous applause. Of course, if you actually saw me play tennis you would understand the only slamming taking place is me slamming the ball into the net or me slamming the gate behind me as I leave the court to fetch a ball I hit over the fence. But I digress. Imagination is no bad thing, if we keep it under control. Which is why I started to worry about Papa Rob’s state of mind when a colleague tipped me off that Mattison now sees himself as some kind of Tea Party revolutionary. Yes, that is ‘Tea Party’ as in those people who compare Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin. Take this post from Papa Rob’s blog:

For those who lean to the British way of thinking, a tea party is a fancy sit down affair where people eat pastries, sip from tea cups while sticking their pinkies in the air and discuss how uncivilized the rest of the world is. For others, a Tea Party is a movement where people take control away from the fat-cats that have been running things, and put things on a more equitable footing.

As a true blooded American and a dedicated revenue assurance revolutionary, I think it is very appropriate to talk about the Revenue Assurance “tea party” that GRAPA is witnessing and participating in.

Erm… who exactly does Mattison think are the ‘fat cats’ running revenue assurance? Papa Rob Mattison is the only Global President known to revenue assurance. He makes money by giving people pieces of paper that say they are certified. If you ask me, Papa Rob is the only person trying to ‘run’ revenue assurance. Perhaps, though, Papa Rob thinks the people running revenue assurance are British. There certainly seemed to be some anti-British sentiment in his post. Mattison explains the basis of the American War of Independence thus:

It seems that the British rulers decided that they needed more money to run their castles and knighthoods and things, so they figured the best way to do that would be to increase the tax on all tea sold in the American colonies.

At that time everybody drank tea, so this was interpreted by most Americans as yet another expression of arrogance by the British crown.

A bit simplistic, but then Papa Rob does not describe himself as an expert on history (not yet, anyway). I am British and I hate taxes too. That is one of the reasons I oppose the ‘professionalization’ of RA if it means paying a never-ending tax (in the form of training and certification fees) to Papa Rob and his cronies.

Though he has a problem with the Brits, Papa Rob gets less upset about European nobility. This was from his post about giving training in Luxembourg:

I think Luxembourg with its castles, cobblestone roads and grand homes in the French royalty tradition, more than many European countries, brings to mind the “olden days”. Yes, Luxembourg clearly speaks to the grandeur of old. It would be easy to imagine fine women in billowing gowns, and aristocratic men in powdered wigs walking the streets…

In the modern telco however, the kings and queens are gone… Today’s telco, like all other modern businesses is based upon merit and effectiveness, not positioning and sychophantary (sic)… In the modern telco, it is the revenue assurance manager who survives for more than six months in the job, who develops the trust of operational managers, CEO’s, CFO’s and product developers who represent the real thought leaders…

The “old school” thought leaders of our industry (the people who get paid by over-rich telcos) who sit around and expound on what “revenue assurance should be like in the perfect world” or “how revenue assurance used to be done in the good old days”, are quickly being displaced by the hard-bitten, battle proven revenue assurance pros who know what the game is really all about and survives the many different “trends” we are forced to deal with, while still delivering true, hard value to the firm.

So Papa Rob is a revolutionary President with over 20 years experience who rejects the old school and wants to take control from the fat cats to give it to the thought leaders with 6 months meritocratic experience although he still appreciates the grandeur of the old. Confused? I know I am. I was trying to work through the contradictions of Papa Rob’s mind as I turned to his latest post, which is about being in Kuala Lumpur. And then I had an epiphany…

It is really no accident that GRAPA claims Kuala Lumpur as its birthplace.

Ding!!! Who else was round the table at the luncheon in KL that gave birth to GRAPA? Who now heads up RA for Skype in Luxembourg, and before that was running RA for Millicom in Luxembourg? Who is a Brit that was on the GRAPA exec committee when it was first born? Moly McMillan!

“Moly who?” I hear some of you saying. Moly McMillan… the man who co-founded GRAPA. At least, that was how Moly told the story, back when GRAPA was a global association with precisely no members anywhere in the world. Well, I know that Moly is very good at RA and has been good at it for a very long time, though I cannot say if he is on the GRAPA exec committee any more. Could he be the old school British fat cat king that Rob wants to depose? I have no idea, but it makes for an entertaining fantasy. I shall now amuse myself by imagining Moly McMillan wearing a suit of armour, riding a horse and taking part in a jousting contest with Papa Rob. McMillan bears down on Papa Rob, confident of victory. Then Papa Rob turns the tables with the new skool tactics he learned on the mean streets of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois. In a flash, Papa Rob pulls out his AK and pops a cap in Moly’s fat cat ass, hurling McMillan from his horse. Right on, Brother Papa Rob – keep it real with your drive-by gangsta stylee. Booyakasha!

Where was I? Fantasies can be so distracting. Ah yes… Rob Mattison is unappreciated. That is the message I get when reading about how Papa Rob wants to overturn the ‘kings and queens’, ‘stars’ and all those other people I see he rants about these days – without ever pinpointing who they are or giving them a chance to defend themselves. He must believe he never gets the credit he truly deserves. So, for once, I will give him credit. Here is my rundown of what Rob has done, based on what he says about himself:

Papa Rob’s CV, in his own words

I worked in construction to support my family and to put myself through school. I was a late graduate, graduating at 26 years old, since I had to work to support my family at age 18.

After school I worked at:

1. AT&T – My first job out of the university. My sister got me the job, and I started out in billing systems support along with circuit board design and CAD/CAM support.
2. Cap Gemini – After the divestiture and the breakup of ATT, I hooked up with Cap Gemini. I got a lot of experience there and I learned how to be a consultant.
3. Deloitte-Touche – After Cap Gemini, I upgraded to management consulting. With DT I was able to travel around the world and get involved in the financial and management side of telecoms operations.
4. Sequent Computers – I spent a short time with Sequent Computers (now gone), before they were bought by IBM.
5. IBM – Global Services – IBM Global Services is where I really got my scope, travel and vision. With IBM I supported dozens of telco projects around the world, and headed up several development projects.
6. XIT – Excellence in Telecommunications – After IBM I started my own consulting company.
7. GRAPA – For the past two years I have been honored to serve as the president of GRAPA. As president I have helped to build a vision, an organization and a community of revenue assurance professionals. I have been able to meet with hundreds of revenue assurance managers and practitioners from carriers on every continent and of every type. They have been a great bunch of people to get to know.

Other things about Papa Rob

In 1999 he was a “best-selling author”, according to this.

In 1997 they said: “Rob Mattison is an itnerationally (sic) recognized expert in the areas of databases, data warehousing, object technology, and data mining in commercial applications. A former editorial director for Data Management Review magazine, he has written more than 65 magazine articles for various publications and is a sought-after speaker at database conferences around the world.”

Returning to 1999, over here they said “Rob Mattison is a leading international authority on knowledge management, database implementation, data warehousing, and data mining.”

Back again to ’97, and this is what they said about Rob Mattison here: “Rob Mattison has more than 15 years of experience as a telecommunications consultant and is a leading international authority in the areas of knowledge management, database implementation, data warehousing, and data mining. He has authored several books and over 50 articles, and is a recipient of the AT&T Engineering Excellence award.”

Rob tells us more about his awards, including that one from AT&T, here: “Probably the greatest award I ever received was the AT&T – Engineering Excellence Award that I received for Circuit Design support.

I have also received a great number of awards for my speaking engagements.

I have served as Keynote Speaker for dozens of conferences.

I have been privileged to receive recognition as a member of MENSA. (MENSA is the only group that I will never leave.)”

Pretty impressive stuff. But after 20 years of being an internationally recognized expert at more things than most of us will ever learn to do, why does Papa Rob get so upset at the ‘old school kings and queens fat cat thought leaders’? If telcos really are meritocratic, then he should have all the praise and money he could ever want by now. But it seems you can never please everyone. I recently found a new RA blog, from someone calling himself ‘The Revenue Assurance Newbie’ – presumably that means he is not an old school fat cat. He contacted GRAPA and asked some interesting questions, which he shared in this post entitled ‘Waiting for the President’:

I have a few queries before I decide whether to join GRAPA and would be glad if you can provide some answers:

If you have a copy of the GRAPA constitution (or any other suitable document that explains the workings and organization of GRAPA), please share this as I suspect it will go a long way in answering some of the questions below.

Running of GRAPA: What roles/responsibilities exist? I know from the GRAPA site that Rob Mattison is the president but what other roles/officials exist in the management of GRAPA? For example, I noted Chris Yesulis features on the standards ratification process. Are officials nominated (by whom) or elected (what’s the election process)?

What is the set term for officials to serve GRAPA? Is there a limit to the number of terms an official can serve? If there is such a limit, how often are they replaced?

How do regional GRAPA chairpersons come into being?

With regard to the process of revision of standards, the GRAPA site states: In September/October of each year, a “review committee” is established. It is the job of this committee to review organization and make recommendations for standards modification based upon the petitions and proposals. How is the review committee set up i.e. election, nomination etc? What are the qualifications of a person serving on such a committee? I have gone through the standards handbook and did not get this information.

Given that there is no membership fee, how are GRAPA operations funded?

How is financial oversight carried out?

Concerning the training curriculum, how is this governed i.e. what is the development process for the courses that GRAPA offers, along with quality assurance checks that are attendant to this process?

Town halls: is there quorum requirement for a town hall? The total number of town halls I could find archived on the GRAPA site is about 10 – is this all?

With regard to the RA standards, which I understand are the results a consultative process involving many RA professionals, I would imagine the copyright would be in the name of GRAPA and not an individual (Rob Mattison)? Or what is the rationale behind this arrangement?

Please expound on the continuing professional education (CPE) process of GRAPA.

Apparently the RA Newbie did not receive many answers. All of which goes to show that old revolutionaries can never relax. Before too long, a new revolutionary is bound to come along, asking difficult questions, causing trouble, and threatening the authority of the fat cats in charge…

On a final note, I know there are lots of people out there who think I should leave poor old Papa Rob alone, because the negative stuff does me no favours. They make a good argument. I agree, it does me no favours. One comfort is that I am not looking for favours. RA Newbie has come along and given me a wake-up call. If the hype that Mattison generates for himself is never challenged, then it will always get accepted at face value. After all, I never chose Rob Mattison to be President of Revenue Assurance – did you?

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.