TMF RA Survey: How to avoid change-blindness

Last Thursday I flew to London to give a presentation at the Risk & Assurance Group. On my way there I got a window seat. Up in the air I had a first comprehensive look through the window, recognizing a part of the wing, and a turbine. Below them lay a deep, grey sea of clouds (pictured).

plane engine

I asked myself “was that all to see?” so I looked again. On second glance I discovered the mirrored image of the airplane body, including the name of the carrier, British Airways. This made me conclude that it will be grey and rainy in London anyway. At third sight I noticed that the lower part of the turbine reflected sunlight making me conclude from the available facts: “I am on the right side of the plane, flying South West – the sun has just gone up in the East but there is unfortunately a compact sheet of grey clouds down there.” I accepted my hypothesis of zero probability of sun at the destination. When I was back in Helsinki the day after, my colleagues asked me: “how was the weather in London?” I responded with a smile, and said: “sunshine as usual.”

The value of discovering and sharing what is meaningful

My hilarious experiment was designed to make judgments about my journey by finding and concluding on the not-so-obvious information that was available around me. I did find additional information by pushing myself to check one more time and reassessing my preliminary conclusions. Admittedly not all information was so meaningful, but at least I looked beyond the obvious. My daily work as a risk and revenue assurance practitioner at a telco includes understanding elements in depth, putting them together and discussing meaningful big picture information with the organization and then again focusing on the details and reinforcing processes and controls. With great regularity I appreciate that we construct a pretty complex picture which is rather difficult for most individuals to grasp.

Sometimes I imagine how valuable it would be to understand and share the full big picture with complete linkage to the detailed elements, in order to provide more meaning to individuals across the company. That’s truly difficult to realize – but it is worth trying.

Blindness in combination with change could be harmful

Simon Sinek, author of The Golden Circle once stated:

The big picture doesn’t just come from distance; it also comes from time.

It is already quite difficult to understand elements, causes and effects in a picture, before we also think about adding the dimension of change. For example, in our company a sales channel system was recently down for a couple of minutes. Many noticed it right away; the Sales department got nervous because customers could not make purchases, and our management started to be concerned about the wider impact. A taskforce was quickly established for finding and resolving the fault. Happily we could count on our people, and the flaw was fixed quickly. Afterwards, I was still very curious about what had really happened, including the exact root cause. I felt it was time to once again put the spotlight on the lessons we had learned, and to reinforce our preventative controls as well as to praise our firefighting capabilities.

Frameworks help us understand the big picture

Happily we have frameworks and standards to help us understand the big picture. For example, the risk management standard ISO 31000 helps us establish and run a risk management process based on industry best practice. ISO 31000 supports risk identification, analysis, evaluation and treatment. It also provides a company with an ownership and communication system to support effective use and sharing of information. In general terms, frameworks provide a frame with meaning for establishing a baseline. But they have also a flip side. When everything changes but the framework does not, and when the people using standards don’t notice the impact of change, such “change blindness” results in our focus being directed towards things that are irrelevant. As a result, we miss the relevant features of our business that have newly emerged. (For more about the “change blindness phenomenon”, look here.)

An example in Revenue Assurance (RA) would be if an RA team focused on reconciling the flow of usage transactions, whilst ignoring that most customers had migrated to a flat price plan. An effective assurance practitioner needs to discover and assess relevant change information continuously, rather than waiting for a higher level manager to show up and tell them to do so. Believe me, the big picture is equally complex in the eyes of your superiors and executives.

The purpose of frameworks in Revenue Assurance

An example of a valuable framework in the RA area is the TM Forum’s Revenue Assurance Maturity Model (RAMM). It was established, then enhanced, with the aim of providing a clear structure for assessing maturity and the progress the business had made. But as with every other framework there are areas of rapid change that may not be covered so well. That’s natural and not really the biggest problem. What is missing can be covered through a systematic gap analysis as long as the change factors can be seen.

Revenue Assurance is strongly affected by change

I recently wrote an article about “Dreaming up Revenue Assurance”, concluding that RA needs to shift towards assuring the overall customer promise. TM Forum’s 2015 global Revenue Assurance survey discovered that most companies are maturing in their revenue assurance practice. However, the majority of the community members agreed that there are plenty of change related challenges to master which will impact the ability of RA to generate business value in future. Looking at the RA landscape, many companies have not yet made investments in covering new services and customer offerings. Some find it difficult to shift the focus towards assuring the promises made to customers. “Customer and product lifecycle assurance” is definitely a trend that RA practitioners will have to respond to.

Take the Revenue Assurance survey to strengthen your capabilities now!

What we can do now is to reflect upon the RA capabilities we need in the future, and seek to acquire them. The RA survey 2016 provides a powerful assessment tool to understand the fitness of RA capabilities for mastering change.

This year’s survey emphasizes RA strategy, people and performance. It embeds selected questions as well as the scoring system in the Revenue Assurance Maturity Model (RAMM), providing a light benchmark for survey participants. Non-members of the TM Forum have been provided access to RAMM v.2 so they can also benchmark themselves against their peers. Take the survey now! Then compare your business with others, and receive strategic input to increase the relevance of your work for your company.

Rene Felber
Rene Felber
Rene is Head of Risk & Assurance at Telia Company, Finland. He is responsible for managing GRC (governance, risk & compliance), fraud management, revenue assurance and credit control. He has also been the leader of the TM Forum’s global RA survey since 2014. Additionally, Rene is one of the driving forces behind the TM Forum’s new Business Assurance Initiative. In his co-lead role, Rene’s ambition is to help professionals in the Business Assurance area to acquire capabilities to master future challenges and to become proactive value drivers in their companies.

Rene has over 15 years of industry expertise and has spent 10 years in international consulting and auditing, with a background in GRC, RA and outsourcing/partner management. He received an outstanding contributor award from the TM Forum for thought leadership in his area.