Why RAFM Is a Safety Helmet for Telco Revenues

Do you find your work in revenue assurance and fraud management requires you to be an engineer, investigator, data scientist and business advisor at the same time? It feels that way for me, and I am sure many of you agreed with Eric Priezkalns’ article about telecoms assurance professionals being treated like a jack of all trades. Trying to explain what you do to someone else can be hard, even when you work in the same company:

  • “You’re the guy that checks the CDRs?”
  • “You want to see the configuration of the switch? That’s my job!”
  • “Why do the decimals matter in the rate?”
  • “A zero rated premium number? We don’t lose money on that? Do we?”
  • “I need to check what happened with prepaid revenue recognition – this report can’t be right.”

If there’s something strange with the monthly revenues, who you gonna call? Well, not Ghostbusters. When profits go missing, it is the friendly neighbourhood RAFM manager who is asked to save the day. In some perverse way this is the beauty of RAFM. You are in a little boat – not a ship, not a yacht – a little wooden boat with oars, in the middle of the ocean, rowing to others that are on their cruise ships speeding along like nothing matters. And you have to force them to slow down, pull you in, listen and oil their engine. Yes! That’s what RAFM professionals do: they smooth the running of the engine. If all the departments and all the functions of a telecoms operator are the moving parts of an engine, we are the oil that is required to reduce wear and tear. Without us, at some point, the engine will degrade.

I have heard RAFM being described as a ‘niche’ function, as a ‘hybrid’ function and, of course, the best one: as a ‘non-operational department’. You’re just second line, you’re sitting on the bench. Do we ever send soldiers to war without a helmet? Everybody who rides a bicycle wears a helmet these days. We create the helmets that protect our telcos when they come under fire, or when they are thrown off course by a bump in the road.

However, in order to be this person you have to also keep up with: the technology in your own company, the technology in the industry, the tools you use, the products and services your company offers, and you have to know how all this feeds back to the financials of your company, as well as knowing the source of each figure. You have to create controls, analyse the results, understand where the problem is and who to contact. You do all this by asking questions, talking to people and reading. You try to get in touch with like-minded people across the industry. That’s where the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) comes in, and that’s where RAG Learning also comes in.

The very first course added to RAG Learning was about assuring interconnection. More than three years have passed since then. We are still seeing new enrollments for this course, as well as the other courses that have been added since. Every month there are new people using RAG Learning for the first time. Help us by becoming one of them, or if you have already taken all the courses then help us by donating your content so we can include it in new courses.

Go visit RAG Learning, register, and enroll on some of the courses. You might find 50 percent of the course material is already known to you. You might even know 90 percent. But you are going to learn something, and it will help you to answer all those questions that you are asked by your colleagues.

Suppose you just had a case of simboxing and explained the concepts to the company’s board or to a new joiner in your team, and those slides are now sitting on your desktop. Send them over! We will create a new course and share the knowledge with the rest of the RAFM community.

RAFM professionals are treated like jack of all trades because there is no hard definition for what we do or how we do it. That makes our work harder, not easier, which is why we deliver so much value! We need to know lots of methods, and we need lots of ingenuity. Sharing knowledge within the community helps us all to get where we want to go. And if a turning wheel sometimes rolls into a hole in our path, then it only justifies the work we put into making better helmets for our companies and each other.

Michael Lazarou
Michael Lazarou
Michael Lazarou manages revenue assurance and fraud at Epic, a Cypriot telco, having joined their RA function in March 2011. His background includes a double major in Computer Science and Economics, as well as an MBA. Before being lured into the exciting world of telecoms he worked as a software developer.

Michael is interested to gain a better understanding of different aspects of RA and data analysis. He shares his insights on training courses he participates in with Commsrisk. Michael's accumulated experience of online training also led him to volunteer for the role of Coordinator of the RAG Learning online education platform.