Archive for the Product News Category

cVidya, the Israeli revenue assurance vendor, has announced their software will ‘support’ Hadoop, the open source technology for processing very large data sets across a distributed environment. You can read the press release here.

This is a very smart move by cVidya. cVidya’s core competence lies in skilfully presenting end users with conclusions drawn from data. Hadoop is a genuine Big Data technology which can greatly expand the volume of data which can be usefully accessed, whilst also lowering the cost of storing that data. By integrating with Hadoop, cVidya’s tools will sit atop a mature and powerful open source technology in order to deliver far superior results to their customers, without needing to make much change to their proprietary software. The press release states that cVidya’s software will be able to interface with a customer’s existing Hadoop solution. Alternatively, cVidya say they can provide customers with the hardware and software to implement Hadoop.

cVidya CEO Alon Aginsky is quoted as saying:

We see the distributed computing capabilities of Hadoop as a game changer for Fraud Management, Revenue Assurance and Marketing Analytics.

By making it cost-effective to analyze data from many different sources on a massive scale, we are essentially enabling digital and communications service providers to do more for less, thereby boosting profitability.

For once, talkRA can find no fault with the words of Aginsky. This development suggests cVidya’s management may finally be grappling with the strategic weaknesses that have seen them lagging competitors in recent years, after once claiming to have the leading market share for RA and FMS. In the past, cVidya CTO Gadi Solotorevsky advocated that business assurance departments should fight the rise of Big Data, taking a purist approach towards maintaining and controlling their own unique data repositories, even if this resulted in higher costs and duplication of effort within the business. By adopting Hadoop, it seems cVidya has realized there is a better way forward. Hadoop will see business assurance analysts working with the same data as used by the rest of the business. Those analysts will have much freer reign to tackle a broader scope of challenges. At the same time, cVidya’s software is more likely to attract the attention of telco staff working in other parts of the business. So this new, more open approach, is actually in cVidya’s best interests, despite their previous encouragement of empire-building within business assurance departments. Saying business assurance should be located in silos, surrounded by thick walls, was never going to be more than a tactic to increase sales, by providing those silos with data and technology that was separated from the rest of the business. It fell short of being a proper strategy, because it set endemic limits on what could be achieved. Those limits were not just felt by the departments that followed the advice, but ultimately they were felt by cVidya, as limits on what they could sell.

Big Data inevitably tears down walls within organizations, and opens up former silos. It looks as though cVidya has also come to that realization, and they will seek to harness the potential on behalf of their customers, and for their own business.

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Portuguese vendor WeDo has announced the release of RAID:FMS 7, the latest version of their fraud management system. Their press release highlights the following enhancements:

  • A step-by-step wizard to build customized data mining models;
  • New statistical techniques to identify possible frauds and fraudsters; and
  • Faster performance at crunching data.

Like other vendors, WeDo has timed the new release to coincide with their attendance at Mobile World Congress.

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Mobile World Congress is upon us again. Even though I think MWC is rubbish, this is an important time for companies to announce something, ***anything***, just issue a press release and hurry up about it. I ignore most of these press releases, because they are rude. It is very impolite to announce new products and services that might equally be used by wireline telcos, just because a lot of wireless telcos are having a big party in Barcelona. However, I could not ignore the latest cVidya press release. I tried to. I really did try. But I kept thinking about it. I was compelled to think about it, because I had no idea what cVidya were trying to say. Dear readers, if you can explain what cVidya has just announced, then feel free to write in and explain.

Major Expansion of cVidya’s Market-Leading Revenue Assurance Solution

Okay, so this sounds like one of those adverts which begins: ‘the best product on the market just got even better.’ I always like those ads, because they are so daft. How can things be so great, yet always leave so much room for improvement?

MoneyMap® V8 ships with new business analytical layer, risk methodology and pre-defined packages

What is a new business analytical layer? Do RA people often complain about missing layers? I suppose the layer has something to do with analysing business stuff. But beyond that, I have no idea what the layer does. Maybe it just sits around doing nothing, like a layer of pointless fat. If it does something, maybe cVidya should say what it does.

Whilst I am bemused by the new business analytical layer, I am stunned by the revelation that cVidya have launched a new risk methodology. The new risk methodology arrives just 12 months after cVidya launched their ProactiV risk methodology. So what happened to ProactiV? That was new, only 12 months ago. Maybe cVidya realized that ProactiV was full of flaws, so they replaced it. Or maybe the new methodology is the same as the old methodology, but they decided to announce it a second time, in case you missed it first time. I would ask questions about the new methodology, and what makes it so new, but cVidya still have not answered my questions about the old methodology. Some things get better and better, whilst other things never change.

‘Pre-defined packages’. Whaddya mean by ‘pre-defined packages’? Imagine telling the love of your life that you are going to the shops to buy some pre-defined packages. Any normal person would assume you are having an affair, and you cannot be bothered to invent a decent cover story. Literally nobody, since the dawn of time, has ever bought anything for its pre-defined packages.

Enhanced with sophisticated business analytical capabilities and support for big data…

Was there a version of cVidya’s software that failed to include sophisticated business analytical capabilities? How much more sophisticated is the new stuff, compared to the old stuff? And in what sense does a revenue assurance tool need to provide support for big data? Is cVidya implying that telcos will be stuck with small data, unless they buy MoneyMap?

…Version 8 includes an array of advanced features that enable managers and analysts to easily pinpoint the most urgent Revenue Assurance issues and quickly address them.

Again, what is new about this? I thought these guys had been pinpointing the most urgent issues, and quickly addressing them, since their start-up first cranked out a reconciliation of leased lines to bills.

Some of us remember a time before cVidya existed. It was called 2001, and Stanley Kubrick made a film about it. Kubrick thought that we would be flying around Jupiter by the year 2001. When cVidya started, a year later, they concentrated on pioneering the technology of reconciling leased lines to bills. And they told everybody that reconciling leased lines to bills was the most important thing that anyone could do. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that their software could not process other forms of data, like CDRs. Perhaps cVidya is now admitting they spent most of their 12 years persuading customers to deal with minor stuff that suited their product range, instead of really urgent issues. In that sense, MoneyMap v8 might genuinely offer something new.

The new, highly business-orientated, version of MoneyMap…

‘Highly business-oriented’? What was the orientation of their old software? Was it leisure-oriented?

…is able to track the monetary value of each case and then aggregate the total value by line of business, business unit or another sub category

At last, we see some signs of sophisticated business analytics. In this case, it is the kind of analysis you perform by adding up both the rows and the columns of a spreadsheet.

It enables Revenue Assurance managers to access aggregated and comparable data based on different attributes, such as their personal needs…

‘Personal needs’? Do RA managers satisfy their personal needs using RA software? The only way I can imagine an RA manager using RA software to satisfy a personal need is if they fudge the reports to hide a fraud they committed.

A new case management system makes it straightforward for analysts to track and prevent revenue losses.

Otherwise known as a list. I also find lists can be competently maintained using a pencil and paper. The technology of pencil and paper was already proven to be robust and reliable, way back in 2001.

Drawing on cVidya’s deep knowledge and expertise in machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, LTE, mobile money, wholesale, cable and other technologies and verticals, MoneyMap 8 is designed to enable CSPs to quickly adapt to a constantly changing market.

Somebody decided that M2M, LTE, mobile money, wholesale and cable all needed to be mentioned somewhere. So here they are. I have literally no idea how any of this connects to the major expansion, the high business-orientation, or the pre-defined packages.

New pre-defined packages will significantly reduce CSPs’ revenue leakage as they deploy self-provisioning, sponsored data programs, connected living propositions and many other advanced services and models.

I think this says: ‘super rocket woo woo fantastic’. It might be a bit of the screenplay from 2001 which was cut from the final cinema version. If cVidya are trying to communicate something meaningful about their product, it must be in a language I do not recognize.

Before anyone says that all press releases are equally as bad, take a look at the press release that Lavastorm issued a few days ago. It gives a few simple bullets on the new things their FMS can do. Whilst words cannot tell me why one ‘visualization’ is better than another, the press release straightforwardly tells the reader about new functionalities and why they are helpful. It may not sound very sexy to let users save a search for later re-use, or to let them bulk edit multiple fraud cases, but at least we can comprehend what the software does.

In contrast, cVidya’s press release ends as follows:

“MoneyMap – the leading Revenue Assurance solution on the market – has evolved into an even more leading business bazooka that will ***vroom vroom*** superexcite executives and analysts and literally orgasm everyone we’re hoping to sell it to,” said Alon Aginsky, President and CEO of cVidya.

“The new pre-defined packages ***woof woof*** are both hyper-defined and ultra-packaged, making them far superior to the pre-defined packages you find elsewhere. The latest version of MoneyMap draws on insights gleaned from cVidya’s 12 ***just count ’em baby*** years of experience, starting with the reconciliation of leased lines to bills, and culminating in this year’s business-oriented risk-methodologized business-analytical layer that is so thick and creamy it removes stubborn stains that other washing powders leave behind.”

“During those 12 years, we have tackled every revenue assurance challenge that any service provider has ever faced anywhere on this planet, and we are unique in being able to say that whilst keeping a straight face. Also, we checked some dealer commissions for a service provider in orbit around Neptune. We are very proud to say we are still in business, still not locked in an asylum, and still better than we have ever been before. ***Bow Wow*** Not everybody knows this, but I used to be the 95th most powerful man in telecoms ***howls at the moon*** so if you stick with me, I’ll take you out of this world.”

Actually, some of that last bit was made up by me. But it is pretty similar to Aginsky’s quote from the actual press release. And it makes about as much sense.

So readers, if you can explain the differences between MoneyMap 8 and MoneyMap 7, I would be grateful for your insights… especially if you can share them in plain English. Previously I would have asked my loyal cVidya readers to comment, but there is no point. We all know they have nothing to say about their products, and this press release proves it.

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Lavastorm Analytics, the data analytics firm headquartered in Boston, has announced a number of enhancements to Lavastorm Fraud Manager, its fraud management system. The improvements are:

  • an improved reporting and visualization engine;
  • configurable case types for different kinds of fraud;
  • enhanced searches and filters which can be saved for later re-use; and
  • bulk editing of multiple cases.

You can find the Lavastorm press release here.

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Many years ago, when I was still handsome and slim (or at least, when I was less ugly and fat), I had a conversation with an engineering guy about how his telco bought network assets. I cannot remember it word-for-word; it was a long time ago, when I hardly knew anything about the mismanagement of real businesses, and would often ask simple questions, not expecting to get ridiculous answers. However, the conversation went something like the following…

Eric: So I see, on this piece of paper that I’m holding in my hand [waves paper], that you had signed approval for buying a fuzzy-me-jig. The piece of paper says the fuzzy-me-jig will cost £15K. But in the end, you spent three times as much on a more expensive kind of fuzzy-me-jig.

Engineer: So?

Eric: That’s more than was originally approved.

Engineer: So?

Eric: I want to understand if you needed permission for the overspend.

Engineer: We had permission. You’ve got the piece of paper in your hand.

Eric: Yeah, but that was for the original, cheaper fuzzy-me-jig. You ended up spending a lot more on another fuzzy-me-jig. I want to understand if anyone approved the increased expenditure.

Engineer: We needed the fuzzy-me-jig, so we installed it. What’s the problem?

Eric: It cost more. Does anybody go back and ask if there is a need to spend more?

Engineer: Of course we needed it. We wouldn’t have installed it, if it wasn’t necessary to deliver what the customer needs.

Eric: I wondered if anybody else – somebody different to you – has to approve the extra spend, if there’s an overrun compared to the original amount. Perhaps this occurs when the actual spend is a certain amount more than the amount stated in the original approval?

Engineer: They did approve the spend. You’ve got the piece of paper in your hand.

[Eric leaves, shaking his head, trying to console himself that sometimes accountants really are more worldly-wise than engineers.]

Based on that conversation, and all my experience since then, I have reached a simple conclusion: telcos waste a lot of capex on poor decisions about network investment. The problem is not that people are stupid, corrupt or immoral (although some people really are stupid, corrupt and/or immoral). The problem is that people are wonderful at justifying all sorts of decisions to themselves, if somebody else has to pay the price for those decisions, but nobody else is checking if money is being wasted. Without oversight, some people will still make the right decisions. Maybe there really is a need for a more expensive fuzzy-me-jig. Maybe the engineer should have spent even more, by deploying a whirly-me-wotsit instead. But if we trusted everyone to do the right thing, pretty soon everybody would be out of work, because every business would be bankrupt. And when it comes to investing in networks, very few people seem to know what is the right thing to do. So I am glad, and heartened, that one vendor is now focusing its development efforts on creating tools to support network capex decision-making. And so, I spoke with Ashwin Chalapathy, Subex’s Vice-President for Managed Services and Global Support, about their Asset Assurance offering.

Eric: Ashwin, I’ve seen Subex’s marketing materials for Asset Assurance, and I can honestly say you don’t need to sell the concept to me. Telcos literally spend hundreds of billions of dollars on network capex each year, and the big consulting firms have long made money by running projects designed to improve the efficiency of capex spending. I can also see that Subex’s offering encompasses a range of services and features to address a series of specific challenges. For instance, you can provide network discovery so the telco can find what is already has, you can do the data integrity piece so that management systems are updated to give an accurate account of all the network assets, you can provide analytics on how the assets are used, you can implement controls over new network purchases, your software can manage workflow, and provide alarms to ensure that assets do not become stranded, and so on. Sometimes, when you’re pitching a new idea to an unfamiliar audience, it’s tempting to give a long list of what can be done, when first people need a really succinct summary of what is being offered, explaining the idea in just a few sentences. Whilst I like and get the idea of Asset Assurance, I can’t summarize what it is, in a way that covers all the work that Subex is doing in this space. I may be asking you to do the impossible, but you can you try to provide that summary for me?

Ashwin: We think of Asset Assurance as the equivalent of revenue assurance, but for network assets. The same kind of challenges arise, but in this case the problems relate to linkages between two different silos: Network Operations, and Finance. We want to enable a smooth ‘handshake’ between those silos. To do that, Asset Assurance encompasses three modules. First comes Network Intelligence, where there is reconciliation of data between the network and the management systems used by the company, including those used by Finance. This module enables the recovery of ‘low hanging fruit’, by revealing such things as stranded assets. The next module is Capacity Analytics. Once the data is reliable, management can shift focus to analysing what network elements are used most, where the network is generating highest returns, what parts of the network are underutilized, and so on. The analysis will support their strategic decision-making about investment in their network. The final module is Lifecycle Analytics. With this module, the benefits become more operational, as the module looks at things like the probability of failures. For example, this will improve decisions for stock levels of spare parts, and the best geographical location, when storing them.

Eric: Three modules – that explains what you’ve included in the Asset Assurance envelope. It also explains what the upgrade path is. You have to start with reliable data before you can improve decision-making, for example.

Ashwin: Yes. You can think of three modules like evolving steps in terms of maturity. Also, from our experience, we know that sometimes the customer has not attained the level of maturity that they think they have. With one of our customers, the initial focus was on helping them with capacity management, but we soon had to tell them about the need to cleanse their data.

Eric: Would you say that Subex are currently the leaders in the field of Asset Assurance?

Ashwin: Just like the early days of revenue assurance, there are many smart people working in operators, dealing with network capex and finding their own solutions. This problem is not new, and we are not alone in working on it. What we want to offer is better support for those businesses that have identified the opportunity to improve returns through better decisions about network capex expenditure.

Eric: That does sound a lot like the early days of revenue assurance. In RA, there were different individuals scattered around the world. Whilst they dealt with similar problems, they had little contact with each other, they worked independently, and they implemented solutions that were totally unique to their telco. Things changed dramatically when vendors, like Subex, started supplying off-the-shelf tools. That allowed the pace of work to accelerate greatly. But coming back to my question, I was wondering if you’re leaders when it comes to the supply of Asset Assurance tools.

Ashwin: Other businesses provide relevant services. The Big Five consulting firms are major competitors in this area, and collectively they have a lot of experience of working on network capex projects. But a consultant’s strength is in providing advice. Subex offers a comprehensive suite. We believe this sets us apart. There are other software vendors that can mine data and provide analytics, but we feel we have a major advantage in terms of our knowledge of networks. That stems from Subex’s acquisition of Syndesis.

Eric: I was going to ask you about that, specifically. The purchase of Syndesis wasn’t that happy for Subex, because of how things worked out, when it came to financing that particular deal. But I always thought that the acquisition of Syndesis should have delivered one particularly obvious synergy with Subex’s core expertise in assuring revenues. As you now identify, by adding Syndesis’ knowledge of networks to Subex’s knowledge of assurance and data integrity, you have a significant advantage when it comes to developing products and services of the type you now brand ‘Asset Assurance’. And yet, little was said about this kind of offering, for quite a long time. Can you explain why that is? Is this an area where Subex could have sold more aggressively, sooner? Or is it a case that customers have not known they wanted help with network capex, until recently?

Ashwin: The Big Five consulting firms have been doing network capex projects for a while, and like I said before, people were working in the operators, dealing with these kinds of issues. What I think has changed is that some operators used to believe their ERP systems would satisfy all the relevant requirements. They had the data, so they thought they could make the decisions. What they didn’t realize is that there was a need to assure the data they had. Some of that comes back to the basics of data integrity. For others, the data is reliable, but they find it hard to use it, in ways that improve decision-making.

Eric: Because the wrong people were looking at the data?

Ashwin: Because the right data wasn’t getting to the right people. It’s not very surprising that the people working in networks ops may have a strong day-to-day focus on keeping customers happy. That is natural. The difficulty is that if you only aim to keep customers happy from one day to the next day, nobody may find the best strategic answers to questions about how to spend limited capex. There is a need for strategic insight, and oversight. To achieve that, the CFO and the CTO should have an informed conversation about network capex. Assurance is a key enabler, informing that conversation.

Eric: So what you’re saying is that, even if a telco has good data, it may not have the process discipline to arrive at the optimal decisions for how to spend capex. Even so, I would have thought Subex might have moved earlier, to educate its customers.

Ashwin: The other thing that has changed is that we have seen a lot of upgrading of networks in recent years. For example, we saw 2.5G operators rolling out their 3G networks, and some operators were making decisions about their LTE purchases before they finished their 3G roll-out. The focus has been on rapid execution. That speed of change has not helped us to secure attention for the benefits of Asset Assurance. Now, though, we find that operators are having something of a hiatus in their spending. As a consequence, they are much more willing to spend time talking to us about how Asset Assurance can help them.

Eric: Has this translated into a noticeable upturn in enquiries from customers?

Ashwin: Yes it has, at all levels. This year we are receiving RFPs and are being asked about pilots, at a rate we have never experienced before. I do not want to reveal too much publicly, but we are very positive about the growth prospects for Asset Assurance.

Eric: I can understand why, based on some of the numbers in Subex’s marketing literature. Not only are hundreds of billions spent on network capex each year, but there is enormous potential for recovering assets. I see that in one project you recovered USD10mn of stranded assets, whilst in another you recovered USD36mn of value, by identifying underutilized assets. Those are big numbers, and they are just the initial gains, without factoring in the forward-looking returns from better decision-making. So I like the way the proposition already embraces the concept of quick wins that deliver immediate value to the telco, whilst also having a clearly proactive side, which will boost future returns.

Ashwin: Most management attention is drawn to new projects. The result is that a lot of network spending is on ‘auto-pilot’. This is definitely an area where we believe we can assist management through supplying them with superior information and analytics. The aim is to make all decision-making proactive, by constantly comparing current investments with current and future needs.

Eric: Yes, and I’ve spoken to some of your colleagues about how Subex can be proactive in educating the market. Somebody needs to accelerate progress in this area, because I guess that a lot of money is being wasted through poor decisions about network capex. With that in mind, I want to thank you for sharing your insights with the readers of talkRA.

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