Archive for July, 2007

Collecting cash and reconciling balances is often an area that revenue assurance departments opt to leave outside their scope. When considered with a postpaid mentality, cash collection is not particularly a specialist area; all businesses need people who chase debtors and keep a track of balances. Prepaid changes the dynamic somewhat. The cash is paid first, and the balance updated using a highly automated process where there is limited opportunity to correct mistakes later on. So it is no surprise that this is one area ripe for inclusion within the remit of revenue assurance. Read here for the press release from Cape for their new prepaid assurance product. They may be deploying the solution with just one European telco at the moment, but the demand for this kind of product should be strong.

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The debate about who should issue revenue assurance standards is rumbling onwards, but has no end in sight. GRAPA are the new kids on the block, apparently keen to take on the role of standard-setters. Meanwhile, the much bigger TMF appears to be slow to appreciate they have competition in the area of revenue assurance. A few days back I posted my blog about the risk that GRAPA will split the revenue assurance world. Over at the TMF’s community forum, I raised my concerns that the TMF has failed to get a high enough profile as standard-setters for revenue assurance. I believe many CSPs are joining GRAPA in the hope of obtaining guidance whilst unaware of the work already done by the TMF. You can see from the TMF community thread that some agree, others disagree. Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. There would be no need for revenue assurance if people never made mistakes ;) Now would be a good time to determine the true extent of industry awareness of the TMF’s revenue assurance standards. You can help the revenue assurance profession by responding to these questions:

  1. Did you know that the TMF has issued revenue assurance standards and guidance?
  2. If yes, how did you find out about the TMF’s work?
  3. Should GRAPA adopt the existing TMF standards, or create new ones?
  4. Who are your preferred standard-setters for revenue assurance: The TMF, GRAPA or some other body?

To steer the TMF and GRAPA on the right course, let them know what you think by doing the following:

  1. Post your answers to the TMF web debate about this.
  2. Leave a comment with your answers on this webpage.
  3. If you can register with GRAPA’s forums, post your views on whether they should co-operate with the TMF in setting standards.
  4. Share this with your friends and colleagues and get them to respond with their answers.

My worry is simple. Two standard-setting bodies is one too many. GRAPA is exclusive to communications providers, with no involvement from vendors or consultants apart from XiT, the tiny consulting company that founded it. TMF activity is mostly driven by vendors and consultants. If GRAPA and the TMF both issue standards without any mutual cooperation, they will split the revenue assurance profession down the middle. If you think that would be a bad thing, now is the time to let people know.

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Every so often someone comes up with a fantastic new sales pitch for the same old product. Hats off to mobile network optimization business Actix who tell us that their product will, literally, help us save the planet. According to their press release they have done research which calculates that mobile network operators are creating a global annual excess carbon footprint equivalent to running nearly 3 million 3-bedroom family homes. So, not unreasonably, they argue that if you could cut the energy costs that would be good for the environment. It follows that they can help reduce energy costs through better planning the deployment of the network. All of which is true, though you have to decide for yourself whether mobile network optimization really is the most important battleground in the war on global warming. Here are a few alternative conclusions that Actix decided not to share with us:

  1. Nationalize all mobile operators and turn them into one big company. That should improve efficiency by allowing duplications in coverage to be stripped out.
  2. Do not nationalize, but force all mobile operators to allow any and all national rivals and service providers to roam freely on their network at a capped rate. The incentive for building network where somebody already has existing network coverage will be undermined.
  3. Make calls more expensive so people use their mobile phones less. Less use means less network is needed.
  4. Ban mobile phones and make everyone use fixed lines.

In case you could not tell, I am not entirely serious ;) All I want to say here is that jumping on an environmental bandwagon might give Actix a new sales angle, but is hardly the main reason for using their services. Cutting costs is a much more straightforward reason to optimize networks. And the energy spent on providing mobile phone networks is ultimately good for the environment, if it helps encourage people to communicate remotely and cut down on the energy expense involved in travel. That is where the real energy saving lies.

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RA consultancy XiT fired out a promotional email yesterday – to all the members of the not-for-profit Global Revenue Assurance Practitioners Association (GRAPA). I guess it is no surprise that the membership list of GRAPA has ended up being used to boost sales at XiT, given that the boss of XiT is also the President of GRAPA. What is surprising is that XiT is already trying to enhance its sales pitch by claiming its products are based on GRAPA intellectual property. According to the XiT website, amongst the “unique assets” being sold by XiT are “industry standard benchmarks in cooperation with GRAPA”. Which I guess means that GRAPA benchmarking must now be up and running for its members. No wonder that the person who tipped me off about the marketing spam from XiT is a little bemused: he has been waiting over a month for his GRAPA registration to come through ;)

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On Monday, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo used the phrase “revenue assurance” in her 2007 State of the Nation Address. This may well be the first time that a Head of State has used the phrase in an official speech. Although this was a confirmation of an earlier Philippine government announcement about improving tax collection, the inspiration clearly came from the telecommunications and technology sector. The reference to revenue assurance was in a section of the address dedicated to how telecommunications and technology is driving the Philippine economy. This was what President Arroyo said:

Information technology will help the BIR bring in more taxes in the coming months. Its Revenue Watch Dashboard will monitor revenue collections in real time from the national level down to the examiners. The LGU Revenue Assurance shares information between the BIR and the LGUs to uncover fraud and non-payment…

In the same segment, President Arroyo also reflected on the fact that the Philippines had become a top off-shoring hub. Her emphasis was on maintaining the rapid growth in the business services sector by upskilling the services offered. She also commented on significant investment in new undersea broadband links to mitigate the risk of a natural disaster interrupting existing links via Taiwan.

That a Head of State for a developing country should use a phrase borrowed from telecoms should be no surprise. Changes in the world economy are being driven by technology “leapfrogging”, where developing countries skip stages of technology implementation that the developed world went through. The simplest example is the high penetration of mobile in countries with poor fixed-line infrastructure. Rolling out mobile networks is simply more cost-effective than running lots of cables everywhere. Leapfrogging enables the developing world to close the gap on rich economies more rapidly. Levering new technology gives a superior infrastructure for business whilst also enabling direct competition for jobs with workers in the developed world. Take a look at this presentation which gives a summary of the economic growth caused by telecoms in the developed and developing world. It clearly highlights how telecoms is helping the developing world to catch up. It also shows that the higher rate of growth in developing countries like the Philippines correlates to higher rates of telecoms penetration. Modern electronic communications should be a priority for any leader in the developing world. So it is no wonder if a leader’s thinking may also be influenced by the technology sector. If that means learning a few lessons from revenue assurance, and delivering systems and processes that are fast, efficient and accurate, that must be a good thing.

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