Archive for November, 2009

As part of the literature review for the RA research dissertation, I contrasted the definition, objectives and approach to RA, mainly using the work of the TMF and Mattison, supported by similar work by other authors. While most additional sources covered certain aspects of these dimensions of RA, the TMF and Mattison’s work were more holistic in terms of the labels I chose to analyse RA from.

When I reviewed the material initially, I found Mattison’s The Revenue Assurance Handbook and The Revenue Assurance Standards very difficult to follow. The conclusion did not follow from the premises. However, these I can deal with in the analysis by comparing favorably those aspects that do add value and highlighting the inconsistencies or lack of cohesion where these are evident when summing up the contribution of a piece of work to this discipline. I included this work since it was one of the few sources, which gave a holistic view of the entire function. It did not try to sell me tools or consulting services. Instead, it tried to explain WHAT the function is about and HOW it should be done. Exactly what I needed for this chapter.

I learned from the last review done by the university that the content of academic contribution is not always as important as the method used to arrive at such insight. The thought or argument journey we take to arrive at the facts is what differentiates facts from fiction or in this case, opinion. The methodology determines the validity and reliability of the contribution. We are all well versed in the art of revenue assurance and have experience that make certain things fact, like it or not. We will take on any academic journal and have it for breakfast because nothing makes up for the roasties we earned burning ourselves.

In an age of self-publication, why then do we still put so much importance on peer-reviewed publications and what exactly do we mean with peer-reviewed? Surely when GRAPA says it ratified material amongst its members, this should constitute peer-reviewed, as it is clearly a number of subject matter experts who reviewed and clarified the material before publishing it?

The difference is in the rigor with which the review was done and the thoroughness of the methodology followed in writing the material as well as analysing the output or result prior to publication. An objective and very critical analysis of content and indeed intent of the writing, by a 3rd party, unemotional to the blood, sweat and tears which created the initial output, culminates in a piece of work that can withstand any scrutiny. Such review will immediately eliminate an error of logic; an error of conclusion not following the premises. Peer-reviewed material also provides the opportunity to question the content and argue these until the facts hold up. This is difficult to attain when publishing a book or a non peer-reviewed article. However insightful such material may be, it does not provide a basis from which to build theory. It does not give one a bird’s eye view on the different points of view, contrasted against and for an argument or the evaluation of support for and against the initial stances to such material.

To sum up the research progress, I always wondered why it took so long to do it and often wish that I could give it more focus than I currently have time for. The last 6 months saw substantial review being done but sadly, it did not provide the academic base I needed, so back to the scientific databases.

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A short while ago I referred readers to this article. It talks about start-ups, not established businesses, but the analysis of horizontals and verticals across the universe of data integrity applies equally well to every enterprise currently working in the realm of telecoms revenue assurance. Because of changes in the market, now is a good time to pause and to apply that analysis to where telecoms revenue assurance is today.

In recent years, we are seeing the ‘core’ revenue assurance market nearing saturation. First-time sales are dwindling and the annual revenues from upgrades and maintenance will not fully compensate. The sustainable market for telecoms revenue assurance is less than the peak market of the last few years. The RA market enjoyed a gold rush when the number of telcos with RA systems started to outnumber the ones without. That prompted the telcos without RA tools to play catch-up and go out and buy COTS solutions, for fear of being at a competitive disadvantage. However, any gold rush must come to an end when the gold is all mined. This is what drives the current waves of cost cutting and consolidation between RA vendors, which is far from over, as too few of the vendors are profitable. Apart from ruthlessly cutting costs and trying every trick to win new work ahead of rivals whilst discouraging existing customers from swapping, what can an RA business do to rejuvenate revenues and deliver increased growth to investors? They can expand their business to new markets. The really interesting comparison is the different strategies they now adopt to expansion.

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This is another in the irregular series of posts on how the words ‘revenue assurance’, and the ideas behind it, are applied outside telecoms. This article says UK local government could save GBP90m a year through checking for invalid discounts on taxes and recommends using the services of an external firm who get paid based on results. Sad to say for the taxpayers, there is no mention of checking for people who deserve tax discounts but do not receive them…

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For anyone wanting to set up their own revenue assurance business, there is some great advice in this article. The author hits the nail on the head that clarifying that it is not the software that makes telecoms revenue assurance special, but the specifics of the challenge and the purpose it is put to. That means a smart entrepreneur could take existing software and reposition it to provide a new solution based on their own knowledge and experience of real business problems. It also means there are opportunities to rebadge RA software, combine it with some imagination and research, and innovate new solutions to problems that currently go unsolved, or even for problems that people do not know they have. The real challenge is not technology, but having a compelling proposition that someone needs (and which is not already served by a dozen rival vendors…)

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Look here for a very good article on the different kinds of risks that need to be managed with mobile content. It very much comes at the problem from the data/operational angle – not surprising given it was written by the boss of revenue assurance firm Martin Dawes Analytics. The usual caveats apply about trusting everything said by a vendor. For example, where does he get all those seemingly authoritative stats saying that revenue loss went up, then down, then up again? Overall, the article gives a good and straightforward explanation of the specific financial integrity risks for mobile content. Use it to think over your own RA team’s strategy for a revenue stream of growing importance.

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