Archive for December, 2009

They used to say that 3G stood for girls, goals and gambling. That reduces the network to its purpose as seen by the customer. The network itself is uninteresting; what matters is the content it distributes. Telecoms companies have spent an extraordinary amount on equipment and software so customers can watch video highlights of their favourite football team’s last match whilst sitting on the bus. There is a gulf between what people want (to see a goal) and how they get it. In the modern era, how people get what they want can depend on so much. In the example, the customer’s experience is built upon the use of better materials that makes for a longer life of the tiny battery in their handset, and the management of the radio spectrum to enable the signal to be sent uninterrupted, and the use of remarkable mathematics to condense the content into the fewest possible signals whilst stopping people listening in, and the cameraman’s skills in following the action on the football pitch, and countless more besides. The operator is just one link in the chain of people and businesses that delivers the content to the person enjoying it. The customer does not need to care about how the content gets to them, just like they not particularly care how a washing machine works so long as their shirts look clean and they do not particularly care how a train works so long as they arrive on time. What they really care about is when they expect something, pay for something, but do not get what they expected and paid for. As revenue assurance practitioners get involved in content, they need to be clear on how far they want to get involved with content, and the real reasons why people pay for it.

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It looks to have been a good year for revenue assurance software suppliers Connectiva. The news is that they have opened a new office for their headquarters in New York, expanded their operational base in Kolkata, and taken on two new senior executives. You can read the story here. The firm, which obtained USD17m in additional VC finance late in 2008, has increased its headcount by 100% over the course of 2009.

2009 was heralded as the ‘year of revenue assurance’ by some – especially those with an interest in talking up the market. In reality, we have seen some RA vendors cutting costs whilst struggling to sustain their order books, whilst firms like Connectiva appear to have got stronger. Unlike some other vendors, we do not see public data on Connectiva’s revenues and profits, so comparison is difficult. However, a pattern has emerged. The RA vendors which tend to have done best have most of their staff based in countries where access to an educated and skilled workforce is cheap and plentiful. Rivals with staff in more expensive nations have found it harder to compete in a price-sensitive market. This pattern applies across the global telecoms industry and is not unique to RA. For example, Israeli BSS giant Amdocs has been cutting staff in its home nation and hiring in India and China. Earlier this month Amdocs announced plans to build a new R&D and operations centre in Tianjin whilst their CEO said jobs that had been moved overseas would not return.

The question for RA vendors in 2010 is whether their strategy will be to shift their workforce to low-cost regions in order to sustain margins, or whether some will break the mould and start to offer truly differentiated products which can command a premium price. If a business can do both, it will be in the strongest position of all.

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Another year goes by, and we are all a year older. Are we a year wiser? Here is the review of what happened in revenue assurance this year.

January

Israeli RA vendor ECtel expanded in both the UK and Singapore.

February

Lavastorm rebrands and adopts the name of its parent group, Martin Dawes.

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Shareholders for NASDAQ-listed revenue assurance vendors ECtel have approved the proposed merger with cVidya. Read the press release here.

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For episode 9 of the talkRA podcast I was joined by Lee Scargall, regular talkRA contributor and Director of Risk and Revenue Assurance at Qtel, and Paul Lewis-Borman, owner of software house Symbox. Before you wonder, Symbox does not make simboxes. Symbox develop software used to ‘webify’ business processes, and in particular have worked with telcos like Qtel to enhance their revenue assurance management. For all the software created to do revenue assurance reconciliations, many RA departments still pour time and effort into consolidating the status of their work and presenting it to executives. We talked about the ways software can automate the management and reporting of revenue assurance, eliminating manual tasks that add no value and which limit the ability of the RA department to explain their performance to C-level execs. You can exclusively listen to the full 30-minute conversation at talkRA.com, or by subscribing to the podcast at iTunes.

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