Archive for May, 2010

They do things differently in Portugal. Normally the prospect of sitting through a software vendor’s user group meeting would have me grinding my teeth and clenching my buttocks. Such events normally involve three kinds of sales technique: cross sell, up sell and hard sell. But at the WeDo Technologies User Group conference (the “WUG”!) they tried a fourth approach: the no sell. Instead, they took care of customers and every last detail, sat back and let their guests talk about what they do and how they do it. To borrow from an ad campaign for Carlsberg… “WeDo don’t do industry conferences, but if WeDo did do industry conferences, they’d be the best industry conferences…” Let us just say that if WeDo write software as well as they host events, then they must have written some immaculate and smooth-running code. Perhaps the very best marketing technique is just to take care of the environment and allow the customers to talk about what they do (and how they use your products to do it). They say the best advertising is a word of mouth recommendation, and WeDo must be confident they can rely on that. Perhaps they are right – look at what I just wrote!

WeDo amassed a really high-calibre panel for their 2010 WUG. Unfortunately, for all their perfect planning, they did make one mistake – they let me sit on the panel too. Luckily the other guests were so clever and knowledgeable that my insane ramblings only served to make them look even better. Listen to podcast 12 to hear the panel session at WeDo’s WUG, which turned out to be a really entertaining and insightful discussion about the current circumstances and challenges faced by revenue assurance, business assurance and fraud management. Not counting me and my big mouth, the star-studded panel consisted of:

  • Tony Poulos, Head of the Revenue Management Sector at the TM Forum, Anchor for The Telecom Channel and too many other things to mention;
  • Nick Mann, former Head of Fraud, Risk and Security at Vodafone Group and ex-Chairman of the GSM Association’s Fraud Forum;
  • Susan McNeice, Global Director at Stratecast, the strategic research and forecasting division of Frost & Sullivan; and
  • the chair was Alun Lewis, respected independent telecoms writer, consultant, and man of deep thoughts as well as fine words.

Many thanks to WeDo for hosting an excellent event, and to both WeDo and my fellow panelists for permitting me to share the recording with you.

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Jeepers creepers. My eyes popped out when I reviewed the proposal by Moshe Zolotov of cVidya to include fraud management in the TM Forum’s process map, the eTOM. In short, it gives a process map for fraud management that is the same as the process map for revenue assurance (apart from changing the names on the boxes).

Surely that cannot be right. Are revenue assurance and fraud management the same? I do not think so. I think you cannot take a revenue assurance analyst, ask them to swap desks with a fraud analyst, and expect them to do each other’s jobs. But maybe I am wrong – what do most of you working in RA and Fraud Management teams think? Let me know by commenting here, or else come down to the forum at the TMF and share your thoughts there. Any feedback is welcome!

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US cost and revenue management vendor TEOCO is reportedly in talks to acquire Israeli service assurance firm TTI Telecom, according to Israeli journal Globes. You can read the Globes story here. On their corporate website, TTI admitted it is in talks with a potential buyer, but did not confirm its name.

Globes said the price tag would be in the range of USD 50-60 million. TEOCO should have the financial firepower; last year TEOCO raised USD 60mn by selling a minority stake.

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In a press release from mediation vendors Openet about their new BI and analytics offering, there is a tiny, almost casual reference to revenue assurance. In short, they hold out the prospect of doing a lot of things with data. Revenue assurance is just one of those things. Openet’s new offering is given in cooperation with Netezza. Given that we are talking about businesses that are expert in mediation and data warehousing respectively, they have the credibility when it comes to managing and using data. But for me, the real significance of this press release is two-fold. First, it says revenue assurance is just a small part of a bigger solution space for companies that know how to use data. Second, it says that anyone who knows how to use data can enter the RA market.

The niche RA vendors generally like to tell their shareholders about how they are expanding into bigger markets – moving on from RA to other things. That is all well and good, but if businesses can expand out of RA market, other businesses can expand in to the RA market. There may be more that follow Openet’s lead, resulting in a squeeze for existing RA vendors, just when many of them were hoping that market consolidation and economic recovery would finally help them to turn profitable. To my mind, two things could happen: the RA market could stay relatively well-defined, but become more crowded, or it could lost its identity, and become just an attribute of solutions sold in a less specific marketplace for BI and analytics. Either way, the conclusion will not be determined solely by the vendors, but more by the people who sign the cheques in telcos, and how they view their jobs.

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Geoff Ibbett ranks as one of the most knowledgeable and experienced people working in the field of revenue assurance. When the TM Forum selected Geoff to develop their Revenue Assurance Practitioner’s Accreditation, I knew they had chosen wisely. The results seem to bear that out. Geoff recently told me about the high demand for the accreditation course, which has run 7 times since its first outing last September. Not bad! The course can be run as a public event where anyone can enroll, and as private sessions especially for the convenience of telcos, vendors, SI’s and consulting firms. To meet the demand, the TMF has scheduled a string of RA accreditation courses as part of their training events for the coming months: in Cairo and Sydney this May, Jakarta in June, both Bonn and London in July, and Johannesburg in August. Well done, Geoff!

Last year, Geoff and I talked about the TMF Revenue Assurance Accreditation for the talkRA podcast; you can listen to it here.

One big reason to get the TMF accreditation is that not everybody passes the exam. That makes it a much more meaningful addition to your CV than those courses where everybody pretends to have a Bachelor’s qualification by the end, just because they turned up and paid the fee. A reliable source tells me that one of the people who writes training material for Papa Rob’s GRAPA actually failed the TMF exam! Decide for yourself what that says about the relative value of the training on offer.

Geoff also told me that writing the best course in RA does not mean he is relaxing or assuming he knows everything he needs to know for his job as a telecoms consultant. On the contrary, he is actively exploring the links between RA and risk management – a topic that is close to my heart and a theme I find recurring more and more amongst the advanced practitioners. If you also want to help build a bridge between revenue assurance, risk management, and the other risk silos, then come join the TMF community for Enterprise Risk Management. Our challenge is to integrate all the risk management activities into a comprehensive and robust component of the eTOM. If people like Geoff can see the connections, I know we are on the right track. Maybe one day (after a lot of hard work – professionals do not take short cuts) we can emulate Geoff’s success and deliver an accreditation program for ERM practitioners… so come join us and help make it happen!

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