Archive for June, 2011

An interesting article from CFO.com.

In my limited exposure to risk management organisation design I have never encountered risk being owned by the CFO. At least, in practice I have never seen it implemented to report to the CFO.

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Swisscom and Subex have walked away with the Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award in the Business Service Innovation category. The two companies innovated by sharing risks and rewards for fraud management, a relationship which is described as an ‘industry first’. You can read Subex’s press release here.

Though often talked about, it is rare to find successful risk reward deals between telcos and RA vendors. However, the concept is sound. If vendors genuinely believe they add value to the bottom line of the telco, they should be willing to provide financing for their solutions in return for a fair share of the returns they generate. Prospective risk reward deals often fall apart because of a lack of trust between companies, or arguments about how to measure the benefits generated. That Subex and Swisscom have shared fraud management risks and rewards for two years is good evidence of the maturity of both companies. Whilst others talk about standards to measure bottom line benefits, Subex and Swisscom were able to agree on the most important standard of all: a commercial contract. They have set a precedent for measuring fraud management benefits. Keep eyes on Subex to see if they will follow-up with more risk reward deals in future. As Kurt Meyer, Swisscom’s Chief Risk Officer pointed out:

In Subex we have found a partner who will help us address the next level of fraud management challenges successfully and we hope to provide a stimulus to the industry as a whole.

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Could storms on the sun disrupt our communications infrastructure? Yes, they can… and do. The potential impact of solar events on satellite infrastructure was discussed at length during a 2009 NASA-funded study of the risks related to ‘severe space weather’. The report mentioned the following incident:

One example of space weather’s impact on satellites was Telesat’s Anik experience in 1994. On January 20, 1994, Telesat’s Anik E1 was disabled for about 7 hours as a result of space weather-induced static-electricity-discharge damage to its control electronics. This satellite provides communication services in Canada. During this period, the Canadian press was unable to deliver news to 100 newspapers and 450 radio stations. In addition, telephone service to 40 communities was interrupted.

One hour after E1 recovered, Telesat’s Anik E2 went off-air. As a result, TV and data services were lost to more than 1,600 remote communities. Backup systems were also damaged, making the US$290 million satellite useless. Approximately 100,000 home satellite dish owners were required to manually re-point their dishes to E1 and other satellites. The satellite was restored following a US$50 million-C$70 million 6-month recovery effort.

Whilst more robust satellites, cheaper launchers and better forecasting of space weather might help to limit the damage caused by extreme solar events, the problems for comms providers might also occur on ground level. In particular, a severe solar event might bring down the power grid for several days by burning out transformers. This would lead to a double headache for telcos: how to keep their network up and running at the time when society most needs it – and will likely overload it.

And how likely is such a catastrophic storm? Perhaps more likely than we would like to think, though in such cases the lack of data causes headaches for anyone trying to calculate the probability. In 1859 a solar flare precipitated a geomagnetic storm so severe that it electrified telegraph lines, giving unfortunate technicians an unexpected shock. A repeat of that storm would cause a lot more damage to today’s highly interconnected power grid.

Earlier this month, a spectacular if relatively mild solar flare and subsequent ejection caught the attention of the press. They then reported on its possible risks to our planet. Some exaggerated – the world did not end – but it served as a reminder that it is too late to prepare after the crisis has hit. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the sun’s recent eruption:

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The revenue assurance world has received a big boost from B/OSS World after the leading provider of news and analysis published its list of the “25 Most Influential People in Telecom Software“. Amongst the 25, the panel included three thought leaders with strong ties to revenue assurance. What is more, they selected three RA thought leaders with impeccable credentials. They are worthy representatives of the RA world, and I hope they continue to influence telco software for the better. Without further ado, the three RA influencers were…

Atul Jain, TEOCO Boss and Founder

Though TEOCO tend to emphasize cost management rather than revenue assurance, this is because their marketing makes a distinction where most international rivals would not bother. TEOCO has succeeded in the fierce North American market, they have a solid business model and they are increasingly positioned to diversify their range of markets and range of offerings. Atul Jain has fostered organic growth, but he has also shown the killer instinct needed for M&A, buying Vibrant Solutions in 2006, Vero Systems in 2008 and TTI Telecom last year. These purchases underline Atul Jain’s vision of where his business is headed. Whilst TEOCO started by supplying software that hunts down lost nickels and dimes, they are headed in the direction of holistic intelligence that drives business value. There are other good reasons to list Atul Jain amongst the top influencers of telco software. He places great emphasis on moral and business integrity, and this was most evident when ruthlessly pursuing rivals Razorsight for intellectual property violations. Atul also had the vision to build a business that treats its people as more than ordinary employees; TEOCO stands for the The Employee Owned Company. Whilst employee ownership was diluted by a USD60M minority stake taken by TA Associates, it does mean TEOCO has the financial might to keep on growing. Rival vendors should be wary of Atul’s competitive instincts, and learn from his example.

Tony Poulos, Evangelist, Pundit and Globetrotter

What can I say about Tony Poulos that he has not said about himself, twice already? But seriously, Tony received the highest number of nominations for the Top 25 list, and there is a good reason why Tony ranks amongst the most popular of industry speakers worldwide. The man talks a lot of sense. Whether leading the campaign against bill shock, or espousing his views on net neutrality, Tony has the great knack of being thoughtful, provocative and entertaining at the same time. Poulos Ponderings is a must-read, his ‘Insider’ column is the best thing on the TMF’s website, and he is an anchor for The Telecom Channel. But Tony knows how to walk the walk as well as how to talk. He has founded start-ups, done business development for big businesses and seen software from all sides. So what can I say about Tony Poulos? There is only one Tony Poulos, but we could always do with more.

David Smith, Consultant and Pioneer

I like to call David Smith the “Godfather of Revenue Assurance”. He is too modest to take any pleasure when I do, but somebody needs to remind today’s RA practitioner that back in the dark days, before revenue assurance began, David was already pointing us the way forward. His work on the audit of billing accuracy established many of the main themes we find in revenue assurance. At the Global Billing Association, he took the lead in promoting and developing the nascent discipline of revenue assurance. Whilst David has undoubtedly influenced billing and revenue assurance software, as a consultant David has continued to promote a comprehensive vision of how to perform RA. David’s rounded perspective embraces the process, quality and human aspects of performance alongside a deep understanding of technology.

RA owes a debt of gratitude to David, and so does talkRA. Isaac Newton once talked about standing on the shoulders of giants. When the talkRA team secured our book deal, the publisher already knew what revenue assurance is and why there is a market for an RA book. David’s Successfully Managing Revenue Assurance was written 10 years earlier. I cannot imagine how David pitched the idea to his publisher, but he was successful, and the work proved to be seminal. By doing so, David drafted the template for revenue assurance, and we have all followed that template since.

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All sorts of conference company seem to have me on their mailing list, so it comes as no surprise that I sometimes get spammed about events that stupidly include speakers from GRAPA. What caught my attention about this week’s Billing & RA CACA was that Papa Rob and Little Louis decided they were too busy to share their wafer-thin knowledge of fraud management (neither has actually worked in a telco fraud department). In a bizarre move, they made GRAPA’s Member Services ‘Director’ go instead – forcing her to speak on the topic of ‘Making Fraud Prevention Equal Fraud Protection’ (whatever that means). Why is this bizarre? Because she has no fraud management experience! Or telecoms experience, outside of the short time she has been with GRAPA. According to LinkedIn, her background is in:

Fund raising, Minority Politics, Gender and Sexuality, Government Affairs

Hmmm. Perhaps GRAPA is short of money. Or maybe they intend to start an LGBT special interest group. I suppose Lifelong President Papa Rob might be contemplating a democratic election within GRAPA (he normally avoids them). But I would feel cheated if I went to a telecoms conference where the speakers had never worked in telecoms, and know nothing about the topic they’re talking about. GRAPA must be the one training business that sees no contradiction in employing lecturers that know less than the listeners. Complaining about GRAPA antics is futile, but conference companies should do better. Billing & RA CACA is organized by Informa, a reputable basis. Informa will find their reputation damaged, if they keep engaging speakers like this.

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