Archive for March, 2012

I introduced RevenuePad and the RA ‘clock’ in parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series. This is the conclusion of my series.

Epilogue: It’s time for Benjamin to follow and embrace natural growth.

In this final part, first let me explain, how RevenuePad enables ‘specific attention’ for RA teams all of whom may have different needs under the same problem areas. RevenuePad enables replicating the business structure of the organization, with an additional capability that allows custom monitoring for each and every business node beyond the quantitative parameters that RevenuePad already monitors. Let me take an example: Our hands have 5 fingers each, all of which are different with different capabilities, although they belong to the same ‘wrist’. Similarly, although the overall quantification parameters for all business nodes for an operator may be same, each node may have a specific need. RevenuePad allows creating and monitoring these custom metrics that uniquely identify and help gauge the situation at the business nodes. It is not necessary for the RA teams to use this capability for monitoring only performance of the node/nodes. As I mentioned earlier, RevenuePad has a framework approach. It is ‘this’ capability that would allow customizing the necessary information for the business.

The purpose of RevenuePad is to ensure productivity of the RA departments. We all accept that it is not the best format to have analysts’ spend 80% of their time to simple detect problems, and then try to fix the. The growth of telecom as a domain does not demand hard work, it demands ‘smart work’. It is time, analysts spend 20% of crucial time in knowing the 80% of the problems, so that the rest of the time can be spent for fixing the leakages and recovering the lost revenue. That is what takes time, and that is where a true RA functions would need to be. One of India’s greatest freedom fighters and ex-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said “Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends”. Hence for TEAM RA, its time to grow beyond the conventional approaches for working just to ensure that they do not face an identity crisis in trying to prove their merit. With the economic condition across the globe, it becomes even more imperative for RA to take up more than switch to bill reconciliations.

The need of the hour for Benjamin is to use his time-reversal clock to scale and grow, rather than wilt away.

 

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Subex, the Indian RA vendor, has announced the sale of its ROC RA and FMS solutions to an unnamed greenfield operator in APAC; see here. Few details were given, but the operator is described as having a large prepaid customer base, and the value of the deal is described as ‘multi-million dollar’.

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WeDo has issued a positive press release about their 2011 financial year; see here. The Portuguese vendors of business assurance software reported annual revenues of USD64.3M and EBITDA of USD7.8M. Comparison to the 2010 numbers showed revenues were down 1.3%, whilst EBITDA was up by over 4%. Although WeDo said 2011 had been ‘a challenging year’, confidence in the future was emphasized by taking new sales orders worth USD72.3M and having an order backlog worth over USD43M.

The company was described as enjoying ‘growing profitability’ but no mention was made of any actual profits. Attempts to cross-check the press release to the accounts of the parent Sonae Group proved futile; the group accounts lacked sufficient detail. However, the information in the press release appears consistent with WeDo’s reported performance in previous years and with announcements it made during 2011.

To WeDo’s great credit, they did not shy away from the big issue of cut-throat competition and the need for market consolidation. They said:

the market endured very aggressive competition based on pricing which is likely to drive an important reshuffle in 2012, impacting some of the key players in the industry

The company went on to emphasize its stability during turbulent times, referring to the fact it has a single shareholder – Sonae Group – and highlighting that the company would engage in continued innovation and development ‘without disruption’. The implication is that WeDo sees potential in appealing to potential customers who are worried about the viability of rival vendors.

WeDo also reiterated established aspects of its business strategy, mentioning overseas sales and non-telecom sales. 67.4% of revenue was described as ‘international’, meaning the firm is becoming less reliant on revenues from customers in Portugal. Meanwhile, two sales came from outside the telecoms sector: a new financial customer in Portugal and a new retail customer in Brazil.

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Often on talkRA, we have discussed the problems of RA and the one that immediately comes to my mind is the post that Eric shared on ‘5 RA Questions You Dare Not Ask (and I will not answer)’ . The apparent humor spoke of the real world challenges. In Part 1 and Part 2 I introduced the motivation for an RA ‘clock’ that will reverse time and improve strategic visibility into operations with the aim of addressing the ‘RA Questions’. Now let me explain what it does in more detail as to how Operational productivity can be improved.

Benjamin’s time-reversal clock: RevenuePad for RA teams globally

The troubles of analysts lie in identifying which KPI do I look first? Where do I start? How much less time can I spend in finding the problem areas so that I can focus on recovery? Effectively, for analysts today, 80% of their time is spent in finding the problems and hence the most important time for focusing on methods of revenue recovery is lost.

These had to be solved, so the clock that would help Benjamin is “here”.

For the analysts, RevenuePad provides desktop pin-pointing the problems areas and the associated KPIs to look at. RevenuePad houses a capability within itself, which lays out the complete revenue chain, based on the underlying (configured) KPIs with visual clues for helping the users start off on day one. The best part, this view is ‘aut0-created’!

This brings me to saying, remember how Windows changed the outreach to personal computing over DOS? DOS was for the experts. Much like most of tools that has an extremely steep learning curve. Windows brought in the simplicity by the aid of visual aids. Truly it is said, a picture speaks a thousand words. RevenuePad provides just the complete set of visuals tools that the RA users would need. Even the most liked capability of RA functions, “drilling down to details” happens visually in RevenuePad.

revenue chain for analysts

This is the simpler diagram, but in production systems, the information and diagram becomes complex. So if the diagram remains complex, it would be of now use for the analysts. Therefore, entire RevenuePad uses a single system of navigation across the business hierarchy, lines of business, upto the detailed level data. So when the analyst drills down, based on his areas of selection, the system automatically zooms into the necessary revenue chain associated with the analyst’s choice. The single system of navigation and drill down was important in terms of usability of the application so as to ensure that there was literally a ‘zero’ learning curve for the users using the product for analysis.

With a visual analysis system, the next important step was to enable the analyst understand, if the problems detected by the KPIs are recurring or a one time activity. This brought about the creation of a “KPI Lifecycle Visibility” in terms of performance of the KPI/s. Hence if a KPI stabilizes overtime, the analyst would be able to see the same happening.

For analysis, the conventional approach is to drill down into underlying data from the KPI. The difference RA system from Subex creates at this stage is two fold. One: for every KPI, the first thing that is shown to the analyst through RevenuePad is a complete build up of the same right from the ‘raw data’. A lot of RA tools, just because they map the raw data into the product data model, tends to lose view of the Raw Data. RevenuePad retains the visibility into the raw data as well. Of course this needs consideration w.r.t hardware sizing and availability, but if analysts want, he can zoom into the details of the even raw data from which the KPI was created. The second difference created is that of Zen, which provides the magnet to pull the problems out for the analysts without the analysts having to spend effort.

Thus RevenuePad and Zen, through an all visual methodology is aimed to reduce analysts’ time by helping find 80% of the problems with 20% effort and time of the analyst. Therefore, now the rest of the effort can go into aiding revenue recovery and ensuring more coverage can be achieved by the RA team.

Finally Benjamin is on the verge of becoming healthy. There is one problem even now: One Size does not fit all. What I mean is, howsoever comprehensive an application may be, individual teams across the globe need “specific” attention to focus areas specific to them. In the final part of this series, next week, I would tell You how we achieved this as well.

 

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This month Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, published an action plan to tackle bill shock – the modern phenomenon of customers receiving phone bills much higher than they expected. Although Ofcom’s news release mentions taking action, the news is that there will not, in fact, be any new action taken.

After investigating the causes of bill shock, Ofcom concluded what we knew all along. Bill shock is mostly caused by mobile roaming, especially when using data services. There are some, but fewer instances of bill shock relating to stolen phones and customers exceeding the minutes in their allowances. As mobile roaming stands out as most needing a measured response, Ofcom has been left in the wake of the EU. The EU Roaming Regulation has already tackled the issue of roaming charges within Europe, and the EU is considering a plan to extend the regulation’s safeguards to protect European customers whilst roaming outside of the EU. In short, the EU regulation demands there are warnings as the bill climbs, and an automatic cut-off if the customer’s bill reaches 50 Euros. If applied to all roaming, this would conclusively tackle the problem of roaming bill shock for subscribers from EU countries. Hence Ofcom’s current action plan is mostly to wait to see if the EU implements its proposed action plan. If the EU does not do so, there is a vaguely stated possibility that Ofcom could go solo and bring forward similar regulation to protect UK phone users. However, the likelier outcome is that they would just maintain their existing approach of cajoling CSPs to voluntarily introduce and improve alarms and caps.

The EU will consider the proposal to extend its regulation in April 2012. Whilst politics drives again, the political issues may be more acute than usual. On the one hand, the EU wants to show it delivers benefits to its citizens – even whilst the economies are grinding them down. On the other hand, EU efforts to ‘go global’ with the scope of carbon taxing international airlines have more than a little resistance. Burdening operators for the responsibility for worldwide roaming charges might be treated as regulatory overreach at a time when less government interference is thought to be important. Either way, the EU’s actions are likely to establish an important precedent for how bill shock is tackled globally.

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