cVidya, the Israeli revenue assurance vendor, has announced their software will ‘support’ Hadoop, the open source technology for processing very large data sets across a distributed environment. You can read the press release here.

This is a very smart move by cVidya. cVidya’s core competence lies in skilfully presenting end users with conclusions drawn from data. Hadoop is a genuine Big Data technology which can greatly expand the volume of data which can be usefully accessed, whilst also lowering the cost of storing that data. By integrating with Hadoop, cVidya’s tools will sit atop a mature and powerful open source technology in order to deliver far superior results to their customers, without needing to make much change to their proprietary software. The press release states that cVidya’s software will be able to interface with a customer’s existing Hadoop solution. Alternatively, cVidya say they can provide customers with the hardware and software to implement Hadoop.

cVidya CEO Alon Aginsky is quoted as saying:

We see the distributed computing capabilities of Hadoop as a game changer for Fraud Management, Revenue Assurance and Marketing Analytics.

By making it cost-effective to analyze data from many different sources on a massive scale, we are essentially enabling digital and communications service providers to do more for less, thereby boosting profitability.

For once, talkRA can find no fault with the words of Aginsky. This development suggests cVidya’s management may finally be grappling with the strategic weaknesses that have seen them lagging competitors in recent years, after once claiming to have the leading market share for RA and FMS. In the past, cVidya CTO Gadi Solotorevsky advocated that business assurance departments should fight the rise of Big Data, taking a purist approach towards maintaining and controlling their own unique data repositories, even if this resulted in higher costs and duplication of effort within the business. By adopting Hadoop, it seems cVidya has realized there is a better way forward. Hadoop will see business assurance analysts working with the same data as used by the rest of the business. Those analysts will have much freer reign to tackle a broader scope of challenges. At the same time, cVidya’s software is more likely to attract the attention of telco staff working in other parts of the business. So this new, more open approach, is actually in cVidya’s best interests, despite their previous encouragement of empire-building within business assurance departments. Saying business assurance should be located in silos, surrounded by thick walls, was never going to be more than a tactic to increase sales, by providing those silos with data and technology that was separated from the rest of the business. It fell short of being a proper strategy, because it set endemic limits on what could be achieved. Those limits were not just felt by the departments that followed the advice, but ultimately they were felt by cVidya, as limits on what they could sell.

Big Data inevitably tears down walls within organizations, and opens up former silos. It looks as though cVidya has also come to that realization, and they will seek to harness the potential on behalf of their customers, and for their own business.

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WeDo, vendors of business assurance software, have sold their Praesidium consulting unit to Mainroad, providers of managed IT and various continuity and security-related services. Mainroad’s press release can be found here.

WeDo and Mainroad are sister companies within the Portuguese Sonae group, so this move is more like an internal transfer than a conventional trade sale. WeDo CEO Rui Paiva also sits on the board of Mainroad. Nevertheless, no price was disclosed for the deal, a fact which was also picked up by Computerworld.com.pt. It is not known if the deal had any impact on WeDo’s reported 12% rise in revenues during FY13, though it would be reasonable to assume, based on the date of the announcement, that the transaction occurred after the FY13 year end. This still leaves an open question about how much Praesidium contributed to WeDo’s 2013 revenues, and if WeDo has any plans to compensate for the drop in revenues by building up or acquiring a replacement team of consultants.

Praesidium is now described as the ‘Information Security Division’ of Mainroad. WeDo originally acquired British-based Praesidium in 2007, also for an undisclosed sum. The transfer suggests that the core technical strengths of Praesidium’s consultants are best focused on giving advice about information security and business continuity. When Praesidium was a unit of WeDo, their consulting skills most naturally complemented WeDo’s product suite within the domain of fraud management and related risks.

On a final note, I want to apologize to readers for being unusually slow to report this story. The announcement was made in February, during the run-up to Mobile World Congress. It is unclear if the announcement was timed so Mainroad could feed into the usual pre-MWC rush of press releases, or whether the publicity was intentionally muted, to avoid drawing attention to the fact that WeDo has seemingly exited the consulting market. Either way, I failed to notice. I will follow-up, and report more as I learn more, but I did not want to further delay the sharing of this information. Though Praesidium is small, I believe this deal merits the attention of talkRA readers. Firstly, this may be another sign of declining demand for consultants working in the fields of revenue assurance and fraud management. Secondly, it reiterates a trend that some skills and services previously drawn into the scope of revenue assurance and fraud management may find a better home when teamed up with security and business continuity. Both of these observations are relevant to practitioners working in the field. They should be kept in mind when contemplating the pros and cons of a job in consulting versus being employed by a telco, and also when considering where certain jobs belong in the telco’s org chart. If I learn more about the motivation behind Praesidium’s transfer, I will pass it on.

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Dan Baker of the Technology Research Institute (TRI) and Black Swan has published a comprehensive new report into Telecom Analytics and Big Data Solutions. The report covers 42 different vendors, clarifying the variety of products and services on offer. Dan sidesteps the problems caused when words like ‘analytics’ are overused, breaking the market down into coherent sub-markets, and explaining the differences between each vendor’s offerings. In an excellent interview for B/OSS World, Dan also points out what telcos have in common, not least that:

…”big data” is nothing new in telecom networks; in fact, telecom practically invented big data volumes. But just because telcos own terabytes of data doesn’t mean they know how to manage them well.

The report can be purchased from here.

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WeDo, the Portuguese suppliers of business assurance software, have announced their FY13 revenues were EUR61.5mn (USD83mn), up 12% compared to the previous year. This continued growth consolidates their position as market leaders. EBITDA rose 36% to EUR11.8mn (USD16mn). There was no mention of profits.

The company identified Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa as the regions that contributed most to growth. They also reiterated their strategy of expanding sales to the retail, energy and finance industries, claiming they now have 31 non-telco customers. On Thursday, Chief Marketing Officer Sergio Silvestre separately mentioned that sales to non-telecoms customers now generates about 10% of WeDo’s revenues. WeDo’s continued expansion outside of telecoms comes as no surprise; in January the firm created a new VP role with responsibility for developing their business outside of telecoms.

WeDo’s strong performance suggests their corporate strategy is working and hence needs little change, or further analysis. There are signs that the market is contracting overall, which makes WeDo’s results especially impressive. In his choice of words for the press release, CFO Fernando Videira hinted at some underlying softness in the market (my emphasis):

This level of continued innovation, top line growth, as well as sustainable EBITDA growth, is evidence that WeDo will continue to gain market share and to be the biggest and most robust player in Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management software in the world.

Videira went on to signal the scale of WeDo’s ambition, saying he wanted revenues to reach USD100mn by 2015. It is also worth noting that WeDo’s messages have changed subtly over the years. In the past, they asserted themselves to be leaders in the sphere of revenue assurance, excluding fraud management. Now they clearly prefer to measure their performance against the combined RA and FMS market.

Having attained the position of market leader, WeDo can exploit the advantages this confers, compared to their rivals. As the customer base grows, the same expenditure on maintaining and developing products represents a smaller proportion of the revenues they receive. WeDo also benefits from the viral marketing effect of loyal customers recommending WeDo to their peers, or seeking to purchase relevant WeDo products when they move to a new employer. WeDo’s keenness to tell telco people about their non-telco sales may partly be motivated by the hope that practitioners will continue to advocate business assurance and WeDo, even if they leave telecoms to take jobs in other sectors.

In summary, WeDo’s strategy is established, coherent, and appears to be succeeding. That allows their management team to focus on execution, making high quality sales, and sustainably improving their income.

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A former insider has leaked some good news for fans of professionalism in revenue assurance, and bad news for fans of the Global Revenue Assurance Professional Association. The reliable source told talkRA that dwindling revenues have forced Papa Rob Mattison to cut GRAPA’s costs to the bone. As suspected, the departure of former GRAPA tutor Louis “I LOVE Revenue Assurance” Khor was a sign of GRAPA’s financial difficulties. Former GRAPA customers have contracted a bad case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, leaving Papa Rob unable to secure repeat business. In turn, Khor had to leave because he was only paid on a piecemeal basis for the classes he taught. GRAPA’s Marketing Director (the woman responsible for all their email spam) has also left, and even members of Papa Rob’s family have decided to get real jobs elsewhere.

However, we should not rejoice too soon. Papa Rob and his wife Brigitte are like a pair of zombies. When one career/scam comes to its unnatural end, they revive themselves by proclaiming Rob to be a world-renowned expert at something else. Let us not forget that this couple have also described Papa Rob as: an internationally recognized expert in databases, data warehousing, objective technology and data mining; a sought-after speaker at database conferences around the world; a leading international authority on knowledge management; and a best selling author. This makes me wonder how many copies need to be sold, before Rob and Brigitte consider a book to be a ‘best seller’. Neither I nor my talkRA colleagues are best selling authors. But on Amazon, our revenue assurance book has consistently outsold Mattison’s RA manual.

Some recent GRAPA graduates

Papa Rob’s brain was too small for a satisfying meal, said these GRAPA pupils

It must be admitted that there are still some signs of continued life at GRAPA. An advert for a replacement member of staff was recently advertised on Craigslist, paying USD10 per hour. However, those of us with long memories will recall that similar GRAPA jobs used to pay USD12 per hour.

GRAPA is not dead, but it should be buried. This so-called association, a marketing front for Mattison’s pre-existing consulting and training business, has done irreparable harm to real revenue assurance professionals. Papa Rob spread the irresponsible lie that anyone, with only a bare minimum of training, should expect extravagant pay raises and promotions in return for performing basic revenue assurance reconciliations. In truth, by setting absurdly low standards for qualification, and allowing inexperienced chancers to describe themselves as masters of the topic, they have encouraged an oversupply of under-qualified candidates, chasing an inadequate number of low-paid jobs.

There is one lesson we should learn from Rob Mattison and GRAPA. Papa Rob made some quick cash for himself, but he did not build anything which generated sustainable value in the long run. He has never done the hard work to educate himself, which is why he believes he can be a world-class expert on everything. In turn, he never expected hard work from his students. At GRAPA, he created a few low-grade, short-lived jobs for people without any relevant qualifications or experience, but these jobs did nothing to enhance the CVs or future prospects of the people who filled them. Instead of making revenue assurance a vital activity which rewards its elite practitioners, he turned it into a zombie profession, shambling from one meal to the next, with no sense of direction or purpose.

The obituary for GRAPA is long overdue. Real professionals need to tell their GRAPA-qualified peers that they have embarrassed themselves. We need to kill their zombie careers. When we do that, we give life back to the people who occupied those zombie careers, by giving them the chance to enjoy real professional growth instead. Not everybody’s career will survive. But those that do, will prosper.

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