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One of the nice things about New Year’s time is it gives us an excuse to look back at our past — recent past as well as ancient past, or what we call history.
And in case you hadn‘t noticed, Revenue Assurance has a bit of history now! Depending on how far back you want to go, RA has been a recognized telecom specialty for 10 or 15 years now.
So shall we pick up a glass and toast Auld Lang Syne? I’d love to. But first, how about some perspective from two industry experts I cornered on a conference call: Daniela Giacomantonio, Manager of Revenue Assurance at Telecom Italia and Gadi Solotorevsky, CTO of cVidya and a regular contributor to Black Swan.
I guess last year’s New Year’s Resolution was to define a new Revenue Assurance Maturity Model. In fact, Daniela and Gadi worked together on this project (close to completion) which grew out a TM Forum Catalyst project.
In the interview, the two talk about the significance of this new Maturity initiative, the value of telco/solution vendor collaboration, and the dramatic change the RA profession has gone through in its relatively short history.
|Dan Baker: Daniela, to start, maybe you could give us a quick overview of revenue assurance at Telecom Italia. How are you organized there?|
Daniela Giacomantonio: It’s a pleasure, Dan. As you know, Telecom Italia has a complete offer on the market. So we are focused particularly on innovation in data, voice, and infrastructure offers. Because of the constant innovation in telecom, we need to continuously change our products and solutions, which of course entails constant movements in our procedures and systems. And this requires a structured system of monitoring and control on the revenue chain and an effectiveness process of risk prevention
Revenue assurance has a presence in each important department in Telecom Italia. We have teams in information technology, network, and national wholesales. And while the people are technically trained, they have great knowledge of RA and the larger business issues.
|How does the new maturity model compare to the older one?|
Daniela: We used the old maturity model some years ago and it’s a good tool because it gets you thinking about continuous improvement in revenue assurance.
Yet I appreciate the new one even better because it is more detailed, it tells you where you need to focus your attention on the capabilities you need to get excellent in revenue assurance goals, methodology, your criteria of measurement, etc. It covers aspects of modern RA, e.g., risk and measurement that were not well covered by the old model. We will use it as soon as the TMF will release the final version just to verify our maturity level and to identify any new actions to do better --- if we have to invest in training or more in tools, etc. or in methodology etc. Then we check again later on in the year to see if we improved.
|Daniela, I heard that you and your team invested serious time developing the new Maturity Model. So I wanted to ask: why did you decide to get involved with building this new model? You could have easily sat back and waited for other people to develop it for you.|
Daniela: Many reasons. One was we felt we had something to say about the maturity model. Telecom Italia has a story on revenue assurance, especially our good approach to manage and governance of the RA process to get excellent economic results. Second, we liked the idea of working with experts like Gadi and many other friends in the community to increase and to compare our experience and knowledge on revenue assurance.
Finally, since we knew we would adopt this approach, we wanted to provide input into how it was built. So now we are ready to use it as soon as it’s available. And I must say it’s been interesting to follow the steps of the model’s construction -- the knowledge sharing has been great.
Gadi Solotorevsky: Dan, as a vendor participant in the project, I feel much the same way Daniela does.
Actually many people ask me: Why do I, or why does cVidya participate in these kinds of projects? Why not just sit in a lab somewhere and develop these kinds of ideas internally. For us it is a strategic decision to reach out to people like you, Daniela, and others who have great experience in this space — and also to consultants, even our competition — it’s OK. The point is to expose ideas more broadly and get feedback.
Often the software vendor doesn‘t have the big picture. So this is wonderful learning from others, be part of the process of developing the new best practices, it permits you to be an early adopter of the new practices that are created in this process, and to incorporate them to your methodology and products..
So it is a pleasure to exchange ideas, get information, and get inputs from experts. And if we collaborate as part of a community like TMF, we can all get added value because we all care about a positive end result.
|Daniela, can you share with us some of your current revenue assurance priorities?|
Daniela: Well, as you know, revenue assurance is a high priority activity at Telecom Italia. We have a very focused budget. If there is a problem in the revenue chain, we can intervene rapidly. We don‘t have to wait for the long list of steps that are typical at a large company.
The process of new products and service, I must say, is one of the key areas we are working on, particularly in the area of prevention. And correct me if I’m wrong, Gadi, but we started this revenue assurance activity in a reactive way, but now it’s time to invest a lot of our time and resources on prevention. Now if we want to realize a good prevention program, we know we need to be highly involved in the business processes around new products and services.
By the way, we have made great progress on the mobile prepaid in the last two years. We built what we call a revenue assurance control model, so we have very high coverage on revenue on mobile prepaid. Postpaid, of course, with its tools of mitigation and recovery is a very classical, a traditional method of revenue assurance. Prepaid RA is newer to us so our prevention efforts are aimed at that.
|Since you’ve been involved in the revenue assurance business for some time, I’m wondering how the profession has changed from your point of view, Daniela. Is it easier or harder these days?|
Daniela: I think today we have a lot of good and effective tools that help us. Also the methodology behind revenue assurance is more defined which helps a lot. Ten years ago when I first began to speak about revenue assurance within Telecom Italia, it wasn‘t easy to explain what was this process and how it differs from things like business monitoring, control, and accountability.
It takes time to understand that RA is a good investment and it is strictly connected with the economic results of your company because you have to mitigate costs and leakages. Today, the value is even greater because operations are more complicated to follow. There are many new offers that have a lot of risk associated with them, I must say. So, we need to work at new scenarios and this new maturity model is going to help.
Gadi: In fact, 10 years ago — and the name of the company involved doesn‘t matter — I distinctly remember explaining to a CTO why he may have leakages, And he spoke to me very plainly: “You know, if these leakages you are telling me about do exist, then I am not doing my job, they should fire me.”
So people didn‘t really know what revenue assurance was all about back then, but only six years later it became a well-known term because people were getting results. Then about two years ago, people got confused again because revenue assurance moved from recovering money to preventing losses.
In many organizations, that was OK because the CFO understood. But in other organizations, it was a bit of a crisis because the revenue assurance manager always reported on how much recovery he did -- and now he is doing prevention? People didn‘t quite know what to make of “prevention” but it is actually much more effective because normally you will not recover more than 50%, 60% of the leakage you detect to do right by the customer.
So it’s fun working with other people that have great knowledge in this material. You can really go in and discuss details. Everyone has opinions about how something should be done, and the process forces you to understand the other person’s point of view — and for the other person to understand yours as well. Pretty soon you find the right compromise and that’s satisfying. In a normal vendor/client relationship, this is not the kind of discussion you would have. Am I correct Daniela?
Daniela: I would add that I appreciate a lot of the work that this community, this Catalyst, did in defining the new maturity model. I find the logical approach of the new maturity model is very good. Not only that, it’s simpler to use than the previous one.
|Thank you for this discussion, Daniela and Gadi.|
Gadi: Dan, I just want to add one practical thing that the readers should know about. We have finished the catalyst project for this model, and it will now go into the review phase by the TM Forum revenue assurance team. We hope to release it to the community -- to everybody by the end of March. So, this is something the whole industry can start to use. I am very happy about it.
Copyright 2014 Black Swan Telecom Journal