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“Science is analytical description; philosophy is synthetic interpretation. Science wishes to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the obscure into the known. It does not inquire into the values and ideal possibilities of things or into their total and final significance.“
—Will Durant, The Pleasures of Philosophy
I never quite understood why people who study technology markets are called “analysts.“ First of all, I don’t like Freud’s suggestion that detail-oriented people are babies stuck in the anal-retentive stage, though I’ll admit that analysts do get cranky when they’re starved of data. :-)
Here’s my other complaint. The word “analysis“ comes from the Greek word meaning “to break up.” But in telecom markets, we don’t need to break up things any further. In fact, there are already too many product categories, carrier practices, industry standards and solution vendors to sort out. The most valuable thing is not analysis but “synthesis“ — turning all the piece parts into a whole and trying to explain what it all means.
Having just completed a 635-page research report on the subject of telecom business assurance, I know what a job it is to be a synthesizer of information. There were about 70-odd people I interviewed for this report and each of them was a busy person whose schedule had to be interrupted for my study to get finished. In the end, I thank them all for letting me “borrow“ their insights so I could stamp the TRI logo on the report cover.
So what is Telecom Business Assurance? Well, it’s a wrapper term (similar to B/OSS) that allows you to draw a circle around the highly diverse and dynamic practice of employing business controls, workflows and data marts to check for retail or enterprise billing/ordering errors, fraud issues, wholesale or partner billing problems, and a host of other operational concerns. It’s Big Process and Big People, increasingly enabled by Big Data.
Some of the solution vendors like the “business assurance“ term; others do not. TMNG and WeDo have latched onto “business assurance” and use it in their marketing. Subex favors the Revenue Operations Center and more recently the “enterprise assurance“ theme. cVidya likes the term ”Revenue Intelligence.“ Then there’s MDS Lavastorm Analytics who used “business assurance” in the past, but now likes “analytics.“ Of course, all of these vendors have a big stake in addressing both revenue assurance and fraud management issues.
Meanwhile, the vendors who grew up in the cost assurance market, such as TEOCO, Razorsight and Connectiv Solutions, look at business assurance from a different angle. They don’t generally get involved in the business process issues that the RA players worry about. They are more concerned with inter-carrier and inter-partner costs. When they say revenue assurance, it usually means the revenues that are owed by a partner, such as in Carrier Access Billing in the U.S.
Though their choice of marketing words vary, all RA, fraud, cost, and margin-assurance vendors generally pursue the same broader solution set.
I agree with those who say “Analytics“ is the over-arching technology class: Business assurance is clearly a subset of telecom analytics. My trouble with the “A” word, however, is that it’s a Scarlet Letter that covers way too much technology witchcraft.
IBM, God bless its Big Blue soul, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its “Smart Planet“ analytics campaign. Now while we thank IBM for the publicity, the brand of analytics that telecoms need is more of the “Small Village” variety — the kind that business assurance vendors are delivering — a more fine-grained, more real-time, and more telecom-specific view of usage patterns, operational metrics, traffic stats and much more.
To help sort things out, we created the “Telecom Analytics World“ chart below:
Think of the analytics world as divided into two hemispheres. On the left side are “marketing analytics“ functions like customer retention and customer-experience analytics which primarily look at external, customer oriented forces on the business. The key question marketing analytics tries to answer is: “Given our current operational capabilities, what action can I take to capture the long term greatest value in revenue and/or profit from customers?”
In many ways, marketing analytics is the more traditional analytics use. It’s the market that companies like SAS Institute carved out and the function shares blood relations with marketing, customer care and CRM.
In the right hemisphere are the Business Assurance functions, which mostly focus on optimizing internal operations. And while “operating excellence“ is its mission, the outputs of business assurance can be of great value on the marketing side too.
The primary question that business assurance asks is: “How can I protect and enable the business to grow by identifying errors in operations and minimizing partner and fraud-related costs?“
A great deal of “commerce“ (interaction) occurs in the Telecom Analytics World. There are no stone walls separating the Revenue Assurance Regency from the Fraud Management Fiefdom or the Cost Assurance Kingdom. Some functions spill over into others. Dealer management, for example, can be looked at from both a fraud and revenue optimization point of view.
Not to be forgotten of course are the “Ocean of B/OSS“ systems where analytics systems dive to extract their data treasure. And just as there are no firm boundary lines between analytics domains, the dividing line between sea and shore is also an illusion.
One business assurance that can’t be cleanly categorized is Optimal Routing, the descendant of manual Least Cost Routing. That function can be seen as both a network system as well as a cost assurance/analytics system, so in the diagram we had the words overlap the sea and land.
One last point: Mediation and Service Assurance serve a rather unique role. Most business assurance analytics today is driven by usage data collected through mediation systems. Yet as time moves forward and wireless service-quality measurement becomes more crucial, we think service-assurance data such as signaling and application performance data will rise in importance as a business assurance data source. We colored the words “Mediation“ and “Service Assurance” in bright green to indicate their special status as data collectors in the B/OSS Ocean.
So these are some of the ideas synthesized in our new business assurance study.
This article first appeared in Billing and OSS World.
Copyright 2012 Black Swan Telecom Journal