Eric Nelson, Billing & OSS World Interview January 2011
Revenue Assurance Maturity: Report From the Arena
Synaptitude Managing Principal Eric Nelson was interviewed by Dan Baker for an article in Billing & OSS World, regarding his thoughts on the state of Telecom Revenue Assurance. Excerts of the interview follow. For the complete interview, please visit Billing & OSS World. The interview is also available on the Revenue Assurance Roundtable.
Dan Baker, Billing & OSS World: Where do you see opportunity for revenue assurance to do more?
Eric Nelson, Synaptitude Consulting: I think next-gen wireless is still a big challenge. I’m talking about things like mobile money and very complex quad play bundles that combine channels of cable, a tiered data plan, plus access to bank accounts. If you’ve got different thresholds in that bundle and you have to make sure the person is living in that bundle, it’s very hard to assure that.
I think most of the very, very large operators will continue to look to develop solutions internally, with perhaps some spot COTS solutions bolted on. These large multinational telecom groups have some very complex charge back schemes where there’s a central company that owns the assets and leases them to the in-country operator. Then there’s usually a shared services group that works for all the subsidiaries.
It’s very complex because of all the intra-company trading, yet it’s very different from the wholesale model. So they find it difficult to work with COTS packages that don’t easily allow for their unique/specific business model.
One other area of importance within the RA discipline is customer analytics. There’s a ton of information about the customer that can be used for much better customer intelligence than the old-school data warehouses.
Dan Baker, Billing & OSS World: What questions do you ask yourself to quickly size up a telecom’s revenue assurance maturity?
Eric Nelson, Synaptitude Consulting: I’ll tell you what, if you’re a Martin Dawes, or Subex, or cVidya, one of the first questions those guys ask is: “Are you still using Excel spreadsheets for revenue assurance?” And if the answer is “yes,” well, that’s like dangling a tasty bone in front of a hungry dog.
Moving to a database is a sure fire way to improve your RA operation. And it’s no surprise that it’s on one of the first rungs on the TM Forum’s revenue assurance maturity matrix.
Another good question to ask folks is: “Who else in your organization is using revenue assurance data?” For instance, are they using it to understand customer behavior or to gain other intelligence?
The answer will reveal a couple things: One, do they have good stuff? Because the better the information you have, the more people want to use it.
Second, the question tells you about the awareness and acceptance of RA in the larger telco organization. I mean, if you act like an internal auditor and sit there finding stuff that people haven’t done right, they don’t like that. They are only going to put up with that for so long, then keep you out. But to the extent that people say, “Wait a second, you guys can help me,” well, that shows RA is perceived as a useful partner.
Dan Baker, Billing & OSS World: In what areas do you see telecoms doing well?
Eric Nelson, Synaptitude Consulting: We’re seeing a lot of adoption – and this was surprising to me – around network cost assurance. And where is that being driven out of? The network groups, primarily.
You’ll find network engineers using analytics platforms because where they get hammered all day long is on the cost of their network infrastructure. They want to be sure there are no stranded assets, no infrastructure not being used, and that they are grooming the network all the time.
Almost everybody we visit has got some sort of wholesale reconciliation in place to be sure they’re not being overcharged. Almost every engineering group has been cleaning up their inventory too.
Even at the huge telecoms, we see this happening. We just finished a job for a carrier that operates in over 150 countries. And we found a staggering revenue shortfall. Now in the big scheme of things, if you’re a $12 billion company, $100 million revenue recovery is something you notice, but it won’t ruin your day.
Yet recovering that revenue is very complex because you’re dealing with dozens of carriers and trying to put stop orders in place. But they went through the effort and cleaned things up and now they can better manage their field operations and have become more productive and, more importantly, much more profitable.
Interview courtesy of Billing and OSS World magazine.