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    If the cap fits…


    Can ‘Revenue Fulfilment’ fulfil the dream of revenue assurance managers? Hugh Roberts thinks it can.

    Now that quick wins have created a degree of confidence and respect for revenue assurance processes within the majority of service providers, discussion within the Revenue Assurance (RA) community has inevitably turned to the question of how RA can define and extend its remit to establish itself at the heart of the business.

    To do this successfully will require an undertaking to do more than just the traditional revenue assurance functions that by and large concentrate on putting in place re-active controls to identify and recover revenues lost from leakage. The challenge to be overcome at senior management level is to establish RA as an ongoing and credible business unit with its own identity — one that becomes intuitively understandable at board level.

    What is needed is a methodology that will embed RA processes in a broad range of proactive activities such as marketplace ‘visioning’, new product development and other strategic roadmap processes. Historically, revenue assurance has grown organically. The initial adoption of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approaches has ensured that the focus in each service provider has developed along a different path. Early on, role conflicts in the RA Manager’s sphere of activity were common. The resolution of these conflicts often resulted in the RA job descriptions which ‘filled in the gaps’ left between existing assurance processes already catered for within the organisation.

    Furthermore, the specific successes of RA initiatives have typically been based on the charisma and knowledge base of the instigators and champions involved. In each case therefore, the methodology adopted has reflected this — whether it be derived from audit, credit control, risk management, finance, billing, IT, fraud or network engineering.  What this means is that there is no commonality to the practical experience of what RA encompasses or to the heterogeneous conceptual frameworks that have been employed. Any attempt to impose a standardised revenue assurance definition will inevitably clash with the existing systems and processes in place.

    The best means of overcoming this will be to identify a new umbrella term to describe this new remit for RA practitioners — of which revenue assurance would form one constituent part — which could then be normalised over time into a common methodology without the encumbrance of legacy. This is not a new idea…over the past three years there have been many discussions which have led to a range of suggestions being put forward.

    So, what are the options? The first and broadest contender is ‘Revenue Management’. The basic problem here is that any intuitive understanding of the term incorporates a range of archetypal board level activities. It is one thing to become proactive, but to claim ownership of the corporate raison d’etre might seem overly ambitious — particularly if you want to get senior management buy-in! In this respect alone, ‘Revenue Management’ fails on the basis of ‘prior ownership.’ In similar vane, ‘Revenue Maximisation’ has been actively promoted as a business methodology. Worse, it already exists as a (relatively?) well-known economic theory and as a strategic approach ideally suited to high up-front investment businesses with minimal incremental costs (such as, for example, a telecoms network…)

    ‘Margin Management’ is potentially much more interesting, in that it strikes a better balance between the monitoring and assurance of both revenues and costs. Unfortunately, margin management already exists within the domain of the Product Manager as a part of product lifecycle management. (Strangely, RA has generally been only peripherally associated with lifecycle, pipeline and portfolio management methodologies — perhaps because to date the ‘quick win’ leakage recovery focus has concentrated on the areas of CDR/usage data flow, network inventory management and interconnect reconciliation.)

    All of the terms above — as with the offshoot terms ‘Revenue Enhancement’ and ‘Revenue Efficiency’ — have existing associations that are well established and clearly owned by other departments.

    Fulfilment proposal

    All of which brings me to propose ‘Revenue Fulfilment’ as an option. What the term expresses is the goal of measuring, monitoring and narrowing the gap between achieved and potential profitability, both proactively and reactively. This sits comfortably alongside the board’s existing strategic responsibilities as it expresses activities aimed at fulfilling strategy, not necessarily of creating it.

    No one I have talked to has so far been able to find fault with the proposal of revenue fulfilment, and I have not come across the term having been used before in a related context, other than the potentially useful parallel with ‘service fulfilment’ in the OSS domain.

    It is as yet too early and too ambitious to try to define revenue fulfilment, but if we can as a community collaboratively work on evolving its tenets, then we might further the effectiveness of revenue assurance… and at the same time fulfil the dream of RA Managers everywhere!