Friday, June 25, 2010

Help! I Just Got a Job Doing Revenue Assurance!

Every once in a while, one of GRAPA's members will send me an e-mail that says exactly that. They are suddenly asked to do a Revenue Assurance job, and they are looking to us for advice.

Many Reasons, One Response: Emergency Revenue Assurance (or Louis to the Rescue!)

The circumstances can be very diverse. Sometimes, the old Revenue Assurance Manager left abruptly, and they needed someone in a hurry to replace him/her. Sometimes it is something else.

In some cases the person they pick to do the Revenue Assurance job is from another department - internal audit, fraud, finance, billing, IT, network, etc. - but they had heard of GRAPA before, or they had met me at a conference.

And because they do not have a history specifically doing Revenue Assurance, they are looking for someone to help them understand what the job is and what they should be doing. And of course, because I LOVE GRAPA members, I treat it as an emergency and try to help them as best I can.

Read the Books, Tell Me More

Of course the first thing I do is tell them about our Revenue Assurance Standards Book, as well as our (older, but still very useful) Revenue Assurance Handbook. If they speak Spanish, I tell them about the Spanish translation of our Standards Book.

Next I ask them a few questions. Usually all they have managed to tell me is that they have this new job and then they ask me a question about how we think their department should be run. But I know from experience that usually what they are looking for can be any number of different things, so I need to find out more in order to really help them.

Are they asking who they should report to? (usually the CFO) What should be the scope of the department? ie: what they should or should not be doing? How they approach other departments and interact with them? Also, is this a new department? Or are they inheriting it from someone else? How many people are there in the department already, and what is their background?

The "Condensed" GRAPA Standards!

But even before they answer any of those questions, I try to give them some sense of what GRAPA recommends in terms of our standards and standard approaches. Not everyone has time to read our books before they have to give answers to their management!

So first and foremost for us, Revenue Assurance is always about rationalization. Revenue Assurance cannot ever cost more than we are going to save doing Revenue Assurance. This also means that we need to understand the operational environment, understand how revenue comes into the telco, and prioritize accordingly.

Both books I recommend talk about this in terms of Revenue Mapping and/or Noise Analysis – this is how you figure out where to start, what your priorities are, and what is the threshold of spending for your department (the point when you are spending more than you could ever get back).

Not Just Priorities and How Much, But Who Are We? What Are We Like to Work With?

Next, Revenue Assurance is about Consensus and Sovereignty. We are not internal audit, we are not the police. We need to work with operational teams (billing, mediation, interconnect, network etc.) – not be there to tell them what to do or make them look stupid. We are here to help.

This means that operational teams stay in control and stay responsible. If things go well, they get the credit, but if things go wrong, they are still responsible.

The worst thing that can happen is RA gets into a position where it gets blamed for all the leakage/fraud in the telco. Fraud/leakage happens somewhere, and the manager of that department is responsible, not you. That said, we are always ready to help when these departments have problems.

We can help, but we are professionals, and we do not go where we are not invited. If they have problems, we can help, but it remains their responsibility.

Maintaining Boundaries, Managing Scope, Management's Appetite for Risk

This is how you manage the scope of your department – if operational teams are not asking for your help, you cannot help them. If they do want your help, they need to help convince management to give you the budget and headcount you need to help them.

In this way, the key role of RA is to find risk, quantify it (calculate how big the risk is) and then tell management about it (with the agreement of the operational team). If management says it is okay – that the risk is acceptable, we do not worry about it.

Management sets the appetite for risk – saying what is acceptable or not is not your job. However, if, after you quantify the problem, they think the risk is too high, you can help design and create controls for the operational team to implement and monitor.

Do I Create More Work For Myself By Designing Controls?

RA is not a security guard. It is not our job to monitor controls. The operational department is responsible for what happens in their department, they need to monitor what they do. We can help them find problems and create controls if management says so, but we cannot be responsible for departments we do not run.

Unless they want to report to us, as well as give us their budget and headcount, we cannot be responsible for what they do!

By doing things this way, it becomes a lot easier for Revenue Assurance to make friends and have people cooperate with you (they are coming to you for help!). Because you cannot really do your job if they do not help you understand how things work, and they do not tell you when they have problems, or they do not let you help them find problems.

Convincing People You Only Want to Help is Hard Work!

In order for you to do all those things, you cannot be “threatening” to them, and you cannot “tell them what to do” or “make them look stupid.” If you do, they will stop cooperating, and you stop being able to do your job.

Usually by this point I start to realize that my e-mail (like my blog posts!) is starting to get too long, and I stop, so they actually get the chance to tell me more, and answer my questions!

And I do not know about you, but just like how I describe it above, if you work in Revenue Assurance, the best feeling you can have is that you have helped someone - that you have made their life or job easier. And especially if the people I try to help tell me it made a difference to them, it just reminds me why I love doing my job.

And why I LOVE Revenue Assurance.

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