Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Revenue Assurance: Understanding the Big Picture

I have heard it said (and it has been my experience) that knowledge truly is power. However the road to knowledge is often quite difficult and certainly is not always clear. The acquisition of data and information must be one leg of the journey. However these components must be combined with perspective and sound judgment, as information is only useful when you know how to apply it. And of course understanding is a pivotal step on the way to knowledge as well. After all, being able to perform a procedure is great, but if you understand it, then you know why the process was developed, and how to modify it when something changes.

The reason I bring this up is because in everything GRAPA does we strive to help our members grow in their knowledge of Revenue Assurance. Through our benchmarks and standards book we try to provide data and information, and various perspectives and judgments can be discussed on our blogs and social networking forums, like LinkedIn and Facebook. However, the best way to use GRAPA as a tool to build revenue assurance understanding is through our training events.

Now I am certainly not trying to diminish the value of the other services GRAPA provides. As the 2010 Standards Production Manager, GRAPA’s principles and standards hold a special place in my heart. And, if you have ready some of my earlier blogs, you will know that I think GRAPA’s social network is one the strongest tools we can use to build a professional community. However, after witnessing two GRAPA training events, I feel comfortable saying that this is the most effective and efficient way GRAPA can help members expand their revenue assurance knowledge and understanding.

One reason for this, I believe, is because GRAPA’s training (whether it is a two day crash course, one week Core certification curriculum, or a two week advanced program) is dedicated to presenting the whole revenue assurance picture. While many might automatically connect RA to control implementation, we recognize that that is only a small part of the job, and that most of the revenue assurance role revolves around performing forensics. GRAPA training goes in-depth on each facet of the RA Lifecycle (forensics, controls, compliance, and corrections) and makes sure that professionals understand the complete revenue assurance process (and why that is so valuable to their telco).

Moreover, GRAPA recognizes that it is difficult assure a domain or line of business without having the end-to-end picture of how the systems and processes work at a fundamental level. In that sense, RA professionals need to have a solid grasp on how almost everything works, from network to mediation systems to convergent billing systems, to interconnect and roaming. That being said, one of the reasons I appreciated GRAPA training, was that it made each of these topics accessible. It presented a full picture of each of them, but still approached them from a truly RA (and at times fraud) perspective.

This is what knowledge is all about. While having a list of the GRAPA standard controls for (as an example) the prepaid line of business is great, and certainly useful for a Revenue Assurance professional, once one fully appreciates how the LOB functions, where the greatest risks are, and the concepts behind it, a more complete knowledge can be attained. As a line of business changes or a new product becomes available, students can figure out for themselves what controls should be in place because they have the background knowledge to do so with integrity.

 As I watched students in training combine their increased understanding of domains/lines of business with a fuller appreciation of the RA function and lifecycle, an amazing thing began to happen. The combination of information, data, and perspective grew into understanding and knowledge. It almost seemed that they were able to predict methods of assurance and controls before they were presented, because they were more quickly able to see where the greatest risk opportunities would be.

When I first started, GRAPA's president, Rob Mattison explained to me that our training is about more than just teaching students how to perform forensics and implement controls for specific areas (Interconnect, CAMEL, MBanking, etc).It’s about providing a methodology for RA professionals that can help them to do their job regardless of what gets thrown at them in the future.

After being a part of these trainings I think this is an accurate appraisal of what GRAPA events are all about. While students certainly walked away with standard controls for a plethora of domains and lines of business, and with a few other tips and tricks for many of the newer technologies and products, it seemed they achieved something more valuable. The knowledge and the confidence that they understand Telco Revenue Assurance, and that as new products/technologies continue to develop, they have the approach and methods to be ready to assure them successfully.

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