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  • Katrin Tillenburg

Der Anfang: Revenue Assurance

Revenue Assurance (RA) ist ein Spezialbegriff der Telekommunikationsbranche, für den ich bisher in keiner Sprache eine Übersetzung gefunden habe. Direkt übersetzt: Einnahmensicherung? Eigentlich ein ganz normaler Prozess, jede Firma sollte sicherstellen, daß sie Ihre Leistungen auch von den Kunden bezahlt bekommt. Oftmals wurde RA als das reine Zählen von CDRs (Call Data Records, die einzelnen Abrechnungssätze für Telefonieleistungen aller Art) angesehen, jedoch hat immer schon wesentlich mehr zu dem Thema gehört. Ein paar simple, aber leicht nachzuvollziehende Beispiele:


  • Endet ein gewährter Rabatt nach der festgelegten Zeitspanne

  • Erhält jeder Kunde eine (korrekte, zeitnahe) Rechnung und zahlt diese auch

  • Ist die Kombination von Tarifen und Diensten gültig


Natürlich auch alles Fragestellungen, die in anderen Industriezweigen eine Rolle spielen.


Viele Kontrollen gab es in diversen Unternehmen selbstverständlich schon vorher, auch wenn man das anders nannte, vielleicht ganz simpel „Controlling“. Unter anderem das Telemanagement Forum – TMF (www.tmforum.org) hat frühzeitig begonnen, einheitliche Standards wie Metriken und KPIs im RA Umfeld zu definieren. So konnten die Unternehmen von den Erfahrungen anderer profitieren und sich sogar vergleichen. Z.B. bei der Kennzahl „%-Wert der wiederhergestellten Verluste“. (Für weitere Details zu Metriken, KPIs oder dem gesamten RA Framework des TMF kann man sich direkt an das TMF wenden, ich stehe aber auch gerne für Gespräche und Informationen zur Verfügung).

Das TMF führt seit über 8 Jahren regelmäßig Umfragen zum Stand RA weltweit durch, auf die soeben fertiggestellte Umfrage soll später noch eingegangen werden.


Nächste Schritte

Aber nicht nur die Umsätze müssen sichergestellt werden, auch die Kosten die verursacht werden müssen auf ihre Richtigkeit hin überprüft werden. Neudeutsch: Cost Assurance. Bei Telekommunikationsfirmen können diese in einem erheblichen Maße entstehen. Und sogar wenn kein eigenes Netz vorhanden ist sind das sämtliche Vordienstleister, zudem Roaming Gebühren, Sonderrufnummern (z.B.0800) aber heutzutage auch Dienstleistungen aller Art, die über die Telefonrechnung mit bezahlt werden (mobile payments). So hat das Telekommunikationsunternehmen Beziehungen sowie Geldströme mit allen möglichen anderen Firmen, die geprüft werden müssen. Viele Telekommunikationsfirmen betrachten diesen Bereich der Prüfungen als einen festen Bestandteil von RA.


Mit dem Vorhandensein aller Daten zu Kosten und Umsätzen ist dann der Schritt zur Margenanalyse leicht gemacht. Je nach Aufwand und Toolunterstützung kann man dies bis auf Einzelkundenanalyse herunterbrechen und hat somit auch gleich eine Kundenwertanalyse mit implementiert, die als Basis weiterer Kundenkontakte und gezielter Marketingmaßnahmen herangezogen werden kann.


Die Konsequenz: Business Assurance

Im Rahmen ständig neuer Anforderungen an TK-Firmen (Digitalisierung, neue Technologien wie 5G / SD-WAN) werden seit einiger Zeit weitere Sicherungsmaßnahmen sowie Risikodisziplinen unter dem erweiterten Dach der Business Assurance zusammengefasst.

Etwa 90% der Teilnehmer der letzten RA Umfrage des TMFs sehen Business Assurance (BA) als natürliche Erweiterung von RA:



Abbildung 1 / Frage 5

Nach aktueller TMF Definition gehören folgende Disziplinen zu Business Assurance:

  • Revenue / Cost Assurance Management

  • Fraud Management

  • Asset Assurance Management

  • Margin Assurance Management

  • Migration Assurance Management

  • Transformation Assurance Management

  • Ecosystem Assurance Management

  • Regulatory Assurance Management

  • Customer Experience Management

Der bisher aufgezeigte Evolutionspfad zeigt, dass BA Experten deutlich mehr machen, als Datensätze zu zählen. RA war immer schon ein Bereich, der mit nahezu allen Abteilungen des Unternehmens kommunizieren musste. Z.B. der Finanzbereich – hier ist RA nach der letzten Umfrage auch in etwa 60% der befragten Firmen aufgehangen / IT und Billing / Marketing bei der Einführung neuer Produkte/ je nach Unternehmenstruktur mit diversen anderen. Die gezeigte Übersicht der Disziplinen verdeutlicht auch, dass die Anforderungen an eine Business Assurance Abteilung sehr vielfältig sind. Das heißt auch, dass verschiedene Skills und Rollen zu besetzen sind: Business Analysten / Operational Analysten / Daten Analysten / Data Scientisten / …

Auch komplett neue Techniken wie Blockchain, Maschine Learning und AI werden vermutlich zunehmend eine Rolle im Bereich der Business Assurance spielen. Bisher sind die aktiven Überlegungen dazu aber noch gering, hier ist es interessant zu sehen, wie die Entwicklung in der nächsten Umfrage weiter aussehen wird.


Hier die Management Zusammenfassung der diesjährigen Umfrage.

Abbildung 2 / Managementzusammenfassung


Neben des bisher beschriebenen Fakten finden sich hier auch Informationen zur generellen Abdeckung der Prüfungen, den gefundenen Verlusten, den geplanten Erweiterungen sowie einigen anderen Details, alles auch betrachtet in der Entwicklung der vergangenen Jahre.

Die komplette Umfrage ist hier zu finden:

(https://inform.tmforum.org/insights/2020/04/csps-are-embracing-the-concept-of-business-assurance-survey-reveals/?_ga=2.221030744.1108839291.1587387525-268981165.1560948465) Weitere Informationen zu Revenue und Business Assurance sind, wie bereits erwähnt auch direkt beim TMF zu erhalten.

Und ich freue mich auf einen regen Austausch zu dem Thema. Danke!


Von RA zu BApdf

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Katrin Tillenburg ist eine unabhängige Beraterin im Telekommunikationsumfeld, spezialisiert auf BSS, Billing und Business Assurance. Seit mehr als 25 Jahren arbeitet sie in internationalen Projekten, ist aktives Mitglied im TMF und Gründungspartner im SolutionHeads Netzwerk.


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  • Katrin Tillenburg

The beginning: Revenue Assurance


Revenue Assurance (RA) is a special term in the telecommunications industry for which I have not yet found an immediately understood translation in any language! Actually RA is a ubiquitous process across all service and manufacturing industries at the heart of cash-flow management! Every company needs to ensure that they receive payment from their customers for their goods and services, as scheduled, and for the correct amount.

Often RA was seen as simply “counting” CDRs (Call Data Records - the individual call records for telephony services of all kinds with their associated billing rates). However, there is much more to the subject. Here are a few simple easy to understand examples:


  • Does a granted discount end after the specified time period?

  • Does each customer receive a (correct & prompt) invoice and pay on time?

  • Is the combination of tariffs and services valid?

Of course, these are all questions that many other branches of industry are concerned with and certainly revenue assurance controls already exist in various companies, even if they are termed differently, perhaps quite simply "controlling" or “cash management”.


Among others, the Telemanagement Forum TMF (www.tmforum.org) started early to define uniform standards such as metrics and KPIs in the RA environment. In this way, companies could benefit from the experiences of others and even compare themselves e.g. with the key figure "% value of recovered losses". (For further details on metrics, KPIs or the entire RA framework of the TMF, you can contact the TMF directly, but I am also available for discussions and information).


The TMF has been conducting regular surveys on the state and development of RA worldwide for more than 8 years and I will discuss some of the findings of the just finished report later.


Next steps


Not only do the revenues have to be assured, but also the costs of delivering that revenue have to be verified and accurately attributed - so called Cost Assurance. For telecommunication companies, these costs can be considerable, especially if they do not operate their own network. Such costs will include all upstream service provider infrastructure charges, roaming charges, special numbers (e.g. 0800) and also increasingly application services of many kinds that are paid for via the telephone bill e.g. mobile payments.


The telecommunication company will have supply and service agreements and of course therefore cash, credit and debit flows with a diverse ecosystem of partners which have to be verified and audited. Many telecommunication companies consider this area of auditing as an integral part of RA.

With the availability of all data on costs and sales across the supply and customer service chain, the step to detailed margin analysis is then made more easily. Depending on the effort required and support of appropriate analytical tools which are readily available, a margin analysis can be broken down to single customer on a per product basis. This enables a detailed customer value analysis as a basis for further customer contacts and targeted marketing measures.


The consequence: Business Assurance


In the context of constantly changing customer requirements for telecommunications companies coupled to rapidly advancing technologies supporting e.g. digitalization, IOT, SDN, 5G / SD-WAN, Edge) additional security measures and risk management disciplines have been combined under the extended umbrella of business assurance for some time now.


About 90% of the participants of the last RA survey of the TM Forum see Business Assurance (BA) as a natural extension of Revenue Assurance (RA):


According to the current TM Forum definition, the following disciplines belong to Business Assurance:


  • Revenue / Cost Assurance Management

  • Fraud Management

  • Asset Assurance Management

  • Margin Assurance Management

  • Migration Assurance Management

  • Transformation Assurance Management

  • Ecosystem Assurance Management

  • Regulatory Assurance Management

  • Customer Experience Management

The evolutionary path so far shows that BA experts do much more than just analyse data sets. While RA has always been an area that has had to communicate with most departments of the company, the RA activity itself sits mainly in Finance in about 60% of the companies surveyed with increasing involvement with IT and Billing and Marketing when introducing new products. However, the requirements for a Business Assurance department are much more diverse with greater impact on company performance, business planning and customer service. This also means that different skills and roles have to be filled e.g. Business Analysts, Operational Analysts, Data Analysts, Data Scientists etc.


Completely new techniques such as block chain, machine learning and AI are also likely to play an increasing role in business assurance. So far, however, there has been little active consideration of these, so it will be interesting to see how developments develop in the next survey.


Here is the management summary of this year's survey.


In addition to the facts described so far, you will also find information on the general coverage of the audits, the losses found, the planned extensions and some other details, all also considered in the development of the past years.

The complete survey can be found here:

(https://inform.tmforum.org/insights/2020/04/csps-are-embracing-the-concept-of-business-assurance-survey-reveals/?_ga=2.221030744.1108839291.1587387525-268981165.1560948465)


Further information about Revenue and Business Assurance can be obtained, as already mentioned, directly from the Telemanagement Forum.

And I am looking forward to a lively exchange on the topic. Thank you.

From RA to BApdf

This article is also available for

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More about the entrepreneurs’ network SolutionHeads EEIG can be found at:

https://www.solutionheads.net/


Katrin Tillenburg is an independent telco consultant, specialized in the BSS, Billing and Business Assurance. Since more than 25 years working in international projects, she is also an active TMF member and founding partner in the SolutionHeads network.


Contact:

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  • Nadya Kanarieva

What is the most valuable asset to any given organization?

Most leaders would be quick to proclaim that the company’s employees are its most important asset.

But is this sentiment reflected in their actions and the portion of their time they allocate to hiring, motivating, and retaining their staff?

Some might observe that leaders spend more time putting out fires, caused by the lack of appropriate attention given to these vital aspects of running a business.

Within this opinion piece, I will be answering the following questions:

  • What does it really mean to hire top talent and how important is it for the success of a company?

  • What is a superstar employee?

  • What role does company culture play in staff retention and ensuring a successful hiring strategy?

  • How do we go about defining and staying true to our company’s identity?


THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION


In 2019, talent was the CEOs’ biggest internal concern, according to The Conference Board. “Globally, across all regions, CEOs rank attracting and retaining top talent as their #1 internal concern”, states the report. It’s based on a survey of over 800 CEOs and over 600 other C-Suite executives, primarily from the United States, Asia, and Europe.

The annual CEO Benchmarking report from 2019 echoes a similar observation: “A CEO’s number 1 challenge today is finding the right talent”

Fig. 1 Four of the top five biggest CEO challenges relate to talent optimization. Source: CEO Benchmarking Report


Many business and entrepreneurship studies and surveys have cited the same thing over the recent years – that getting the best people on board, placing them in the right roles and retaining them for a significant amount of time, is one of the top 3 biggest indicators of long-term success for a company of any size.

And yet, what topics would stand out if you were to browse the business books section in a book store or online marketplace? You’re likely to find that works dedicated to attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent would be relatively few and far between.

It seems that managers are eager to quickly pile up everything relating to this complex topic under the general “Human Resources” umbrella and hope that the relevant department will just “deal with it”. Somehow, the process of defining the company culture, setting the recruitment strategy, and assembling a superstar team is not seen as exciting or crucial.

What does this attitude lead to?

According to statistics – to lots and lots of hiring mistakes.

According to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. (i.e. only 19% represented Rockstar talent, to borrow the terminology of Jeff Hyman, author of Recruit Rockstars – a book which I thoroughly recommend).

The three-year study compiled these results after overseeing 5,247 hiring managers who collectively had hired more than 20,000 employees during the study period.

We won’t go into the staggering cost of a mis-hire, because that’s an important and extensive topic in and of itself. (Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has publicly stated that bad hires have cost the company “well over 100 million” – “One bad hire can lead to a domino effect of more bad hires and decisions costing a company millions”.)

At this stage let’s just ask ourselves whether a leadership team would ever tolerate a business process that had a failure rate of close to 50% (and that is only if we don’t consider on-boarding average employees as a hiring failure). As Jeff Hyman puts it “The great irony is that the most important aspect of a business is treated so haphazardly that a coin toss would yield equally accurate results”.

The prevalence of hiring mistakes, combined with the well-known issue of skills shortages, particularly in the tech sector, goes a long way in informing the stats we discussed at the beginning of this article. Namely, the growing concern of C-level executives with finding and retaining the right talent.

One company that has traditionally taken recruitment very seriously is Google.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s former SVP of People Operations who was voted HR professional of the Decade, has said that Google spends “more than twice as much on recruiting, as a percentage of our people budget, as an average company.”

Apple has also always emphasized that investing in hiring A-players is a top priority for the leadership team. “I consider the most important job of someone like myself as recruiting.”, said Jobs in the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. “I've participated in the hiring of maybe 5,000-plus people in my life. So, I take it very seriously.”


WHAT MAKES A GREAT HIRE?

So, what does it really mean to hire top talent?

Admittedly, identifying suitable top-performing professionals for your team and actually recruiting them is in itself a difficult enough task.

But it would be darn near impossible without a clear idea of what would constitute a “Rockstar”, also referred to as a “superstar”, “top talent”, “A-player”, “top performer”, “game-changer”, “awesome employee”.

Contrary to popular belief, an A-player is NOT:

  • someone who is necessarily working at a senior or executive level

  • an employee with a Type A personality

Simply put, an A-player is the best possible fit for a specific role that you can afford to hire.


Here are some defining characteristics of a superstar employee:


  • someone that you would enthusiastically rehire;

  • a high achiever – typically in the top 10% in his chosen field and the go-to expert in the team;

  • an employee you can absolutely rely on to fulfill his/her commitments, delight your customers and consistently deliver high-quality work;

  • a team member or leader who can effectively collaborate with the rest of the team and who impacts positively the overall morale and motivation within the organization;

  • someone who is an instrumental figure in driving your department/company’s growth and profitability;

  • someone that would absolutely ruin your day AND your week, were they to hand in their notice of resignation.

Please note, however, that there are no universal A-players. Their rockstar status is very much dependent on them being assigned the right role and working in the right environment.

HOW DO WE FILL OUR ORGANIZATION WITH SUPERSTARS?


Just as an outstanding performer could become a below-average performer if placed in the wrong position in an organization, so could an employee who is an A-player in a particular type of culture become a B or C-player if placed in the wrong (for them) company.

This is why the number one thing you, as a leader, should start with is:


Clearly defining your company’s identity


When you think of a person that you know fairly well, what is the first idea that pops into your mind about them? What is the overriding impression of them?

It’s that person’s identity, which is a unique combination of their values, temperament, and habits. Sure, you may think of what they look like, who they associate with, what they do for a living, where they live, etc. But these are all afterthoughts. The main thing you remember about a person is their individuality, their unique identity.

The same applies to any organization – the number one thing associated with the organization is its culture, or DNA, or identity of that company, which ends up becoming the company’s reputation.

Every company has its own specific culture, or identity, including yours. The question is – is it deliberately crafted and consciously nurtured, or is it something that has rather been left to chance.


Your company’s essence will be the first and main association that employees, partners, investors, competitors, job seekers, and customers have with your brand.

Research by Indeed has found that for over half (54%) of workers, one of the most important factors when deciding to apply for a role is the information they get from word-of-mouth conversations with their friends or network about the company. 9 in 10 say insights into a company’s reputation would be important when considering a new opportunity.

So how do you go about consciously defining and creating an identity for your company that will best position it for success?

One approach would be to try and specify around 3 defining characteristics that each and every employee should have, no matter their role in the company. What are the qualities that a professional absolutely MUST possess to become a part of your team?

Think of those superstar employees that are already a part of your organization. The ones that consistently deliver great work and are a shining example of your brand, as well as outstanding leaders and team players. What are their defining characteristics, what are their identities, values, and temperaments? What do they all have in common?

Think of companies that were or are on a similar path to yours, who have already achieved a certain degree of success and are recognized as a great brand. Or companies where a lot of your current employees used to work before joining your organization. What qualities make them stand out from the rest? What qualities would you need to possess to be on their team?

You can repeat this same exploration process with 3 traits that your dream employees should NOT possess. What attributes would make an otherwise perfectly capable and promising candidate completely unsuitable for your organization? What type of behavior and way of working should never be tolerated when it comes to your brand?


This unique combination of must-have and deal-breaker traits should become your company’s essence, its culture. It should be used as a blueprint for all of your future hiring and performance appraisals.

Once you define it, you need to make sure it is permeated into every facet of your organization. And from that point onwards, you should seek to ONLY hire people who are aligned with the values and characteristics of your organization’s culture.

No matter how outstanding a job applicant is on paper, no matter what great outcomes they’ve created for other companies, if you conclude that they are not a great fit in terms of culture you should not hesitate to dismiss them from the process.

You should also apply the same high standards when evaluating your current workforce. Each member of the team either contributes to the culture or corrodes it. If you have provided the appropriate training and have clearly communicated the company’s culture to an employee, but he/she still fails to align with it 6 to 9 months later – you should not be afraid of letting that person go.

Believe it or not, some companies actually provide financial incentives for employees to quit. The reason behind this is that a top-performing employee who thrives in the company’s culture and is sufficiently motivated by his/her responsibilities would never consider accepting a one-off payment to quit.

Once a year, Amazon offers to pay full-time associates at Amazon fulfillment centers up to $5,000 to leave the company as per their “Pay to Quit” program. “We want people working at Amazon who want to be here – in the long-term, staying somewhere you don’t want to be isn’t healthy for our employees or for the company.”


Once you commit to an A-player culture, you will create a self-propelling mechanism for greatness within your organization.

Superstar employees create successful outcomes for the organization and foster an environment of excellence, thereby co-create a winning company that can then provide amazing career opportunities for top-performing professionals that are aligned with the company’s essence and culture.

In addition – top performers like working with other top performers. Think of a company that is considered a leader in its niche and attracts A-players like a magnet. One of the main reasons people are eager to work there is the expectation that they will get to work with the best in their field.

The trickle-down effect of consistently working on maintaining your A-player culture is low turnover. When you provide a great employee with an invigorating and professional work environment, where they can observe the direct outcomes of delivering excellent work, where they work alongside other A-players equally committed to outstanding results, these employees will be reluctant to look for greener pastures.

A Rockstar culture fosters excellence, attracts A-players, and consistently projects a champion reputation – the winner does seem to take it all in this context.



COMMIT TO A ROCKSTAR CULTURE


What do the best sports teams have in common? They secure the best players for each position.

What about the entertainment industry? Once again, recruiting the right talent is admittedly the most important people management function there, too.

The same goes for companies – top-performing employees are the driving force behind the success of each and every great organization.

And just like in sports, you will know the strength of a brand by its ability to attract A-players and its reputation for hiring greatness.



Are you committed to creating an entire All-Star team in your organization?


AN A-PLAYER IN EVERY SEATpdf

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More about the entrepreneurs’ network SolutionHeads EEIG can be found at:

https://www.solutionheads.net/



Nadya Kanarieva is an international headhunter and executive recruiter, founder of the boutique recruitment consultancy Phoenix Career.

Throughout her recruitment career, Nadya has consistently helped IT and Telecom vendors and Consulting companies identify, engage with and hire top performers in the ICT sector. Industry leaders such as Ericsson, HPE, NTT DATA, Tata Consultancy Services and STC have utilized her high-level recruitment services and expansive professional network.






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