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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 ( 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:


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 BA
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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.


LinkedIn XING

  • 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?


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.”


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.


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.


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?

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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.

Already before the Covid-19 pandemic, loads of data traffic generated by video/music streaming, web researches, phone calls and home offices were generated. What most people don’t know: in the core of the telecom industry, #interconnection & #wholesale assure that each data packet reaches its destination, mastering the #interoperability between the networks at best quality and competitive prices. The Covid-19 crisis has emphasized its crucial role as system relevant infrastructure, unveiled some weaknesses but also opened new opportunities. It has also accelerated the overall mega trend-driven change of the telecom, and more specific, wholesale industry. All levels of the telecom value chain and all segments of the wholesale market are affected in one way or the other: Internet, data networks, fibre backbone, data centres, FTTB infrastructure, voice and messaging. What is common to all providers: this now the perfect time to ‘tidy up’ your business in order to leave the crisis stronger than ever and your competitors: review your value proposition and business model, seek experts’ advice and take your individual strategic choices now. Macroeconomic experts forecast heavy post-crisis Capex investments in the telecom industry because of three factors: historic cashflow, trends in the capital market and governments’ economic programmes. On a longer term, we will also see accelerated Opex optimisation efforts through digitalisation.

© subtelforum Massive transformations will lead to major adjustments of business strategies, reallocation of budgets and re-prioritization of projects are required to adapt the ‘new normal’. Only companies who take the right measures now will leave the crisis successfully.

Internet Interconnection To an unprecedented extend, diverse factors have been driving internet traffic: data rates and use cases for 4G (and even more #5G) and fixed broadband, corporate and public cloud-based applications, high resolution plus the trend to digitalise and connect everything. Everyone has been part of it – everyone knows it: but since one continent after the other joined the Covid-19 lockdowns internet traffic has been exploding. However, this also demonstrates just how much the world depends on the internet – and technically on interconnection & wholesale - over the last few months. On 10 March, the world’s largest internet exchange #DE-CIX Frankfurt, recorded a new all-time traffic peak of more than 9.1 Terabits per second, more than nine months ahead of the forecast. In Italy for example, peak throughput increased by up to 90% compared to the weeks before lockdown. The increase in data volume has a name: video, both, streaming and conferencing. We expect that this new level to remain, 50% long-term home office and 25% home schooling. Internet service providers should review their capacity planning and provisioning models. They also might consider to leverage the latest #bigdataanalytics & #AI-based predictive systems available for the telecom sector. The new traffic plateau will remain. ISP should review their capacity planning and provisioning models and consider the latest big data & AI-based analytics for the telecom sector to better satisfy the future demand.

Dedicated data networks Many wholesale providers still operate legacy data networks (e.g. based on leased lines, MPLS, Ethernet) to serve their corporate customers and their international offices. These reliable and secure connections dramatically demonstrated their disadvantages at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic: the complex, costly and inflexible technologies were not designed to support the millions of employees working from home from one day to the other. Only the recent progress in private broadband internet access of the homeworkers - combined with virtual co-working tools like Zoom, Teams or Teamviewer - were able to keep many companies productive.

In exchange, providers offering flexible, agile and cost-efficient #SDWAN networks, with integrated security to their customers were able to to accommodate their customers’ changing requirements within hours. SD-WAN can even be extended to commodity broadband like cable, fibre or even 4G/5G mobile connections. Based on the continued trend to virtual offices/meetings, data network providers and corporates should migrate to either secured Broadband Access or SD-WAN in order to maintain a best level of agility.

Terrestrial and sea cable fibre backbone Terrestrial and sea cable backbone capacity wholesalers are currently experiencing unknown growth rates, too. This crisis shows the weakness of over-reliance on a just-in-time model for capacity, so some OTTs might be pushed into more self-supply. Sea cables like the Facebook and operator consortium funded ‘2Africa’ embrace the great potential and needs of the African markets. In the pandemic, the industry has also seen faster upgrades to other emerging markets routes, e.g. by Telecom Italia Sparkle on Google’s Curie subsea cable to Santiago de Chile. Only in the last few years, new players with different business models than Telecom operators have started to invest in long-term infrastructure. Through this, they are able to secure their business on independent infrastructure. These new players also have created new options. Local operators who wish to to leverage this increased competition should also invest into intelligent systems to fully benefit from the dynamic market conditions. Backbone providers need to take a long-term approach for a global fibre backbone. Local operators can benefit from increased competition caused by new players.

Data Centres & Asset Management Already before the pandemic, some #datacenter providers have faced challenges to grow their capacity in terms of computing, storage and physical size – especially when it came to find appropriate real estate for new data centres in hot spots like London, Paris or Frankfurt area. New concepts for commercial real estate brokerage are able to address this shortfall: by creating a new level of transparency and efficiency, integrating relevant search criteria (like energy, fibre availability, no air traffic risks, etc) and a long-term vison. Such dedicated marketplace is able to pool the needs specific of companies and (often public) landlords. Smart ventures are currently preparing their market entry and are looking for friendly customers. In addition, data centre providers should consider innovative sustainable business and operation models for their post Covid-19 growth. A next-generation space saving data centre in Frankfurt has clearly proved that a combination of air and water cooling plus heat recovering pays off: significant reduction in space needed, 70% less cooling energy consumption, thereof 98% recovering for office heating, 710 tons CO2 saving of the CO2 footprint. Many global cities are working on their climate targets in line with the UN sustainable development goals #sdgs. They which will also apply to data centres. Providers need to embrace such #sustainable ideally carbon-free concepts now to maintain a good position in the decision process for real estate of Municipalities. Regarding the mobile tower segment, the trend towards network sharing will be accelerated. Regulators should take a more relaxed view of mobile network sharing agreements to support economic health of the ICT sector. This will open new opportunities for wholesale tower companies as we see already in many markets. Continued data growth, the lack of land and the overall importance of climate targets set challenges for data centre and mobile tower providers. This requires new approaches for commercial real estate matchmaking and low-space sustainable solutions.

FTTB Infrastructure Research institutes report fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP, including #ftth) capex to fall in 2020 because lockdowns constrain network build and supply-chain disruption. On the other hand, huge infrastructure funds feel reassured by the huge traffic demand on residential fibre networks, and more than ever will consider fibre as a safe investment. At the same time, many Governments and the EU will launch programmes (the EU quantified her overall ambition at 1 bn Euro). The target is to stimulate both, economic growth and fibre coverage especially in suburban and rural regions. This combined private and public capital will accelerate FTTB capex by the end of 2020 with 2021 overcompensating the loss in 2020. This should apply especially for ‘less developed countries’ in terms of FTTP-coverage: in Europe Belgium (1%), the UK (2.3%), Austria (2.7%) and Germany (3.6%) drastically lagged behind the OECD average of 26,8% in Q/2019. Furthermore, the Regulator should now set a clear framework that encourages new models of cooperation, including existing infrastructure and combining it in an efficient socially beneficial way with the new private and public capital. Based on the experiences in best covered countries like Sweden for example, #OpenAccess should be the macroeconomic target scenario. The regulatory environment needs to encourage new models of cooperation, combining existing infrastructure with new private equity capital and public funding. This should be an opportunity for new wholesale players and end customers.

Voice, Messaging & Roaming According to Analysis Mason Research, international roaming is expected to decline by over 80% during lockdowns, and will not fully recover in 2021 because of a prolonged slump in international travel. The value of roaming will further shift towards Internet of Things #IoT. In exchange, Voice traffic is up by around 50% during lockdowns, and they expect interconnect revenue to rise by 15% in 2020 and to return to normal in 2021. (Mobile) Service Providers should review their value chains and underlying IT systems. Without major changes of existing architecture, state-of-the-art integrated AI-based solutions are able to unleash significant value: intelligent roaming management, fraud avoidance or network acceptance tests & operations systems assure both, process accuracy and sufficient time for internal experts to focus on customer and value-generating activities. As a general recommendation over all segments, the alignment with a revised strategy, objectives, re- allocation of budgets and re-prioritization of projects should be steered through a lean first-class project portfolio management software. Finally, the industry should intensify its efforts to overcome legacy billing systems and move towards a #Blockchain-based accounting for interconnection voice, messaging and roaming. The voice and messaging sector will continue to face challenges. Thoughtful regulations, consequent end-to-end digitalisation and support of independent industry experts are able to assure a clear focus and continued success. All kind of (wholesale) operators and other technology companies could benefit from a special opportunity to fund further investments but also to improve cash and profitability at short term: significant widely underutilized domestic R&D tax credits. With a view to the recent French-German initiative of 500 bn. Euro funding, we expect that Governments’ and EU programs will further support this as part of their economic recovery plans. Leading specialized companies might offer free audits on an attractive risk reward model. To sum up, interconnection & wholesale providers currently might be tempted to take short-term advantage of the current crisis as operators and their clients need telecom services. Instead, we recommend to define and follow a sustainable plan in order to leave the crisis stronger than ever and their competitors: · Develop trusted customer/partner relationships

· Review existing business models, key processes and tax policies

· Leverage experts’ advice and specialised integrated systems

· Take individual strategic choices within the next three months

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Telecom Wholesale inpost COVID-19 times
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Piero Irrera is an independent advisor specialized in the ICT Interconnection & Wholesale business. He is a seasoned industry thought leader, founder and owner of CONNECTO Consulting, Partner at CAMBRIDGE MANAGEMENT CONSULTING and Associate Partner at SOLUTIONHEADS - #solutionheads


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