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Home | New Service Delivery | TM Forum, Show Me the Revenue!
  Tony Poulos - BSS Evangelist, TM Forum
  Tony Poulos
BSS Evangelist, TM Forum

Show Me the Revenue!

Tony Poulos, Head of Revenue Management Sector, TM Forum, discusses the road ahead for Revenue Assurance and Revenue Management

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Tony Poulos has been involved with software development and systems integration in travel and telecommunications for over 20 years. He developed a convergent billing system in the early nineties in Australia and from there he worked in a business development role with Unisys’ Telecommunications Practice in Europe. He was co-founder of Copernicus Global Billing Services, a London based, web-enabled, managed service provider for outsourced billing and payments collection. He has worked in the areas of revenue assurance, billing, payments, mobile internet access, mobile email and content delivery.

In addition to being a regular speaker and chairman at telco and finance conferences in Europe and Asia-Pacific, he is a Contributing Analyst for IDC, writes for a number of industry publications worldwide and is Anchor, for TelecomAsia’s, Telecom Channel. Tony was an executive of the Global Billing Association for five years prior to its merger with the TM Forum. Until recently he headed up the Revenue Management Market Support Centre of the TM Forum and conducts its training classes in billing and revenue management. His new role is one of BSS Evangelist.

Q: What do you see the key challenges in terms of Revenue at the moment?
A: Every operator and CSP around the world at the moment is being challenged to increase their revenues. We keep hearing about voice revenues declining and for years we have been waiting for data revenues to increase to make up the short fall but that hasn’t happened. The introduction of the iPhone and subsequent smart phone devices has meant that data usage has suddenly escalated. Operators however, haven’t necessarily put in place the right pricing plans or mechanisms to capitalise on that.

Operators are looking at other revenue streams and how they can provide more value to existing customers. It is not an easy job and has been quite a challenge for them. They are now looking at revising the concept of ‘All You Can Eat’ plans in favour of tiered or capped plans. This allows them to control the top two – five percent who completely abuse those plans. Mobile operators are also having to do a lot of work to increase broadband capacity on their network and 3G networks in particular until LTE comes out. They are trying to work out how to make more money by looking at things like providing more content and even applications, when companies like Apple and Nokia are virtually selling over the top of them to their customers. Operators are not seeing any revenue streams from those sales but are suffering the pains of increased usage on their network. There is no easy equation, generating more revenue is proving to be a difficult task.

The other way to improve their revenue is to look at cutting costs on the network or on operations or to check that they are making the most of what they have got. That is where Revenue Assurance comes in.

Q: What is the TM Forum doing in terms of supporting further work on Revenue Assurance?
A: We have written or produced a number of guidebooks around Revenue Assurance, the most popular of which is known as GB941, available to all TM Forum members. Our benchmarking programme actually allows the users of this tool to gauge their Revenue Assurance capabilities against similar operators who are at the same maturity level. Revenue Assurance maturity is measured by what you are doing to check for leakage. As you mature, you produce more and more techniques or tools. We then start to get into different levels of maturity, so it is no use comparing a small mobile operator with very high leakage and finding things there quickly, to an operator that has been investing millions of dollars in Revenue Assurance tools over several years.

The Revenue Assurance guidelines and publications we produce help operators look for leakage in particular places on the network. They don’t answer every problem, but they are used extensively by practitioners as a guide on where to start looking. We have done a lot of work and spent five years producing a number of publications to assist in that process. We are now looking at providing guidelines to review the controls for Revenue Assurance that are already in place and measure the effectiveness of coverage in those areas. It is a slightly more sophisticated set of requirements and we are hoping to release something on that, hopefully by the end of this year or early 2011. On top of those things, we produce a number of publications throughout the year from our publications board which are really up to date techniques or technologies and guidelines to what to look for to increase revenue management capability. Our publications pull out a number of Insights which actually help members and to hone in on the revenue management cycle.

Q: Which other organisations do you work with in regards to Revenue Assurance?
A: Revenue Management activities are constantly being worked on. I don’t however know of another organisation that we work with on Revenue Management and Revenue Assurance. There are other organisations that utilise our tools and a lot of our members, particularly the vendor community, contribute to those papers and also use the output from those activities. In terms of industry we are getting looked at more and more as a Business Support Systems (BSS) organisation and not simply an OSS organisation which is what we were perceived as five or six years ago.

Q: Longer term, what else is going to change?
A: Our industry, particularly the IT and systems development part of it and within that the IT around BSS, has over the last ten years moved from being done internally by the operators themselves to being done by the vendors. Most of the Revenue Assurance activity in our industry is held by vendors who are investing in technologies and then trying to sell them to operators. Occasionally operators themselves will outsource an idea or a concept for their internal use but then maximise and monetise it by selling it to other operators. The trend in the last ten years is moving to a vendor centric model where the vendors are providing solutions to the market place. If you look at things like Revenue Assurance, it was originally led by the external auditors. Then vendors came out of the woodwork and started to develop tools that were able to handle very high volumes of calls. Revenue Assurance tools are now set up all across the network and are monitoring the network in real time. They are also not only being used for Revenue Assurance but also for fraud management. They have increased their purpose and role and in fact, they are now even being used as the basis for the customer experience tools. The tools may also be combined with the Network Operations Centre, monitoring all the network elements around revenue. If a customer isn’t getting billed properly or a service is being cut off or the network is down in an area, that impacts the customer’s experience and that impacts revenue. A bad customer experience is a loss of revenue. We are now looking much more holistically at the customer and not just looking at where we are losing revenue. We are monitoring revenue cycles and revenue systems much more effectively but we are also adding value to the customer by monitoring their experience at the same time.

Q: How is this broadening of your revenue related activities being manifested internally at the TM Forum?
A: We are broadening the scope of activity under Revenue Management. In fact we have had four teams starting up and we have a fifth one about to begin. We now have Revenue Assurance operating as its own entity in the TM Forum and we have just started a Fraud Management team to generate very similar guidelines for fraud that we already have for Revenue Assurance. We have a data analytics group that is really looking at all aspects of the data process, business intelligence and how it is used by operators to not only check on the performance of their business but also on the profiling of customers, how to utilise intelligence to get better services and we have another group doing enterprise risk management looking at all the elements and at an enterprise level how that could impact revenue use trends which covers everything from business continuity to systems failure - anything to do with risk.

We also have another group that will be starting soon looking at partner agreements and settlements. Operators are now buying more and more products and services from third parties and traditionally they have not had systems in place that are particularly good at handling payments outwards and managing those sorts of relationships. This business model is driving operators more towards much more sophisticated partner settlement and partner management programmes and so we are looking at beginning to produce guidelines and white papers around that shortly.

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