By Susan McNeice
Virtually all communications service providers (CSPs) have departments for revenue assurance (RA), wholesale network cost management (CM) and fraud management (FM). They grew up as separate functions in separate organizations, so naturally the software they use is also separate. Lately, however, advances in server, data warehouse and analytical software have promoted the development of multi-function platforms. Now there is an opportunity to join the functions under the moniker of “business optimization."
RA and CM stem from an audit background, so they excel at correlating operational facts to ensure closed-loop accounting. By applying analytical overlays, CSPs can take accounting data and start to see a consolidated view of the performance of any given offering. They can match costs to revenues from a number of perspectives, such as by offer, by customer and by supplier, and they can do it over time.
Fraud takes the auditing a step further and applies forensic techniques to translate these audits of historical data into predictions about future customer behavior.
Vendor solutions for RA, CM and FM harness the similarity of input streams, data management techniques, case management, workflows and even output requirements to consolidate the software under one proverbial roof, whether or not the departments are consolidated. Given there is meaningful overlap in the source data, such as CDRs, customer account data, orders, supplier invoices, network inventory records and contract terms for both customers and suppliers, it is time to reconsider discrete applications for these overlapping functions, in favor of a base platform that orchestrates the supporting activity for all of them (see “The To-Do List" at the end of this article).
Understandably, FM requires a level of user and transaction security that is unique to its function, but again, the appropriate technology controls exist to ensure adequate firewalls are put in place.
The benefit of bringing functions together is, of course, a common audit chassis of data handling that pays for itself with the first vertical application, yielding an operating-cost-free ride for additional applications. Further, application and output and visualization functionality, such as reconciliation, case management or dashboard activity, can be shared across the applications. And it is foreseeable that some functions may operate together, so the functionality is combined to provide a consolidated report, dashboard or alert.
Analytical capabilities augment the standard operational fare by evaluating revenue, cost and profit margin at more discrete levels, such as by bundle, offer, product or even customer. Once this is seen as possible, the next intuitive leap is to evaluate the likely combinations of services and features favored by one’s customer base. It is then just a small step to predict the likelihood of a new offer being accepted, based on prior experiences. Once these small steps — and those like them — have been taken, a CSP has the fundamentals for a business optimization platform.