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Will ML and AI eventually replace traditional RA and FM systems and analysts?

Check out interview with Tony Poulos

Conecta: What are the main international trends for Business Assurance? TP: Almost all businesses are going through some sort of “digital transformation” with a strong move away from legacy IT, distribution, marketing, retail, accounting and finance systems to online, cloud-based operations and highly-automated physical operations like warehousing and logistics. The transition stage is fraught with potential business assurance issues including lack of continuity, system failures, change management inertia and potential fraud via hacking of systems.

Conecta: The business transformation that is happening in telecom industry is driving a new focus on revenue assurance area, it is much more than money, it is about being efficient, effective, work with the risk mitigation, margin optimization and deliver a valued service to the client. Are the Latin America operators prepared for that? TP: As in most geographies there is a broad range of operators of different sizes at different stages of the business transformation process and that is no different in Latin America. However, some risk issues that have been difficult to manage in the current business environments will become much bigger issues if not addressed as part of any business transformation process - especially around fraud. It’s time for many operators to determine their level of maturity in both transformation and revenue assurance capabilities. The TM Forum models would be ideal for this purpose. Only then will they know, by comparing themselves with operators of similar size and type in other markets, if they are being effective.

Conecta: RA teams generally have a wide range of competencies, but now the companies want more. What are the new skills needed? TP: Revenue assurance departments were originally manned by people with backgrounds in billing, finance or audit. They depended on data provided from BSS and OSS systems and with the advent of RA tools had to learn how to find the root cause of any leakage that was found. Today’s RA professional is expected to not only monitor leakage but to also proactively prevent it happening by analysing products and services before release and estimating the risks and impact of potential system failures. There is also a trend to combine RA and Fraud departments so now, an understanding of fraud management, will also be necessary.

Conecta: What are the trends that will transform risk management? TP: RA departments will be under threat as the become more mature because the levels of leakage and recovery will reduce to the point that management starts to questions budget spend and manning levels. Also, the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence by vendors will, in theory, dramatically improve RA and fraud management capabilities and hopefully pre-empt occurrences before they occur.

Conecta: Will ML and AI eventually replace traditional RA and FM systems and analysts? TP: It is highly unlikely, at least in the next five to ten years that AI and machine learning will replace systems or analysts. For a start, they will need systems to run on, and the continuing creativity of fraudsters will probably require human thought process to unravel. As operators branch out into new market sectors themselves the risks will increase proportionately yet the number of people needed may well be reduced over time.

He has been involved with software development and systems integration in travel and telecommunications for over 30 years. He was involved in the development of 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 then acted as VP Business Development of Telecoms Solutions with Logica Asia. Tony was GM Asia Pacific for revenue assurance solution provider, Azure Solutions after its acquisition of Connexn Technologies, Inc. which he established in AsiaPac three years earlier. Tony was co-founder of Facilitasia, based in Singapore which consulted on Business Support Solutions (BSS) and content business in Asia and represented Lavastorm/Visual Wireless in AsiaPac. He is a regular contributor for trade publications and was a Contributing Analyst for IDC Asia Pacific and Editor, Asia Pacific for Telecom TV. Up until August 2010 he was Head of Revenue Management Sector for the TM Forum and more recently as Market Strategist and Editor, Online Content writing blogs and editing the Inform channel & newsletters. Tony is a regular speaker, moderator and chairman at telco and finance conferences worldwide, including plenary sessions at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and Shanghai, ITU Telecoms World and CommunicAsia. He writes freelance for a number of industry publications and records numerous video interviews. He has also been a columnist and video anchor for Telecom Asia, TelcoProfessionals, BillingViews and He is founder and managing editor of Disruptive.Asia and a founder of Skorr.Social. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in the telecom software industry.


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