BlogsRSS

RAG and the future of industry conferences

We are moving towards a new era of cooperation between industry sectors that share common problems/challenges. It seems that topic-focused conferences are losing their appeal and conference organizers are having to change their focus and modus operandi to stay in business.

Telecoms BSS is a great example of this change. We used to have any number of events dedicated to subjects like billing, real-time charging, revenue assurance, fraud and customer care. But there were simply too many of them and the agendas became repetitive. Speakers were often from sponsor vendors or looking to get exposure in the market for a potential job placement. General events are often just too broad to justify attending, let alone convincing management to cover costs.

If the RAG (Revenue & Assurance Group) event I recently attended in London is any indication then events are evolving into open discussion forums (adopting Chatham House rules) where anyone with an interest in a topic or industry sector can share their experiences.

The RAG was set up in 2004 by UK telcos with the help of Cartesian. Its original name was the Revenue Assurance Group, and it provided a forum for professionals to share advice about this new discipline. They discussed issues, wrote papers, and lobbied the regulator. Their work shaped RA, as members took jobs with telcos, vendors and consultancies around the world.

RAG changed with its members, encouraging participation from other countries and businesses. Remaining at the cutting edge of RA, it took a keen interest in related and emerging fields, such as fraud management, enterprise risk management (ERM), margin assurance, capex analysis, security and data science. Its scope has evolved to reflect the remit of a modern risk and assurance professional.

Supported by vendors, the RAG is able to operate without the need for subscriptions or fees to be paid by operators and businesses that have an interest in RA and fraud management. This event was supported by BT that offered its stunning amphitheatre style event venue and support staff at BT Centre near St Pauls as the venue.

The two day event featured a mix of speakers from operators and businesses as well as suppliers strictly adhering to a ‘no marketing’ agenda. The event was compèred by Rob Chapman from Cartesian who kept the pace and interest levels high throughout. Presentation were led off by Bernice DeMarco, Director of Revenue Assurance at BT Group, who outlined the evolution of her department from a fledgling audit group to become a key player in the team remarkable transformation that BT has been going through.

Her presentation was informative and inspiring as she drew on her past experience with companies like Talk Talk, AOL Broadband, Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone Malta and it set the scene for some often times lively debate. The audience utilised an online Q&A facility to post questions and offer their own snippets of advice.

The event attracted speakers from WeDo Technologies, VirtusaPolaris’ Communications, SKY, TalkTalk, BIASS, NOS, SIGOS, MTN Group, Ooredoo Qatar, BT, CommsRisk, Lebara, Cartesian, Deutsche Telekom, Ocado, Energias de Portugal, John Lewis Partnership, Vodafone, TeliaSonera, TM Forum, CFCA, MTN Gambia, Telefonica UK, Colt, FICO, Revector as well as a number of independent consultants and industry thought leaders.

The Chatham House rules that applied prevent me from going into detail about what was covered but I can say that everyone went away better informed and certainly motivated after the networking and sharing of experiences. It was incredibly refreshing to see such openness and lack of competitive bickering that mars some bigger events dominated by exhibitors and sales people.

This, and those like vendor user groups attract large audiences and represent where events are heading. Sharing knowledge and working in partnership are the new norms – especially when it comes to combating fraud and minimizing leakage and risk. Sure, you can attend online events, watch speaker videos and listen to webinars to get informed, but nothing can replace talking to people face-to-face, having a laugh and sharing war stories with industry thought leaders on neutral ground. This is the key.