Vendor relationship healthy? Check.
Product smashing it out the park? Check.
Service top notch? Check.
Think you’re in the best shape possible? Well, think again.
With most of the boxes ticked, it’s easy to understand why Value Added Resellers, System Integrators and Managed Service Providers could be forgiven for thinking they are getting everything right.
But there’s one thing that often spoils the party – billing.
That’s because, whilst a recurring revenue model is a beautiful thing on its own, billing monetisation, automation and efficiency have the capability to add the kind of value that can seriously boost the bottom line.
Pick the right billing software provider, and you really do have pretty much everything covered.
“The communications and IT market is dynamic and constantly changing to provide new opportunities for the channel,” says Kevin O’Brien, Chief Financial Officer at leading UK telecoms billing and provisioning software provider Union Street, which invests heavily in ensuring it is that right partner.
“We are seeing rapid changes to customers’ demands and expectations. This is thanks to both the mobility trend, which has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic, and the convergence of IT and
communications services to a point where they’re practically indistinguishable.
“At the same time, we are seeing huge upgrades to the UK’s network infrastructure in the form of 5G and the imminent switch off of PSTN/ISDN in favour of a full fibre network. “These widespread, disruptive changes arguably present the channel with its biggest opportunity since privatisation. Effective billing processes are essential to the monetisation of communications services and to the capitalisation of those emerging opportunities.
“Consequently, the billing platform forms the backbone of any reseller’s business. It is pivotal to refining sales strategies and to building product portfolios that are efficient, profitable, scalable, and compliant with regulation.”
That’s all well and good, but the pace of innovation means that a good billing platform today will be
out of date in five years’ time without significant investment in research and development.
For resellers playing the long as well as the short game, it’s vital they partner with a billing software provider committed to that kind of constant technological advancement.
Moreover, if a reseller is plotting a grow-then-exit course, robust billing records and processes can help it irrefutably demonstrate its worth.
Ideally, a billing software provider should be able to provide evidence of continuous financial stability, innovation, and provision of service to an established and satisfied user community.
It should also be able to demonstrate the size and skills of its development team; continuous capital investment into the research and development of its products; robust and scalable support operations and comprehensive procedures for onboarding new customers and migrating existing billing data when applicable.
“Channel expertise is another must-have,” says O’Brien.
“Knowledge and experience is a valuable complement to effective software so, if that is lacking, it can hinder reseller growth ambitions.
“The same applies to its scope of training resources and consultancy services, particularly when assisting reseller partners in preparing for and complying with changes to industry regulation.”
It’s not just about pure billing functionality either.
A platform which ensures dependable monthly revenue and guaranteed cash flow is of course essential, but other back-end features must deliver big too.
It must possess robust information security management systems as well as product security measures such as end user customer encryption.
Ideally, the billing software provider itself should also hold certification of compliance with a recognised information security scheme such as the ISO27001 Information Security Management standard.
Additionally – in situations where the billing system is hosted by the billing system provider – high availability, disaster recovery processes; customer-compliant data security; capacity management capabilities; and advanced reporting and business intelligence features must also be considered.
And, finally, knowledge of best practice for billing accuracy and compliance with Ofcom’s Total Metering and Billing Systems (TMBS) standard is super-important, as is experience of rationalising billing so that it is consolidated, easy to understand, and optimised for end users.
“Accurate, easy to understand bills that are dispatched in a timely manner are essential to maintaining smooth cash flow and a happy customer base,” says O’Brien.
“But it’s also about ensuring that resellers are best-placed to collect customers’ payments promptly and reinvest it to grow their businesses further.
“To help, we offer our ProfitaBILLity Service where our consultants review how resellers are using their billing platform in order to ensure it is as efficient as possible. “A report is generated that specifies any instances of misbilling which should be fixed, and which provides recommendations for how Union Street’s software can be leveraged to boost efficiency in the billing and provisioning process.”
It seems billing really should be less back-end and more strategically front-and-centre.
Only then can all those boxes really be ticked.
Original article posted on UC today.