As today’s economy evolves in new and increasingly unpredictable ways, agility becomes one of the most important factors for survival. The faster and easier a company can accommodate a new product or initiative; the faster they will be able to capture market share and continue to maintain relevance. The old axiom applies here: “time is money”. The more time you save; the more money you save – the less time you spend building systems to support initiatives, the more lucrative that initiative becomes. The ability to quickly and easily support new business and monetization models will be the defining factor for who will lead in this brave new world.
Traditionally, billing has been as an obstacle to new product rollouts or strategic initiatives - many systems are hard-wired to a discrete set of products either along an industry line or along a specific charging model. These applications can limit important strategic initiatives by constricting product and rating diversity and forcing specific business processes. In contrast, an agile billing system is adaptive and can fully support and conform to any business model, making it a powerful engine that promotes and enhances important, time-sensitive strategic initiatives.
Agile Billing is the capability to rapidly monetize new and evolving business opportunities. This means the ability to quickly repackage existing products, easily create new products, enter into new industries, seamlessly support acquisitions, and at the same time, seamlessly accommodate new business processes. Agile systems transform the billing and monetization process from an afterthought, isolated to the back-office, to a powerful tool for modeling new business and capturing new opportunities.
Ultimate Agility Comes with PaaS
PaaS (Platform as a Service) technology is causing a large disruption in the marketplace. Large PaaS providers like Salesforce.com (the fastest growing company in the world today) are realizing great success because they allow their customers to rapidly configure solutions that directly reflect the way they do business, quickly and efficiently and at a much lower cost than traditional, non-PaaS systems.
PaaS seems an to be the obvious solution to the problem of agility but this type of software requires a different mindset to deliver then it's hard-wired predecessors. PaaS solutions can range from a raw tool-set and raw access to hardware, OS and software environments to complete solutions that offer PaaS capabilities for ultimate application extensibility. So what does it mean to truly be an agile “Platform” in the Billing and Monetization space?
In less than 4 months, Billing Platform delivered a solution that centralized billing and payment processing for all cities globally addressing over 100 pain points. The solution standardized Billing, Payments, Provisioning and Customer care while uniquely supporting each city’s specific needs for Gateway integration, Language, Locale, Pricing, Packaging, Discounts and Incentives. The unique implementation utilized the platform’s Cloud-configuration with workflow, Event-based invoicing, custom data model configuration, multiple payment gateway integration, and extensive product management capabilities. With these dynamic features in play, the company is able to support their new business model and growth objectives in the most efficient way possible.
A True Platform
Simply put, an application “platform as a service” provides configurability on all levels necessary to conduct business and support evolving processes in the cloud.
In billing, this means the ability to easily support and enhance new products; deploy new pricing models and competitive packages; and generally accommodate demand for new ways of doing business in real-time. An agile billing platform also includes development and configuration tools to rapidly enable any associated business process, interface and data to support any new model.
Let’s break this down into a list of the specific essentials involved in Agile Billing with PaaS.
- Highly Flexible Rating
- Highly sophisticated and Diverse Packaging Capabilities
- Built-in, configurable Usage Collection and Mediation
- Flexible and dynamic Invoicing cycles
- Real-time, event-based charge-routing, rating and invoicing
- Dynamic, rule-based Payment Gateway utilization
- Sophisticated Customer Hierarchy and Contract configuration
- Prolific Localization & Multi-currency Support
- Dynamic Integration with the larger ecosystem
- Metadata-driven Application Model
- Extensible, Integrated Data Model
- Rapid UI development
- Business Rules Enforcement
- Advanced Workflow and Processing capabilities
- Business Logic Configuration
A truly holistic billing platform provides built-in tools that not only support core billing, pricing and invoicing with ease and speed but provides a framework that lets companies own their unique solution. In a PaaS, enhancements and extensions are developed and managed by the business on top of a flexible core as opposed to inaccessible customizations built and managed exclusively by the vendor directly onto the core system.
The Practical Applications
Many companies have complex and evolving billing and monetization processes that just don’t fit standard, industry business models, or they simply need a system that has the capacity to scale at a faster rate than what many of the billing vendors offer today. These companies are resistant to joining the cloud billing ecosystem because while rapid in their cloud delivery architecture, the cloud billing options available are not flexible enough to accommodate diverse, highly specialized and critical business functions.
Typically, companies like these revert to building their own systems or purchasing large, on premise implementations like SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle at a premium - both options are expensive with long deployment and change cycles that do not support Agility in any way.
A PaaS billing application provides functional scalability along with the speed, economies of scale and ease of delivery available via the cloud. It does this by providing simple tools within a framework to rapidly develop the core pieces of any application and tie them into a sophisticated billing engine. Below are some examples of how mature industries become agile by replacing or augmenting their legacy billing systems with extensible PaaS billing systems:
Ports and Logistics
Ports and Logistics companies have evolved billing, rating and invoicing processes over decades to accommodate a myriad of regulatory as well as industry and competitive pressures. These types of billing and rating scenarios include:
- Multidimensional Contracts across several different customers, port terminals and service routes.
- Real-time, event-based invoicing without fixed cycles
- Sophisticated, post-rating, invoice splitting and delivery routing based on account, contact and product
- EDI integration
- Integrations with YMS and ERP systems for usage-based rating
- Multidimensional rate plans (tariffs) based on time, container length, shipping orientation, refrigeration, holidays, free days, tiered pricing and others.
- Manual Rating scenarios for Labor, water, and other services correlated with automated, high-volume usage rating
Traditionally this type of complexity requires a mix of home-grown, manual processes and custom software to orchestrate output from Mainframe systems and other on-premise, legacy applications. But modern PaaS Billing systems are accommodating this level of diversity and highly evolved and specific processes with configuration cycles measured in weeks and at a cost that is a fraction of just the maintenance portion of these legacy systems.
This is easily achieved because PaaS billing systems not only accommodate a myriad of standard billing permutations and financial transactions but primarily because PaaS systems offer the tools necessary to build the data structures and logic to accommodate the non-standard system integrations and business processes associated with all of the inputs and management that go into core billing, rating and invoicing.
In Europe public transportation involves a mix of vehicle rental and service fees ranging from bikes and trains to busses and ferries. To centrally manage the high volume of customer transactions across several different mediums in several different currencies and languages, across several different countries, companies are forced to build siloed billing and information systems specific to each medium, location and currency.
With modern PaaS applications, companies are able to leverage cloud delivery which allows for a single, centrally managed application delivered via the internet to several different kiosks and transportation hubs. The platform extensibility handles the diversity of products, languages, charging models, geographically-specific merchant integrations, as well as device-specific, web service integrations for real-time metered and subscription services.
PaaS makes this possible quickly and efficiently with tools to rapidly develop and maintain highly specialized UI, data model, API, business logic, and workflows. The speed of delivery for initial implementation and enhancements dwarfs its legacy predecessors with cycles measured in weeks vs. years in a centralized, master application.
Energy and Utilities
In an evolving world of global warming and economic struggle, consumers are turning to alternative energies. Traditional utility providers are starting to see the writing on the wall and joining the momentum toward providing a new kind of alternative service in solar installation, maintenance and servicing. But their traditional, mainframe applications are nowhere near capable of handling the new process from quote to fulfillment to ongoing maintenance and the residual billing events that follow.
With PaaS systems like Salesforce.com and BillingPlatform, these seasoned enterprises are rapidly evolving into this new space and capturing the revenue streams that they would have foregone without the ability to quickly develop, configure and deploy the application, user interface and integrations on top of the core billing needed to orchestrate new and complex business processes.
Highly specialized processes such as inventory management, field services, fulfillment, warehouse integration, CRM integration, non-standard invoicing cycles and order management are gracefully accommodated in a single monetization and billing management system.
Traditionally (since the late 90’s) telecommunications companies have had some of the most complex billing needs of any recurring service provider. Today’s “phone” offers a myriad of services with diverse charging models. This kind of diversity in communications services is standard and service providers have shifted their competitive focus to not only include the latest digital features and network capabilities, but even more to unique product packaging and pricing options.
The pressure on inflexible legacy systems to accommodate highly competitive and diverse packaging and highly diverse service offerings is giving way to more agile, PaaS systems that not only efficiently and quickly accommodate any new charging, packaging or invoicing model but also rapidly flex to provide the data model, UI and integrations necessary to support and provision these new products, systems and business models.
In the fiercely competitive communications industry, having a configurable platform for rating, pricing, integration, data and user interface means that the billing application is more integrated with the process of selling and product development because it no longer needs to exist on the tail end of these processes. Rather, because of the rapid roll-out capabilities, it can serve as a modeling tool in support of new initiatives from inception - making not only billing but sales, marketing and product development “agile”.
The Future of Agile Billing Lies in PaaS
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that PaaS is the key to agile billing. Many companies are beginning to migrate onto PaaS applications because they are the most agile solutions on the market. When assessing a vendor, it’s important to be able distinguish between a simple cloud billing application and a fully extensible, PaaS billing application.
In order for any billing vendor to remain relevant within today’s complex economy, they must offer a true application framework to complement a flexible and robust billing and rating core. As we’ve seen above, PaaS changes billing from an obstacle to strategic initiatives to an agile vehicle for success. Leaders like BillingPlatform are helping companies realize their unique vision of success with a platform service that is truly agile in its ability to quickly accommodate every aspect of that vision.