The rapid adoption of Cloud computing and the demand for next generation Telecoms services, such as Unified Communications and Machine-to-Machine (M2M), is driving significant change in the business models of IT and Telecoms providers, with total ownership of the business customer being the ultimate objective.
There is rightly a focus on how this disruption of the landscape is driving a greater need for agile, flexible service provision, and how those companies best able to deliver high quality services in the most convenient form factor for customers will be those that flourish. However, the critical piece of the service delivery puzzle is arguably the one that is left until last to define – billing. An odd situation when one considers that generating revenues is the ultimate goal for any business.
For those looking to deliver multiple services in order to compete, there will be a variety of models to push – from the simple single-service provision scaled up with bolt-ons as per the client's behest, to the multi-service (and potentially multi-partner) solutions that require far greater detail and analysis monitoring. How this broad spectrum of services are billed will determine the uptake and, ultimately, company profitability. Therefore the customer must see value (and importantly, transparency), and the provider must be able to assure respectable margins. In other words, certain services can be billed flat rate and will always be profitable no matter how much the user consumes the service. With other offerings, greater consumption means greater cost for the business and must be billed accordingly. Broadband would be a good example (though that ship has probably sailed, crossed the seven seas and is ready for decommissioning).
Providers of cloud computing and next gen services should look to echo the billing tactics deployed previously by the Telecoms industry, and also look to partner with those able to handle this crucial element of the supply chain where necessary. But this type of (consumptive) billing is costly to acquire and complex to manage in-house, whereas outsourced billing can offer an industrialised, on-demand option that remove the hurdles of high CAPEX and costly, dedicated resource.
For traditional Communications Service Providers (CSPs) in the fixed-line and mobile Telecoms space, the challenge is to become more agile and cost-effective in the delivery of a wider range of services. Confronted with a complex and costly ecosystem of BSS and OSS, (and lacking the standardisation of interfaces to move quickly to a modular and interoperable infrastructure), the outsourcing of key systems such as billing, analytics and policy management would significantly reduce the time and costs associated with launching convergent services.
IT Services companies looking to compete and grow in this marketplace will almost certainly require a move towards service provision, which in itself will require the ability to bill for many different service types, in particular the consumption of voice and data services by value, volume and duration.
For IT/Telecoms service providers looking for an alternative to in-house billing management, a robust outsourced billing service should offer light touch integration, cost-efficiency, scalability and security.
In addition, an outsourced billing service must support the flexibility to offer complex market propositions and the enable the rapid introduction of new price plans without impacting internal IT operations, thus offering unparalleled cost-efficiency and market agility.