If you step back and look at the world of enterprise applications you can say that Billing does not quite make the big leagues of CRM and ERP.
- ERP and CRM play in almost every industry – in other words are “horizontal”.
- ERP and CRM are in fact conglomerates of applications… let’s see: Product lifecycle management, Supply chain management (e.g. Purchasing, Manufacturing and Distribution), Warehouse Management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Order Processing, Online Sales, Financials (A/R), Financials (G/L), Financials (A/P), Human Resources, Customer Service, Sales Force Automation, Campaign Management. (In fact ERP often claims CRM as its own!!)
Billing on the other hand – with a few exceptions – has remained highly industry specific – in other words “vertical”. Moreover, Billing is not a conglomerate of sub-applications. It is usually constrained to invoicing, charging, payment management and some customer care. Even this list is often too broad … charging solutions are sold independently, payments are often managed in ERP, customer care is sometimes subsumed in CRM and even invoicing is claimed by ERP.
Nevertheless – billing is still a major player and has only really been subsumed into ERP in pure “goods” industries. In services – from government to insurance to telecommunications to finance – Billing is still predominantly provided by independent players.
If you view ERP and CRM as suites of applications and not applications themselves, then the obvious question is “why haven’t” they pulled in billing? Well in some ways they have – Oracle bought Portal for billing (though mostly in telecoms) and SAP has now bought Highdeal for charging (they claim invoicing already). Infor and Microsoft have not.
Just to turn the tables – Amdocs owns a CRM! If they went out and bought Infor and got themselves an SOA backbone they would not be much different from Oracle and SAP. Should they? I would say no… they will have neither the advantage that SAP has – a cohesive framework – nor the dominance that Oracle has – Java, Oracle RDBMS, WebLogic and ubiquitous ability to bully supplier, partner and customer alike. Amdocs’ intrinsic advantage is their professional services but that may not be enough. But if we see Amdocs hiring up world class product managers, then I would suspect something were up.
So back to billing: Why is it so vertical? I would say the golden days of billing applications began before the emergence of productized enterprise solutions – so in some way the industry was too early and got stuck in specific technological and vertical tracks. Now it is too late for most of the vendors – their products are mature. In this case “embracing verticalness” by merging into the telecommunications equipment vendors may be their best choice (Lifetree, Kenan and LHS for example).
Again Amdocs comes up… since the suite play – by bringing in ERP – would be a challenging… it seems that purchase of a equipment vendor (probably specialized in charging and messaging) may be their best choice. There are some obvious choices.