August 30, 2011
In a previous post I examined what a bill is, but that leaves us with the question of what a bill is for. To really understand how to best design a bill and how to best architect the underlying people, processes, information and technology needed to deliver that bill we need to understand why we are doing all of this. We need to understand the real purpose of a bill.
My belief is that the most important purpose of a bill is to get the customer to pay the service provider what they owe. It does that by giving them a range of information, and we can make it more or less successful by how well it conveys that information. For instance if it is unclear what the charges are for, or how they were arrived at, then people will be less likely to pay their bill (without querying it). We have then undermined the fundamental purpose of the bill. Thus, most of what we regard as “the purpose” of a bill is merely a means to this end: to communicate the charges accrued since last bill, to clearly communicate what the customer owes, to convince them that we have correctly calculated their bill. They are just ways that we convince the customer that they should pay the service provider that amount (and pay it now, please).
We might use the bill for other aims – to help us market for instance – but that shouldn’t distract us from this primary goal: getting the customer to pay!
August 18, 2011
In an earlier post I raised the question of “what is sexy billing?” That is: what would an organisation’s billing capability look like if it was regarded as positive and desirable rather than negative and boring? This was based on assumptions about what “billing” was – an assumption questioned in the comments. So I then wrote a post describing what I thought “billing” meant. This in turn raises questions about what a bill really is, which I will attempt to answer here.
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May 14, 2011
In my last blog post I talked about what #sexybilling was, or perhaps more accurately , what it might look like. It became evident from the comments though that I hadn’t really made it clear what I thought billing was, and so that sort of complicated the story. If we don’t know what billing is, how are we going to know what sexy billing is?
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May 9, 2011
The term “Sexy Billing” was first coined by Darran Clem of Telesperience (in fact Darran coined the twitter hashtag #sexybilling) in response to this post where Teresa Cottam complains that telecommunications billing wasn’t seen as sexy, but that it should be. At first it just made me laugh. But then I began to think – why was that? I have devoted several years of my life to working on and thinking about billing in telecommunications (and elsewhere) – why would I do that if I didn’t think it was sexy in some respect? What would it mean for billing to be sexy? In fact what does it mean to say that a topic is “sexy”? We don’t mean we are sexually attracted to it (I hope)! Instead, when we say that something like a car is sexy, we mean that it is glamourous, it’s attractive, that when we are involved with it we are filled with a sense of delight. Pondering this, I realised that many of the core aspects of billing aren’t sexy. Those hard issues around rating algorithms, trade-offs between the performance and reliability, processing vast numbers of transactions, integration with the demands of customer relationship management, finance and business intelligence systems are just that – hard, and not intrinsically exciting. However, the experiences that billing gives rise to can be sexy – that is they can be the kind of experiences that customers, management and internal staff want to have and be associated with. Now, they often aren’t sexy – but they could be and should be! So here is my take on what sexy billing might look like.
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May 8, 2011
In my career in telecommunications I have worked across Europe, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I’ve also spent most of my life in the Asia-Pacific region, and used telecommunications services across various countries. My experience has shown me that telecommunications providers, vendors and professionals need to have a markedly different attitude towards this region. Europe is a considerably more homogeneous region than Asia-Pacific. The OSS and BSS solutions that I was involved in within Europe were remarkably similar in their approach (if not their functionality), whereas the solutions that I worked on in the Asia-Pacific region were radically different in their approach to delivering what was often the same functionality.
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May 8, 2011
This is something of a shameless plug for my friends at Telesperience, but their podcast is one of the few out there about the telecommunications industry, and about BSS/OSS in particular. I am an avid listener of podcasts – basically because it is the only way I can tolerate the boredom of exercise or commuting – but I have really struggled to find any on the subject of telecommunications or the areas of BSS/OSS. Telesperience put out – somewhat irregularly – a great series of podcasts centred on the idea of improving “operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience” (to quote their tagline) within the telecommunications industry. Topics covered include innovative OSS/BSS vendors, billing, customer experience, business intelligence and personalisation always with the focus on how and why these topics matter to operators whether from the perspective of the bottom line, or through making a difference to end customers. This podcast is highly recommended if you work in this industry and want to hear something more in-depth and thoughtful than the usual vendor PR or industry newsbites.
You can also subscribe to Telesperience through iTunes.
If you know of any other good telecommunications podcasts, let me know by adding a comment below.
February 14, 2011
This is a particular bugbear of mine – the recent tendency of vendors to try and push solutions for charging “at the edge”. The question is: do they improve an operator’s overall charging capability? I don’t believe so.
Edge charging solutions manage charging (i.e. that price usage, and bill a user) within or close to the network elements that deliver particular services at the edge. They are unlike traditional charging solutions that manage charging as part of the overall customer management at the core of a service provider’s systems. A simple example would be an application that takes mobile data usage events and creates charges from them which runs on the same server as the GGSN (a mobile data gateway).
This tendency to push such solutions has been led, I suspect, by network vendors wanting to get a part of the lucrative BSS and OSS market. Recently it has been taken up by traditional billing vendors trying to combat the move by the network vendors, and also to try and sell additional solutions into a saturated (and somewhat dissatisfied – though that’s another story) market.
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February 8, 2011
Tony Poulos recently wrote an article on the TM Forum entitled Bye-bye Billing, Goodbye – it had an implicit subtitle of “billing as we now know it is doomed”. This is a variation on the “x is dead, long live x” theme – a rhetorical device I admit to not being particularly fond of. Tony’s writing on billing, however, is always worth reading, and is often thought provoking – in this case his article has both provoked some thoughts and a bit of a rant from me.
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