Ah, when billing was young, and the digital telco a twinkle in the eye

Written by on October 28, 2016 in Opinion with 1 Comment

old-guysWe have written much over the years about whether billing is dead, dying or just getting on a bit. It is strange that ever since it sprang onto the conference stage in the 1990s, windswept and interesting, we have been trying to change its name.

When we set up the short lived European Billing Association (lasted three months before it became the Global Billing Association), much of the discussion was that what we did was bigger than billing. While half of us were entirely focused on producing accurate bills, on time, the other half was gazing into the distance, trying to see what was coming next. And therefore what we would need to bill in the future. We probably saw further than many management teams of the day.

So our ‘industry’ did change the name (even though the Global Billing Association remained the Global Billing Association). We came up with Revenue Management. But did this encompass charging? And what about customer service, and fraud and revenue assurance and a host of other things?

The ETIS group was called the Billing and Revenue Management group until earlier this year when we changed it the Smart Charging and Payments group (cool, eh?).

The problem then, and the problem now, is that if you change the name to be more relevant, in a holistic sense, then you create a problem. A Billing Manager in an operator finds it far more difficult to get sign off to go to the interesting, stimulating and thoroughly worthwhile meetings that happen around the world.

Then there is the eternal talk about whether legacy systems should be replaced or by-passed or whether they can cope with some older subscription based services. And whether ripping them out is too risky a strategy. And should you bolt things on or go greenfield. Which is neither windswept, nor particularly interesting – and can be extremely expensive.

And currently there is the discussion about the digital telco and becoming more agile and transaction based.

However, if you call the umbrella that covers charging, payments – well, everything from order to cash, or cash to order – billing, then we can actually evaluate how important it still is.

And the answer is, of course, very.

For example, at the recent ETIS event in Zagreb (jolly good it was too) every working group (there are 10) was asked where they fit into a new five prong strategy.

And the answer is simple. Even if you don’t like the word, what Billing (charging, revenue management or whatever name you give it) does is provide the business with a ‘monetisation’ engine. And that monetisation engine (or FTM* engine) provides the mechanism to turn electrons into money. And whatever form it takes, it is the same people doing it.

We concluded that we fit into all five strategic initiatives, but would concentrate on providing input to just three. This is unique.

Twenty years later, we’re still promoting billing. And proud to be doing so.

*Follow The Money

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Cato Rasmussen says:

    Hmmmmmm, Billing? I guess I will ask for the bill after having had meal and drinks at a restaurant for many years to come. Personally I don’t think the issue is billing, revenue management or assurance which all are technical names as far as telcos are concerned. It is how and with what we feed billing. All these years we have been doing billing in the telco industry, the feed have been based on tariff and rating, and rightfully so. Yes I know we have one time charges and recurring monthly subscriptions. But still. The systems that have been implemented for the purpose are not fit and do not provide telcos the necessary capabilities in today’s age – Digital. Telcos cannot audit product revenue and services revenue independently or separately. Hence the systems do not have the needed tracking and reconciliation possibilities to align with new partners. That is why they came up with this work around called “Revenue Share”.
    I don’t think it is about the naming conventions – billing, revenue management etc. but the ability and capability to support or provide for any and all value elements in the business model and have the elasticity to adapt to changes in the value elements such as: Transactional revenue versus Recurring revenue, all cost of product/offer development incurs before revenue is collected versus Revenue is collected before cost incurs . and so on.
    Hence, go about naming as if we are talking about a Branding as opposed to business capabilities is irrelevant.

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