For real time responsiveness embrace the legacy

Written by on June 4, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

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While the industry debates virtualisation, clouds and real time responsiveness, spare a thought for the people in good old fashioned billing. It may be that a time is coming when customers will look back on actually receiving a bill with a possibly fond, but wry smile. It may be that payments is the ‘new’ billing. It may be that – ultimately – ‘telcos’ become agile enough to partner a range of companies in a range of arenas in order to offer compelling products.

But while that whole process is taking place billions of billing cycles will also be taking place. And the people who are in charge of making sure that those billions of bills are accurate and get out on time will not be particularly aware of the intense and urgent discussions about real time responsiveness, policy management, context aware marketing offers and personalisation.

The question is how best to manage the cost and complexity of producing those bills in the meantime.

The answer is not easy and is painful – especially for some of those people producing the billions of bills, who will end up in the reject pile.

We have been discussing the risks of full-scale transformations for years. We have talked about outsourcing until the bar has closed. We have considered bolting on bits and pieces since the programmer who knew the code and no-one else did retired. All of these options make sense in one scenario or another.

One strategy that is getting a lot of attention is to embrace the legacy and start again – at the same time. It is not necessarily the case that the newest system is the most efficient at grinding out those billions of bills. Some operators have realised this and are migrating customers onto older systems that are – relatively – cheap to run and reliable in grinding out said billions of bills, accurately and on time.

At the same time, these canny operators are setting up green field operations. These are either within the existing corporate structure, or completely separate and, in more and more cases, in the form of MVNOs. Green field is cheap, there is no impact on legacy and customer service channels and processes can be designed from the ground up. Over time, customers can be migrated onto the green field systems and processes. Or not – as long as the information held in all the systems can be accessed holistically and seamlessly.

The main argument against this approach is that real time offers cannot become a reality without real time information. This, of course, is not entirely true. Real time offers that work and produce that magical ‘Ah Ha’ moment for the customer such that he clicks ‘OK’ are based to a large extent on historical patterns of behaviour. And the historical patterns of behaviour will come – to a large extent – from those reliable and rugged systems that are grinding out those billions of bills.

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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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