Billing evolution in action

Here, Ellie Allseybrook, Business Development Director, Inform Billing, shares insights into what lies at the core of modern day billing solutions and provides a business update on the company’s strategic growth plans and progression.

Inform Billing’s primary objective in 2023 was to solidify its platform ahead of a new growth phase that is expected to double revenues during the coming three to five years. The business is currently witnessing circa 15 per cent year-on-year growth. Inform Billing also gained ISO 9001 and 27001 certification last year and delivered 55 new features and enhancements to its Eclipse billing software, most notably automated MSP billing functionality which simplifies and makes more accurate the reconciliation of MSP services such as licences and back-ups.

“We also spent the year developing and preparing to launch our stand-alone BI solution called Inform Analytics,” stated Allseybrook. “We invested in a dedicated team with expertise to deliver accessible Analytics as a Service to the channel.”

While call revenues are diminishing, other consumption or usage-based opportunities are evolving
She noted that the analytics function enables resellers and MSPs to more readily identify trends, reduce risks, increase profitability and drive informed decisions. “We’ve built a standard set of dashboards providing off-the-shelf centralised and real-time views of relevant data and can offer fully outsourced business analytics,” added Allseybrook. “Resellers and MSPs can access meaningful analytics utilising our analysts and developers, eliminating the need to recruit a dedicated data science team.”
According to Allseybrook, the use of analytics will be key to the success of resellers’ IP migration strategies and full fibre roll outs ahead of the 2025 switch off, because the analytics dashboard provides real-time visibility, tracks performance and identifies trends, thereby enabling resellers to more effectively formulate and deliver their strategy for migrating legacy services. Allseybrook also pointed out that the analytics solution will ease pressure on resources and profitability for resellers as they prepare for the PSTN shut down.

Also of great interest to Allseybrook is the growing trend towards automation, with technologies such as AI and IFTTT gaining traction. “These developments are indicative of how customer value is shifting, therefore it’s imperative that resellers and MSPs have the right capability from their billing provider to take advantage of these shifts as they happen,” she added.

Market diversity
As well as having the right capabilities, market reach is also key, therefore Inform Billing is developing partnerships in diverse markets relevant to the subscription economy, opening the door to future opportunities for the channel. “The transition to recurring revenues still plays a big part in generating opportunities for the channel and billing providers need to play their role in enabling resellers to capitalise on those revenue streams,” stated Allseybrook. “While call revenues are diminishing, other consumption or usage-based opportunities are evolving.”

In terms of market breadth, Inform Billing has customers spanning traditional telecoms, IT, mobile and IoT as well as utilities, waste management, banking and hospitality, all using its software. It is important to note here that customer feedback from the entire scope of users helps to shape Inform Billing’s development pipeline. “Our 2024 product roadmap encompasses a range of updates and feature integrations,” added Allseybrook. “Notable additions include multi-factor authentication, improvements to managing contracts in the platform, enhancements to our end customer portal and the introduction of a mobile app.”

Self-service functionality, particularly relating to mobile services, has also evolved from a nice-to-have to an essential requirement for many. Therefore Inform Billing added the ability to monitor unbilled usage, add mobile bars and complete SIM swaps for certain suppliers in 2020 and has now extended integrations to offer a wider range of mobile self-service options with API integration. “Integration in general continues to be a key requirement,” said Allseybrook. “Everyone expects their systems to seamlessly integrate and reduce duplication and manual entry. In response to this ever-increasing demand and as part of our ongoing development, Inform Billing has invested into an API set, enabling customers to build links between other systems and suppliers with our Eclipse platform in a more structured way.”

MSP services
Allseybrook also observed that Inform Billing is increasingly seeing the requirement for billing systems to accommodate MSP services ranging from Office 365 and back-up licencing to IaaS as well as voice and data in all-inclusive or unlimited packages. “There is a common theme that these services can easily be billed through accounting or CRM systems, but what these systems will not do is accurately reconcile supplier invoices,” she said.

This is why Inform Billing invested in an automated MSP module designed to streamline subscription management and enable effective reconciliation, addressing the challenges of subscriptions, quantity changes and billing processes. Allseybrook says this is just one example of how resellers and MSPs can truly gain a competitive advantage through their billing software, which as a business critical application can reduce resource investment, enable commercial competitiveness, improve cashflow, enhance customer satisfaction and boost profitability.

Furthermore, the growing emphasis on data driven decision making throughout the supply chain has elevated the market influence of independent billing providers to a new level. “But regardless of functionality in any software application, real value comes from the knowledge and experience of the provider to both pre-empt and adapt to the ever changing market and its emerging needs,” commented Allseybrook. “The ability to access this experience and expertise at ease should never be underestimated.”

Nor should the impact of independent billing software on company valuations be underrated, noted Allseybrook. “While efficiencies from buying and billing services through the same supplier might be tempting, this may be detrimental in the long-term through potential price increases and exit strategies,” she added. “Without independent billing exit routes are narrowed and business values are likely to come under pressure. It’s been proven on many occasions that resellers with true control over their customer base, and with billing independent from their network service provider, see a positive and significant impact on the value of their business.”

With M&A driving changes in the billing world in recent years, Allseybrook hopes that the market will remain competitive in the time to come. “It is paramount that resellers have legitimate choice in all elements of their supply chain, even more so in the current climate,” she stated. “I hope to continue to see billing providers across the industry benefit from new entrants and new offerings in the market.”

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