Smart moves in billing

Look closely at a modern day billing company and you will see a microcosm of the wider market and glimpses beyond the comms sector’s periphery – and PRD Intelligent Billing is no exception.

Here, Managing Director Simon Adams shares insights into how he is pushing those boundaries and challenging the norm.

PRD’s rebrand to Intelligent Billing is reflective of how the company sees itself and where the market is heading, adding a sharper focus on new developments that are coming thick and fast. “Telecoms billing is our core market,” stated Adams. “We process 4.5 billion telecom related data records every month, but this market is changing, growth is plateauing with more consolidations and changing requirements.”

Adams noted a shift towards more bespoke requirements, API integrations and new sector data streams – and responded accordingly. “There is still demand for our out-of-the-box reseller platform, which we continue to develop, but this is a competitive market,” he added. “Responding to this shift means we now process data for secure satellite communications, IT cloud distributors, PPC Internet billing for advertisers and more. We did not set out to target these sectors, they found us from attending events, networking and referrals which broadened our thinking. We never say no to a new challenge.”

PRD Intelligent Billing has witnessed 20 per cent growth in turnover over the last 18 months due to a combination of new customers in telecoms and IT distribution, but also new and growing requirements from existing telecom customers. This includes a 12 per cent increase in overseas opportunities: The company is about to go live with a telco in south east Asia and another in mainland Europe. “Our target for the next 12 months is to increase our presence in the cloud solutions providers and VAR markets,” added Adams. “We are also busy with several new telecom implementations, including a major fibre broadband Internet service provider.”

Adams works with several Systems Integrators with a particular focus on scalability and automations. “One integrator recently asked PRD to resolve a requirement to process and report on potentially four million monthly records across a million customers as a single output on a single invoice for a wholesale/interconnect billing requirement,” said Adams. “We love a challenge and have already figured out how to do this.”

Adams’ knack for figuring things out can be traced back to his pre-comms background in corporate banking and accountancy. He is a qualified chartered accountant and took a role as Finance Director of Paradigm Research & Development in 2000, which specialised in high volume interconnect billing for global telecoms carriers, but the client base eventually became non-profitable due to market and client changes and the strategy adopted by previous shareholders.

“An MBO opportunity arose in 2006 and we identified a new direction, from complex niche solutions to a generic approach combined with bespoke capabilities to appeal to the wider SME sector,” explained Adams. “This resulted in an increased customer base and reduced risk from over dependency on a few large customers. KPN remains a partner today and our systems process every fixed line call in The Netherlands. My background in finance has given me an insight into what finance departments need to make data processing and billing easier and more accurate.”

The MBO resulted in PRD Technologies being formed. “We did not want to go down the route of ‘one size fits all’ so found a good compromise,” added Adams. “We appreciate not all resellers are the same so we created systems to reflect this.”

The software, originally named QuickStart Billing, was rebranded in 2019 to Intelligent Billing. In more recent years the company has diversified into other markets such as MS cloud variable billing at both distribution and VAR levels, and into DaaS and Fintech to complement telecoms. “We’ve invested large amounts of time and resource on R&D to make data processing and billing as simple as possible, with feature rich, highly scalable and automated platforms at all levels across our suite of products,” added Adams.

Adams’ aim is to automate every process where possible, coming up with solutions other vendors struggle to resolve. He says this is possible due to PRD’s fourth generation programming language. “Our automation capabilities mean we no longer offer bureau billing as a service because our Intelligent Billing software now does this automatically,” he commented. “We aim to automate as much of the billing process as possible for hassle-free and accurate solutions for our customers.”

Increased integrations with third party systems is also a top priority, including APIs (MS Dynamics CRM, online banking for payment collections and rejections, various Marketplace, MS Partner Centre APIs etc). Other items currently on Adams’ mind are greater (as mentioned) diversifications into new markets such as DaaS, Fintech, SaaS, cloud consumption and subscription services etc; overseas billing functionality including US multi-tax compliance systems, currency, and multilingual billing; more bespoke solutions; portal development; enhanced management reporting and data analytics; and evolving PRD’s out-of-the-box telecoms and VAR reseller platforms.

Too many businesses are still operating costly and time consuming legacy systems

“Resellers should maintain a flexible and agile strategy with the ability to quickly adapt and change direction on their roadmap in line with new innovations,” said Adams. “But too many businesses are still operating costly and time consuming legacy systems, either because they are locked in or believe there are no viable alternatives, or because they believe the migration process is too costly and time consuming.”

Larger enterprises (telcos and distributors) with bespoke requirements are Adams’ biggest opportunity. “We use the same technology and incorporate new R&D into our Intelligent Billing reseller systems (Lite, Lite+ and Pro) wherever possible,” he added. “Cloud Solutions Providers and Fintech are other areas in which we are developing new functionality. There is also an increase in Black-Box requirements. This is where our platform is used as a rating engine only, but the output goes to a third party accounting system and/or CRM for invoicing.”

PRD already had hybrid subscription and multi-sector consumable systems in place pre-Covid having already identified this as a rapid growth requirement. “The cloud space is growing exponentially in line with digital transformation and online services – we perceive this as a sector that will continuously grow and develop at a rapid rate,” noted Adams. “Our roadmap has always been flexible, so we can quickly accommodate new customer requirements and market demands. We are bringing in new development resources to further handle roadmap R&D.”

Just a minute with Simon Adams...

Role models:
My maturing teenage kids. They teach me many new things by the way they behave and interact, or not in some cases. They keep me grounded.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I was a Nordic ski-jumper in my youth and fluent in Norwegian and Swedish. I’m an ex-aviator/pilot with multiple ratings, but it’s an expensive dream to pursue and I ran out of money! And I met and chatted with Mohammed Ali in 1982.

If you weren’t in ICT what would you be doing?
Something in aviation.

Lesson learnt:
Do not be marketing shy. We kept our achievements to ourselves.

Biggest fear:
Getting bored and becoming demotivated.

Your strong points and what could you work on?
My attention span and drifting mind can be a weakness. On the strong side I’m approachable and easy to work with. But I need to work on maintaining energy levels as I get older.

One example of something you have overcome:
Challenges within the education system when I was younger. I wasn’t academic and struggled with most subjects. But something clicked at 16 and I went on to attain a degree and professional qualifications.
Three ideal dinner guests:
George Mallory and his Everest climbing companion Sandy Irvine. Both perished high on the mountain without any communication or evidence as to whether they summited. Also, any WW2 Lancaster pilot or crew.

The biggest risk you have taken:
The MBO: Taking on a struggling business at high cost, with little support and kids on the way.


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