Telecoms & ICT Billing Series: Building Better Billing Integration with Union Street
Discussing integration benefits with Vincent Disneur, Head of Sales and Marketing at Union Street
To get the most out of your billing platform in the age of digital transformation, it’s essential to effectively integrate it with other best of breed applications that you might be using to manage your business and its operations. In the perfect circumstances, your billing platform should work seamlessly with your existing infrastructure – particularly in a world where efficiency is the key to customer satisfaction and enterprise success.
To find out more about how an effective billing solution can bridge the gap between siloed back office software packages, we spoke to Vincent Disneur, Head of Sales and Marketing for leading supplier of billing solutions, Union Street Technologies. With almost a decade at Union Street, save for a memorable stint as one of Lord Sugar’s would be apprentices in 2011, Disneur has personally overseen growth of the company’s partner base from circa 150 to almost 600 resellers. This has included, in many situations, requirements for the company’s aBILLity™ billing system to be integrated with other business and/or operational support systems.
How Crucial is Integration for the Modern Marketplace?
As channel resellers of all shapes and sizes in the UC world continue to search for the perfect end-to-end solution to realise their strategy, integration has emerged as a critical element of many business operations. I asked Vincent to give me his opinion on the importance of being able to connect your billing system with other back-office solutions such as CRM.
He told me:
“The demand for a billing solution that provides integration with other back office solutions is growing. In fact, almost every implementation supported by Union Street in the coming years is likely to feature some kind of integration – varying from simple opportunities for export and import routines, all the way through to fully API-driven services.”
What Kind of Software Will Your Platform Integrate With?
Disneur states that “aBILLity already offers out of the box integration with accounting platforms such as Sage 50, and Sage 200. Through a strategic partnership with systems integrator QGate, we can also provide pre-developed integrations for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. In addition, aBILLity can integrate with Creditsafe, a leading supplier of company credit reports. This enables aBILLity users to assess customers’ credit worthiness at a glance and automatically monitor for changes on a daily basis.”
When it comes to integrating with accounts packages other than Sage, Disneur explained that:
“Union Street often receives requests for integration with QuickBooks, Xero, and SAP. Although we don’t yet offer out of the box integration with these software packages, we’ve already begun to develop solutions that allow us to tailor the output of our system to meet corresponding requirements.”
Perhaps most importantly for resellers is integration between billing and WLR3 software. “As an Openreach third party integrator (TPI), Union Street not only offers the fundamental provisioning and assurance interfaces for BT WLR products but, by having this tightly integrated with the aBILLity billing system, we are able to provide levels of automation that are not possible with a stand-alone TPI solution. Holding a single system of record for your WLR3 asset base negates the time-consuming task of keeping two platforms up to date and, by having product pricing available from the billing system, the WLR order process becomes a configure-price-quote tool. Service charges and CLIs are automatically attributed to a customer’s account when the order completes, remembering any bespoke pricing agreements that may have been negotiated at the point of sale. This ensures there is no loss of revenue due to someone forgetting to update the billing system!
“Beyond this, the power of an integrated WLR3 solution even allows our partners to place Call Barring orders of WLR lines if certain levels of suspected fraudulent activity is detected in the call traffic. The whole process is unmanned and automated, so that if fraud is detected from call traffic imported in the middle of the night, an order is still placed there and then to mitigate any losses.”
“For everything else, we have recently developed and introduced REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs that allow third parties to integrate with our platform more easily.
What Are the Benefits of Platform Integration?
Many telecoms and IT resellers are beginning to see the importance of customer experience as a key differentiator in the market place. Customers are in turn, beginning to demand more efficient, faster services. I asked Vincent how integrating billing with other back office systems can help to deliver a competitive advantage in this way.
“Choosing a billing platform that can integrate easily with back-office solutions, CRM programs, financial platforms and so on, is pivotal to speeding up work-flow so that businesses can start to perform at an accelerated rate.”
“By automating time-consuming manual processes and eliminating the need for duplicated data entry, departments within a business can be much more productive and free to focus their efforts on delivering an incredible customer experience.”
What’s Union Street’s Approach to Integration?
Resellers generally have many different teams working within their company that might need to access or update the data held in the billing platform. This might include sales and services, accounting, technical support and provisioning to name but a few. I asked Disneur to explain Union Street’s strategy for integrating aBILLity with the vast number of software packages these teams might be using.
He replied, “Developing out of the box integrations for popular back office software packages is one option. This is something we’ve done in the past for certain applications including Sage Accounts and our collaboration with QGate for integrating aBILLity with Microsoft Dynamics. However, because of the differences in the way resellers operate, it’s inevitable that integration requirements will differ greatly from one reseller to the next. This makes it difficult to create out of the box integrations that will be ideal for all users.
“What we’ve found to be far more effective, is to focus on developing amazing APIs. These allow our partners to work with third party systems integrators to develop integrations according to their exact requirements. This ensures that our partners can integrate aBILLity with other platforms to any degree that works for them.
“Our APIs are backed by comprehensive resources, including documentation, sandbox environments and support, that will assist third party integrators in developing integrations effectively.”
With its API-based approach, Union Street has found a way to support the needs of every department in any business, giving partners complete freedom to integrate the platform according to their needs.
What’s Next for Union Street?
Disneur told me that, in respect to integration, Union Street will continue to focus on updating and enhancing their software in the year ahead, building on its extensive API set in a way that will make its aBILLity platform easier to integrate with and adapt. He believes that changes to Union Street’s development processes will lead to big increases in efficiency.
“In recent years, we’ve been making changes to the way our development team works, adopting the agile methodology. This has enabled us to unlock the true potential of our development resources and deliver feature rich software releases for the whole of our customer base with increased frequency and with absolute certainty.
“This will of course lead to a number of benefits for our clients, including the opportunity to have a greater level of input into our API development process.”
In a world of digital transformation and growth, it seems that this API-first approach to customisable business could be the key to quick, and flexible success.