Telecoms & ICT Billing Series: Choosing the Right Billing Partner for your Telco

Ian Taylor

7 top tips when choosing your new telecoms billing software vendor

Telecoms & ICT Billing Series: Choosing the Right Billing Partner for your Telco

Whether you’re choosing your first telecoms billing platform or looking to change your existing platform for another, making the right decision and selecting one vendor over another can be a daunting task unless you know what to look for.

Just as important as the product itself is the company behind the product. As the telecoms billing platform market is expected to increase from $7.80 billion in 2014 to $11.78 billion by 2019, at a CAGR of 8.6%, you can expect there to be a lot of vendors competing in the market – but how do you choose the right one?

Success & Reputation

If you want an unbiased, honest opinion of how reliable a billing platform vendor is, the reviews of their existing clients should be the first place you look. Ask to see evidence of satisfied clients. Can the company produce case studies or testimonials that back up their claims?

Is the solution you are considering widely used and endorsed by businesses similar to your own? If so then you can be fairly confident that the vendor’s billing platform is a tried and trusted solution and that’s backed by a support wrap you can count on.

Also worth noting is the accolades they’ve received from notable awarding bodies. The Comms National Awards, for example, has a dedicated ‘Best Billing Platform’ category where entrants are judged on their channel support services in addition to product features.

Previous successes, after all, are a great indication of how well a company will continue to achieve in the future and it’s much easier to place trust in a vendor that has already accomplished so much.

In addition, you may want to check whether or not the vendor you’re considering is certified for compliance with relevant industry standards such as Ofcom’s Total Metering and Billing Scheme.

As well as looking at the successes of the vendor, be sure to look into the accomplishments of their clients and note how much of an impact their billing solution has had on helping its clients improve their telecom billing strategy.

Expertise & Reliability

When you invest in a telecoms billing platform, you want assurance that the team monitoring and maintaining that software are experts in their field and capable of utilising their years of experience in billing management to ensure you and your customers get the best possible results.

For example, Union Street, a leading provider of billing and provisioning solutions with close to 100 staff, pride themselves on hiring some of the industry’s most experienced faces to work in their consultancy team. Because its consultants have worked in the billing industry, they have extensive first-hand knowledge of the challenges and pitfalls associated with the billing process. By sharing this knowledge, they help to ensure that their partners’ telecoms billing processes are running efficiently without fault around the clock.

Of equal importance is the company’s implementation services for on-boarding new clients. You need to be satisfied that any prospective vendor will take the time to understand your businesses and its processes, then commit the necessary time and resources to ensure a smooth on-boarding process. 

Drive to Improve

As important as previous successes are at helping you make your decision on which billing solution to choose, it’s also important to have a clear idea of where the vendor is going, what they hope to accomplish strategically and what they have planned from an R&D perspective to accommodate industry changes.

The skills and size of the development team behind the product should be a key factor for consideration, as this is a clear indicator of a vendor’s commitment to the onward development of the product. A billing platform has to keep up with the pace of change in the telecoms industry. If it can’t, this could limit your capacity to move quickly and capitalise on new services.

Training & Support

As well as providing a high-quality billing software that has been verified by successful service partners and resellers to help improve the way they manage their billing process, it’s also key to look for vendors that provide extensive training on how to use the software properly and deliver ongoing support after the sale is complete.

Look closely at a vendor’s service level agreements. Is training and support free at the point of use or will charges apply? Do they offer online support and/or resources such as a knowledge base, ‘how-to’ videos, chat facilities and so on? Are different support packages available to cater for different needs/requirements or do they have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to support?

If, for example, we look at Union Street and their ‘Powering your Potential’ maxim, it’s clear that helping their partners get as much value as possible from their Telecom Billing Platform and allowing them to seize every opportunity by providing comprehensive support and ongoing strategic advice, is at the forefront of their priorities.

Security Standards

As technology evolves, so too do the minds of the criminals who are constantly coming up with new ways to exploit, extort, steal from and destroy as many businesses as they can – which is why it is essential to find a vendor/product that can help protect your business and the businesses of your customers from an ever-increasing number of threats.

Considering this, when selecting a telecom billing solution, it is absolutely critical to choose a vendor that has a solid strategy in place that ensures their product will continually detect and counter fraudulent network activity before too much damage is done.

Also consider whether the product itself is sufficiently secure. For example, if selecting a hosted billing solution (as opposed to one that will be installed on your own hardware), are you satisfied that the hosted environment and, by extension, your and your customers’ data, is adequately protected.

Data Privacy 

Moreover, with the GDPR deadline getting closer, service providers and resellers are under more pressure than ever to ensure that their customers’ data is retained with the confines of strict data protection regulations and choosing a vendor that can help you meet these demands is crucial.

As well as protecting the finances of the customer and keeping that positive trustworthy relationship in place, a failure to comply with new data protection regulations and keep personal information secure from outside eyes, could result in hefty fines with upper limits of €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is higher.

You must be confident that your customers’ personally identifiable information and other sensitive data held within the billing platform is secure. Is this data accessible to all users, or can different levels of access permissions be applied to specific users?

Finally, does the vendor you’re considering have any credentials that support their commitment to data security such as the internationally recognised ISO/IEC 27001 standard in Information Security Management? If a vendor is in possession of this certification then you can be reasonably confident that they will have highly organised, risk-based methods for managing personnel, IT systems and processes in a way that ensures sensitive data is protected.

Deployment & Scalability

Scalability is perhaps one of the most important yet most overlooked features of any billing platform. It’s highly advisable to select a billing solution that will scale effectively with your business as your customer base and revenue increases. Most platforms will comfortably process CDRs and generate bills when dealing with volumes at the lower end of the network usage spectrum. However, you need to be confident that your billing platform will continue to manage your company’s billing five years from now and beyond.

Similarly, you need to be confident that your billing vendor has the expertise and resources to continually support you as the business grows.

Choosing a billing vendor that delivers a highly flexible set of deployment models is highly advantageous for any business that wants the freedom to easily migrate between on-premises, virtualise server and cloud hosted models whenever they need to.

Additionally, in regard to hosted solutions, it’s advisable to choose a billing service that utilises cloud monitoring tools from hosting environments such as VMware, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. This ensures that those managing the environment, can easily stay updated and engaged with performance analysis and real-time insights and, if required, increase your compute resources to ensure optimal software performance.

Another consideration on the subject of scalability, is whether or not a vendor offers a bureau service. To begin with, particularly if this is your first experience of using a billing platform, choosing a vendor that provides a bureau service (where they manage the platform and much of the billing process) could be a huge help. If you choose this option but, at a later point, plan to bring billing operations back in house, then you should also be satisfied that the vendor has processes in place to make this a smooth transition.

As with any business-critical application, future proofing should be high on the agenda. If the platform or vendor fails to scale up with your business’s growth, this will inevitably lead to cost and disruption associated with switching billing platforms later down the line.

UC Today Billing Series

Over the next few months Union Street shall be sponsoring our biweekly series on Telecoms & ICT Billing software where we discuss what what billing platforms are and the many ways in which businesses can benefit from them.

In the next article, we shall be discussing what features businesses should look for when selecting a billing platform to help improve customer experience, minimise cost and ensure the billing process is able to run both smoothly and efficiently.

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