Transforming Your Billing System

This is part five of a six-part series explaining why billing, as commonly practiced, is broken, why a more comprehensive monetization strategy is necessary to future success, and how to prosperously make the transition from billing to monetization. Part One: Those That Monetize Will Thrive focused on today’s changing market economy and the necessity of a comprehensive monetization strategy for success. Part Two: Five Signs Your Billing System is Broken focused on the warning signs that your existing billing system is broken. Part Three: Requirements for Successful Monetization covered the system requirements for successful monetization. Part Four: Selecting a Billing Solution Vendor provided criteria for selecting a billing solution vendor to support monetization. In part five, we focus on deploying a billing system to support monetization.

As many companies have discovered, the move from a one-and-done traditional sales model to a recurring revenue model can quickly expose deficiencies in your billing system and processes. This often leads companies to migrate to new billing systems that support the full end-to-end monetization process that’s necessary to meet customer expectations. Sound familiar?

Monetization is about more than just cutting an invoice and collecting payment. It’s an end-to-end process that requires managing all aspects of a customer relationship, from the moment a customer first visits your web site through provisioning new services, communicating with customers, invoicing, and recognizing and allocating revenue. Billing sits at the heart of that process, and the right billing solution will help keep all of those activities in sync.

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Now you’re ready. You’ve done your due diligences and selected a billing solution. You’re anxious to get started. But before jumping in, here are some things to keep in mind.

It’s Not Just Software

Deploying a new monetization solution is not just about software. In fact, depending on your business model, the software is likely the tip of the iceberg. Your project will touch many people within the company and affect multiple business processes, crossing system, functional, and organizational boundaries.

To support real-time or near real-time customer interactions, systems that might not currently talk to one another will need to be connected. Your new billing system needs to be in sync with CRM, quoting tools, ERP, provisioning, customer portals, and fulfillment to provide your customers with a connected end-to-end experience.

Business processes will also change. For example, new payment methods might require updated dunning processes to handle new payment exception and non-payment scenarios. Added services might require new customer service capabilities or updated on-boarding processes. These are just two examples from a long list of affected processes.

If it sounds like moving to a recurring revenue model might cause some disruption in your business, it will. Your project will require heavy support from internal resourc­es – for design, testing, training, and deployment – potentially pulling busy people away from their day-to-day activities for days or even weeks at a time. Preparing for this business disruption is a critical element for success as it ensures the people and process components are staffed and managed realistically.

Deploying a new billing solution to support recurring revenue monetization is more than just a software project; it’s business transformation.

Incremental Success

Success increases with an incremental ap­proach. Rather than trying to complete the process in one shot, identify your minimum viable solution – the minimum essential functionality needed to get you up and running – and deploy that as a Phase 1 or pilot of your billing project. Phase your project to deliver your minimum solution at launch: then rapidly add features to build out full system capabilities. Your business needs to get to market quickly with new services, and this approach allows you to get up and running faster with less disruption and lower risk.

A successful billing deployment is one that meets your needs at initial launch and provides a plat­form for future growth, giving you the flexibility to offer new products and services as well as the ability to pivot and meet changes in the marketplace.

Bumps In the Road

There are some potential obstacles you’ll encounter that could get in the way of an on-time, on-budget deployment. Awareness of the following will help smooth out the process:

Moving targets/Scope creep – You’re doing something new, so expect evolving requirements. Scope creep puts timelines and budgets at risk. Use strong change management to get to market with a minimum viable product and defer as many changes as possible. Choosing an agile, configurable solution will make future changes easier to manage and deploy..

Integrations – Some integrations look like square pegs with round holes. Minimize the need for customization by choosing a billing system with robust API, reporting, and messaging capabilities and out-of-the-box integrations.

Customization – Avoid customization if at all possible. It threatens your initial timeline and system integrity over time. When it’s absolutely necessary, isolate custom code outside of the core billing system and link with APIs.

Bad legacy data – If you’re migrating legacy data, it’s a given that you’ll find data integrity issues. Start your cleanup early and plan for exceptions to avoid project delays.

Billing system projects are unique, with a large degree of specialized knowledge required around systems, processes, and project management. Do yourself a favor – if you can’t identify a resource in-house with billing project experience, do your research and work with someone who has that knowledge.

After Go-Live

Monetization is an iterative process. You test new offerings and keep what works while changing what doesn’t. You adjust and adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences. If you’ve chosen an agile solution, you’ll be able to configure and change at the pace of your business.

We’ll talk about after go-live, measuring success, and next steps in our final installment.

About the Author

Bob Harden
With expertise in recurring revenue strategies and implementations, former Director of Billing Solutions at Experian, Bob Harden is now founder and principal of The Harden Group. Contact bob.harden@ymail.com or visit www.hardengroup.net.

The Forrester Wave: Subscription Billing Platforms, Q4 2015

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