Confessions of a Billing Addict

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I LOVE BILLING.

Whew. There, I said it. For the longest time, I held back my passion. Would people judge me for agonizing over the merits of On-Premise vs. Cloud Billing? Walk away at cocktail parties when I tried to relate Revenue Recognition with the latest Miley Cyrus single? Silently shoot daggers my way for extolling the virtues of 1980’s-era AS/400 billing platforms?

Today, billing is the new black. I don’t even know what that really means, but I think it sounds good. And I hear cool people talk about some Orange is the New Black TV show, which I don’t watch, because, well… I am in billing.

Confessions of a Billing Addict

But I digress.

Thankfully, some savvy marketing folks have come along and put up some cool new monikers to describe billing. We have ‘Revenue Billing Management.’ We have ‘Enabling New Monetization Strategies,’ which has a nice ring to it. ‘Powering the Subscription Economy’ is a good one. ‘Quote to Cash’ is picking up steam as well.

Whatever you call it, billing has always been around, but companies are finding that now – more than ever – good billing is a central accelerator or roadblock to their rapidly evolving business environment. There is a whole new group of people who are interested in the phrases Speed to Market, Bundling, Daily Usage Processing, Real-Time Rating, Upsell/Cross-sell, In-Prorate/Out-Prorate, Product Catalog, and Customer Hierarchy.

What is the allure of Billing? Why my 20+ year fascination with this topic?

Loving billing reminds me of that T-shirt that high school track and cross country runners wear that says, “My sport is your sport’s punishment!” I think that what I like about billing is that it is where the rubber meets the road. A company’s opportunity pipeline can be filled with Contenders and Pretenders. Quote begins to get a little more serious, as promises are being made to customers. Contracts, of course, must be very precise, but even they are often open to interpretation.

But then billing happens – and you’d better be right. Money changes hands. You generally can’t gain customers’ trust with billing, but you can lose it pretty quickly. As companies move to deeper relationships with their customers, keeping their trust becomes a top priority.

At ATG, we take billing very seriously. We always have. From custom COBOL/DB2 systems in the ’80s, to the fresh-faced packaged billers of the ’90s, to the monolithic billing suites of the early 2000s, and to the snazzy Cloud Billers of today, ATG has been working as expert practitioners implementing billing systems, rationalizing product catalogs, building integrations, converting data, and balancing to the penny.

ATG is building a Billing Factory (Along with kissing cousins CRM and CPQ, but those are subjects of another blog). Our consultants are constantly researching new billing technologies. We take our decades of best practices in billing, pair them with the latest in cloud-based technologies, and are working on defining the newest generation of billing solutions.

But enough about us, let’s get back to billing.

Over the next several months, we will be writing on a number of topics that relate to Cloud Billing. Specifically, we will be publishing key components of ATG’s proprietary framework for evaluating Billing Systems. Yes, that’s right – a consulting company sharing some secret sauce! Blasphemy!

We feel that our industry is at an inflection point and the new ‘Best Practices’ model for cloud billing is forming around us as we speak. There is a dearth of practical information out there to help clients make good buying and implementation decisions in this space. It is equally challenging for vendors to assimilate all the evolving business models and figure out where they are going to steer their product roadmaps.

In the old days, the Big Telco drove roadmaps – often straight into the ground. We have an opportunity to shape our future in this space, through informed dialogue and sharing of information and experiences. I hope you will consider jumping into the dialogue. Stay tuned for next week’s post – Four Critical Categories for Evaluating Cloud Billing Systems.

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Tom Stergios

Tom Stergios is the Vice President of Quote to Cash for Advanced Technology Group (ATG) and the general manager of the Missoula Solution Center. Tom has more than 25 years of experience with service providers in billing and the quote-to-cash space.