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Bodsworth on Billing

Posted on:Tuesday April 18, 2017

Comms Dealer billing feature
Inform Billing in the April edition of Comms Dealer magazine

We were delighted to be included in the latest edition of Comms Dealer magazine – where Shaun gave his views on billing market trends and how these relate back to our services. You can find the feature (replicated below) on page 46 of the April issue:

Bodsworth on Billing

Inform Billing greeted the dawn of 2017 with an almost ritual pledge to invest significantly in product development, ploughing in 45 per cent of total revenues this year, up five per cent on the past two years and on the back of doubled revenues over the same period. And according to Managing Director Shaun Bodsworth, the company’s appetite to drive growth and gain greater market share has never been sharper.

At the very core of Derbyshire based Inform Billing’s company philosophy is a belief in the importance of independent billing propositions for resellers rather than network or aggregator provided options, which in conjunction with other market approaches taken by Bodsworth creates a safe pair of hands for businesses of all sizes. “Demand for our bureau services has continued to grow,” stated Bodsworth. “More and more resellers of all sizes are happier to take advice and guidance from us and use our bureau billing team as an extension of their own. This is reflected in the fact that Inform Billing now provides a bureau service to over 70 customers. It’s often the additional support and guidance that we provide that gives us the edge on our competition.”

Bodsworth also noted an increase in the number of IT providers expanding into voice resale with VoIP and SIP propositions. “But these new entrants often treat voice as a value-add rather than an additional profit stream,” added Bodsworth. “In time this may lead to an erosion of revenue and profit from telecoms, leading to a decline in service quality and investment. This is relevant to billing because we are closely involved in the delivery of the commercial contract – the tariffs. It can also impact on a billing partner’s profitability where commercials are based on billing revenue.”

Challenges
With the advent of SIP, Bodsworth is also seeing an increasing number of fledgling VoIP providers ‘colliding’ with the feature set that is available to them. He explained: “By this I mean that the broad functionality that is available in a hosted VoIP platform, such as number spoofing, and the ease in which this can be switched on and off and transferred, is causing significant challenges to the billing industry because of the lack of traditional unique identifiers, or billing CLIs.”

Cloud is also a big trend, with most of Inform Billing’s customers opting for its cloud-hosted platform. “Billing of cloud-based services is also starting to gather momentum,” stated Bodsworth. “Collation of data relating to Infrastructure as a Service, such as hosted licensing and cloud backups, is challenging for the providers of those services, which in-turn has knockon effects for resellers and their billing partners. We need to work together to facilitate the billing of cloudbased services by utilising the experience and maturity of the telecoms industry.”

Against this backdrop, billing providers such as Inform Billing ensure that they are able to adapt their solutions to other areas outside of traditional telecoms. “In some instances this is simply a case of terminology within our software to make it less specific, but at times requires further product development to accommodate these additional or alternative services,” said Bodsworth.

Key role 

The role of a billing provider has always been a combination of providing a software solution as well as training and support to maximise the feature set of the software. In recent times there has been shift towards ‘Billing as a Service’ whereby resellers, both small and large, are looking for a more outsourced service that is affordable and scalable.

“This can be for a variety of reasons,” noted Bodsworth. “A small start-up reseller may purely want to focus on selling and technical support while an established reseller with significant
revenues will always be nervous about the scale of revenue reliant on one or two members of staff.”

This is one reason why Bodsworth believes that the role of a billing software specialist will continue to evolve into that of a much needed solution provider. “We have always trained and supported resellers to become self-sufficient with their billing and increase control and visibility over their customer base,” he commented. “But a clear trend can be seen in the growing number of resellers who recognise the value in adopting our bureau billing services.”

For many years one of the biggest headaches facing billing providers, resellers and more broadly the industry as a whole, is the way in which billing data is produced and understood. “As a member of the FCS Billing Group we have worked with our peers to encourage the standardisation of formats,” commented Bodsworth. “To some extent this has helped the industry. However, there are still different interpretations of the ‘standardised’ format and many providers still do their own thing.

“Over the longer-term Inform Billing will continue to evolve its service in-line with the needs of the telecoms industry, but we will also pursue opportunities that we identify outside of our traditional customer base where our skills and software can be transferred. For example, we already provide billing services to clients operating in the healthcare, security, hospitality and banking industries.”

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