Catalysts of a billing revolution

Strategic Imperatives MD Wail Sabbagh sheds light on the catalysts changing the game for billing specialists and channel partners.

What were your goals in 2023?
Last year we expanded the Elevate billing and Fibre Cafe platforms, increased our investment in new features and welcomed new talent to the team. We set ambitious targets for Elevate and surpassed one million monthly invoices generated, introduced a major update to our payment automation capabilities and prepared for the launch of our business intelligence engine, Elevate Insight, which follows a multi-million-pound investment and over two years of dedicated development. This AI engine transforms billing data into a strategic resource, driving revenue optimisation, proactive pricing management and predictive modelling.

What are your objectives and priorities this year?
Our merger with X3T earlier this year was transformative, boosting our resources and expertise, accelerating our product roadmap and strengthening our ability to innovate. Another primary focus this year is to further invest in Elevate’s capabilities to address the complexities and scaling requirements of our rapidly evolving market. This includes driving innovation through AI with Elevate Insight as a cornerstone of our strategy. We’re committed to transforming how clients leverage data, enabling them to rapidly identify trends, mitigate revenue leaks, optimise pricing strategies and unlock data-driven growth potential.

Which industry trends are defining your strategy?
Several trends are reshaping the billing landscape and directly drive our roadmap, such as the evolution of traditional service providers into MSPs demanding billing flexibility to support digital offerings, innovative bundles and evolving revenue models. This evolution, combined with industry disruptions like the PSTN switch-off and One Touch Switching, is accelerating consolidation at an unprecedented pace, creating a complex environment for service providers managing multiple brands and migrating customer bases. Supporting smooth mergers and acquisitions ensures service providers can execute growth strategies without billing disruption.

We also see next generation ISPs seeking seamless automation across the entire lead-to-cash process. They require billing systems with robust APIs for managing tariffs, complex propositions, invoicing, payments and balance tracking.

Surprisingly, even with the shift away from traditional voice, consumption or usage-based billing has resurged. This renaissance is fuelled by flexible charging models aligned with new digital services and increasing customer demand for pay-as-you-go options. Naturally, subscription billing continues its rapid expansion, driving the need for sophisticated contract management features capable of handling complex subscription models.

What is your biggest opportunity?
Our primary opportunity is strategically expanding Elevate’s reach across the diverse channel ecosystem. Traditional billing solutions often fail to meet the complex needs of a diverse channel. This includes Altnets and ISPs seeking seamless platform integration as well as highly acquisitive MSPs with demanding multi-brand and consolidation requirements. Our success with Fibre Café, and the adoption of Elevate by ISPs and MSPs has provided us with insights into the billing challenges they face and the opportunities we need to help them realise.

What are the key conclusions from analysis of your billing data?
Our analysis reveals several areas of experimentation within the channel that we believe will drive the next phase of billing innovation. Firstly, we see a new breed of service providers focusing on niche markets, targeting specific service needs or geographic locations. Success in these specialised segments often demands tailored product offerings and a flexible billing approach.

We also see a rise in what we call micro-subscriptions, where clients experiment with ultra-short durations or services priced on a granular per-week, per-hour or per-minute basis. This places extraordinary demands on billing systems, requiring real-time accuracy and the flexibility to handle dynamic pricing models. Another compelling trend is the growing use of hybrid billing models where providers creatively combine usage-based and subscription pricing elements.

What are the top three billing requirements from resellers and MSPs today?
Firstly, automation and streamlining are paramount. Resellers prioritise systems that automate invoice generation, recurring billing and payment processing. This significantly reduces errors and minimises manual tasks across multiple platforms. Secondly, data-driven insights have become vital for strategic decision making. Resellers need in-depth reporting and intelligent actionable analytics to track sales trends, customer churn, profitability and to generate forecasts. Thirdly, agility and adaptability are crucial in a rapidly evolving market. Resellers demand billing solutions flexible enough to introduce new pricing models, handle complex bundles and support diverse subscription options.

What other factors should resellers and MSPs consider when evaluating billing software?
They should evaluate a billing solution’s security and compliance posture, focusing on robust encryption, compliance certifications, audit trails and granular access controls – all crucial to protect sensitive financial and customer data. Prioritising the end user experience is also vital, along with choosing a vendor that understands the industry and offers proactive support. Evaluate factors like response times, knowledge of industry-specific requirements, access to resources like a knowledge base, and their overall reputation among existing clients. Consider the provider’s innovation roadmap to gauge their ability to keep pace with future needs, and assess their scalability and the extent of their future-proofing. Because the channel will also witness greater consolidation and strategic partnerships, billing systems must evolve beyond transactional tools into facilitators of these complex relationships.

The coming years demand a holistic understanding of how billing integrates with the wider partner experience and fuels data-driven success. Billing providers who grasp this will shape the channel’s evolution.

How far will AI ultimately transform billing platforms and the user experience?
AI holds the potential to shift billing’s role from merely transactional to strategically insightful. AI-powered billing systems can identify anomalies within transactions, usage patterns and customer behaviour, enabling fraud detection, proactive revenue safeguarding and opportunities to improve services. AI’s predictive capabilities can forecast revenue, model resource demand and even anticipate customer churn. Intelligent analysis can reveal untapped markets, underperforming products, or opportunities for personalised product recommendations.

AI will also enable hyper-automation of complex billing processes and shift our view of billing systems from merely back-office utilities to customer-centric sources of business intelligence and competitive advantage. AI is more than a buzzword: It’s a foundational philosophy of product development.

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