Digital evolution is creating a billing revolution (finally!)

18 Feb 2016

In the last few months it seems that the telco world has finally gritted its digital teeth. The digital revolution has come, but for a long time there was the usual telco attitude, one that Douglas Adams once described as putting up a “somebody else’s problem (SEP) field". That, it seems, has changed. According to one vendor of real-time BSS functionality, they have gone from busy to super-busy since the holiday season.

There was, obviously, the realization that things needed to change and change quickly. The difference is that the political will is now there and speed is of the essence.

The other thing that has changed dramatically is the telco attitude to IT. The need to overhaul ancient legacy systems, the luxury of long-term roadmaps and the dominance of IT departments over IT systems are becoming things of the past.

Success in the digital world is now driven by business. And the business is now saying that it needs to cut through the roadmaps, legacy and out-of-date processes and, basically, start afresh.

There are, of course, those who moved early. Players such as Telefonica and Telstra are well-documented examples of telcos that were first to the digital table. Others – many others – are now following.

An approach that is becoming popular is to ignore the past and implement systems that allow the telco to interact with customers the way that they want to be interacted with, which is “now” or whenever they choose. And they also want to pay in the same manner.

The downside is that our old friends in the billing department are going to be under the spotlight. Not only does the business need to become agile to meet the immediate demands of the digital era, it needs to cut costs. And when it sees a massive team of people supporting out-of-date systems that send bills out once a month, the realization sets in that there is a choice: invest in systems, processes and people that are supporting an out-of-date business model, or invest in systems, processes and people that are supporting the new business model (and for potentially far less cost).

The good news – the very good news – is that the telco world is buying stakes at the digital table, and against the grain of current comment, we believe that they are now up for the fight.

The bad news is that the old models, processes, people and systems are coming under intense scrutiny, yet again. Let us hope that the peripheral skills that seasoned billing people have – like analytics, data curation, cleaning and care – will stand them in good stead.

This may be the end of billing, as we knew it, but hopefully not the end for billing people.

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