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Nice Idea, But You Can’t Do It That Way - Cloud Billing Through the Fog

The term agile is a good description of what businesses need from their billing systems in order to meet the challenges

A recent Forbes article by Andrew Dailey at MGi Research reinforces the importance of "agile billing" to businesses that are serious about creating new revenue streams, meeting customers' needs and doing it fast and well.

The term agile is a good description of what businesses need from their billing systems in order to meet these challenges. At MetraTech, we've been an agile billing solution from day one with our "metadata-based" approach, which is what makes MetraNet flexible and responsive as well as business model and industry agnostic. So "agile" is a good description of how the system should perform and "metadata" is how the billing system actually delivers the agility. Metadata enables you to configure your data model, transaction processing, and user interface through web services compliant APIs and, as a result, enables the billing system to conform to your business model and existing systems. No need to compromise, you can simply innovate.

Recently we have seen (and commented on) an upsurge of breathless comment on the age-old concept of subscription billing, as if subscriptions were a new idea. Of course, any services company that relies on subscription pricing models only (or even mostly) is likely to be ill-prepared for the future as described by Andrew that includes cloud mashups, digital services and Internet of Things. A subscription-heavy service model is not an agile service model. So it was amusing to see that upon the Forbes article being published, one billing vendor put out a press release commending Forbes for their keen observation that the world needed agile billing and that as the inventor of cloud billing (maybe they've been taking pointers from Al Gore, the inventor of the Internet and from the inventor of subscription billing), the world was ready for their type of agile billing.

So you have to ask yourself, if it takes metadata to be agile and flex and change to capture new revenue streams, be responsive to customers, change business models, roll out services in weeks not months, and give customers freedom to run their business the way they want, how do other billing systems fare on the agility front? The answer is not so well. Most billing and for that matter ERP systems expect a customer to flex and be agile in fitting their business model into what the systems can and can't provide.

In contrast, the agile business constantly takes into account all pricing and charging options from subscriptions to one off purchases to usage and consumption models, unconstrained by the limitations of the billing system they use. The first time your IT department tells the product or sales team, "Nice idea, but the billing system can't do it that way ..." then you know that you don't have an agile billing system, you have a service innovation blocker: It blocks the way to creativity, change, customer satisfaction, and profits. And it allows IT to keep saying ‘no.' Too bad, you just have to stick with what we can make work.

Although we know that MetraNet was one of the first systems to see action in the field of cloud billing, we don't actually claim to have invented cloud billing. It is a fundamental characteristic of an agile billing system that it doesn't have to be recoded or rebuilt to meet the needs of a new type of service, or a new business model, or a new type of settlement for a partner deal. If there's a billable event out there that can be captured, then your billing system should be able to bill for it, and do so under any pricing/rating regime, no matter how weird the discounts or premiums. Agile, don't you think?

We are proud to deliver business agility to customers across industry verticals that rely on us to be their service innovation engine and believe these customers can speak to our agility far better than we could ever do:

Concur (largest SaaS ERP provider): "With MetraNet, Concur has a large degree of agility in not having to form fit a business model into its system but rather to do the reverse so that the infrastructure and combinations of business processes can come together however the business evolves."

TELMORE (most competitive MVNO in the world with the a Net Promoter Score of +58): "MetraTech understands our pain points and its MetraNet solution can address market demand for the highest levels of customer responsiveness while simultaneously enabling us to deliver the innovative solutions that our customers want."

Guarulhos (GRU) International Airport, São Paulo (largest airport in Latin America): "The ability of MetraNet to be easily configured to support all of our business models in record time made it possible for this milestone to occur. The ease of use and high visibility also helped us to quickly make any adjustments necessary to comply with regulatory rules during certification."

Cetip (leading marketplace for private fixed income securities and over the counter derivatives): "We believe that the right billing system is the flexible backbone on which we will continue to build a successful future; one that will en­able us to support increasingly complex and varied products and services. In MetraTech, we have found a partner who will meet our needs both immediately and into the future."

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of OSS software, now part of Extreme Networks (Nasdaq:EXTR). At Avici Systems (Nasdaq:AVCI), Esmeralda was Vice President of Marketing for the networking pioneer from startup through its successful IPO. Early in her career, she was a Director at IDC, where she led the network consulting practice and worked with startup and leading software and hardware companies, and Wall Street clients on product and market strategies. Esmeralda holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Marketing and International Business from Northeastern University.

You can view her other blogs at www.metratech.com/blog.

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