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The Great Billing Bake Off

Already this week I’ve seen and heard several industry peers use the phrase “bake off” in reference to the act of comparing two parties’ capabilities. Don’t get me wrong, I hold no malice towards the now famous TV show and you’ll be hard pressed to find a man who can eat more Viennese Whirls in a minute than I. It’s just that the term has taken root so fast that I find so irksome.

Competition is a healthy and necessary factor in any business sector and within the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry there’s a burgeoning set of solutions to compare within every vertical of every sector for the majority of a business’s software needs – sales, marketing automation, ERP, accounting…the list goes on. On the face of it with marketing wheels at full spin that indeed may be true, but as a collective industry I think we have to be very cautious to not flush the market with empty promises that will destabilise the belief in SaaS as a strategy and mark some wonderfully laid plans with the moniker of a bubble, fit to burst.

If you search for ‘billing’ for example, on one of the three major cloud ecosystems, or ‘cloud billing’ on any major search engine, you will find nigh on 100 companies touting their wares. However, on closer inspection you will find this listing includes not just billing systems, but also a mix of payment providers and some commerce engines. Not to take the air out of their collective soufflés but it would be easy to argue these are just parts of the machine needed to deliver a billing solution, and lots of parts not intelligently brought together do not make a solution.

This also highlights a fundamental problem with how products and vendors are categorised, essentially with any company able to choose how and where their product is listed and making it ever harder for buyers to know if they are comparing apples with apples.

OK, so maybe I am being a tad snobby - “billingist” was once roared at me when debating the finer points of revenue assurance at an expo; but with our huge heritage and experience in this sector we can quickly see through the marketing and get down to the detail of addressing real customer need.

Billing as a discipline has evolved enormously over the past 20 years that we’ve been in the business, and the emergence of cloud technology has definitely made it much more accessible. However, it remains an immensely important function within any business that uses a subscription or periodically charged/metered pricing model, and one that should not be taken lightly. It’s ultimately the mechanism for getting cash in the bank.

So unless your billing solution is highly capable from customer capture to payments, and to recover outstanding debt from those pesky non-payers who need a collections process, you will not have all the necessary links in the chain to assure, protect and maximise your revenue.

So when you are doing your ‘bake off’ in the cloud billing market, make sure you have the capability to run the full end-to-end billing process in your chosen solution, not just a disparate set of elements. Cerillion Skyline is our Star Baker, but don’t take my word for it, why not just give it a go?

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