There has been a spate of articles recently reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ of billing. In most of them we spend some time patting ourselves on the back about how visionary we were, but actually, if you look at real history – and someone found this on the web, which was published in 2003, we got a lot wrong. And there was some stuff that got hijacked for other purposes.
Apparently the young man in the picture said ridiculous things in 1999 like, “3G starts here.” Well, I was only seven years…, well OK, if you live in London we are still waiting for 3G. So, ten years out. We did get some things right though – we saw SMS and MMS leading us into a world of content and value and saw the need to bill for that value, not for megabytes and packets. It is interesting to read that, in 2003, we thought that m-commerce was already a hackneyed phrase. We also completely missed the impact that Apple would have and would have taken bets that the ‘game changer’ would not be a computer manufacturer.
The thing that struck me most about the article, which I think was picked up by our friends at TalkRA, was our invention of the term Revenue Management. We used it to describe where revenue assurance needed to go – not billing. In a real time, value based world we knew – rightly for once – that revenue assurance needed to become pro-active and needed a new term. The term Revenue Assurance, we thought, smelt of audits and old files and dusty offices in the basement. Revenue Management was more positive and wind swept and brought to mind people looking determined and doing something about it.
For as long as I can remember our industry has been trying to find a new word for billing. But billing has always stuck because operators understand it.
But Billing is Billing and is as valid now as it always was. We may focus on different parts of the billing process – real time charging, analytics and policy management – but as one sage ‘way back when’ said, “Billing is where you implement your company’s policy.” Simple. And as one VP of Billing at an enormous carrier said to me when I was discussing new names for billing, “you don’t need a new name, billing is huge. It covers everything from Order Management to Payments. Everything.”
Billing is the process whereby you collect money. Boring it may be, and we may venture beyond billing because to design a billing strategy you need to spend 75% of your time beyond billing, but Billing is Billing and always will be. As the Chairman of the GSMA said, back in 2003 (Ronnie Scott’s, London, late), “it all comes back to Billing.” Yes sir. It does. And we can also agree – the music was definitely good back then.