A meeting that involves a majority of operators is never going to disappoint. Getting the perspective of billing and IT professionals whose focus is producing accurate, timely bills while cutting costs and launching new services is hugely refreshing.
The topics at the ETIS Billing and Revenue Management Group hosted by Turkcell in Istanbul covered a wide range of topics. From online billing; to convergence; to Direct Operator Billing to views and opinions on legacy systems produced an agenda that is both familiar and fresh.
There was envy – as one operator admitted to just 17 percent of customers adopting online billing, which is costing him tens of millions of euros a year in paper and postage. He had just listened to another operator who could boast of 85 percent of bills being paperless, which saves him tens of millions of euros every year. The difference in cost and cost saving was approaching €100 million.
As operators converge billing platforms to reduce costs and reduce bad debt, and as third party billing becomes more popular, the goal has to be to optimize the bill, not just simplify it. If bills are too simple, this will cause as much confusion as overly-complex ones. Bill optimization can bring with it practical and concrete opportunities for realizing that ancient goal – of using the bill as a positive customer touch point and therefore a genuine marketing tool.
There was irony, for BillingViews at least, as three operators privately admitted to migrating large segments of their customer bases onto older – not newer – systems. While the strategy is always to reduce and simplify, this sometimes mean going in unlikely directions, such as back onto old trusty systems. And reduction of core systems often comes with several new ones appearing, as if by magic. The good news is that now operators are truly understanding that there is no ‘end game,’ that IT systems will need to constantly evolve – and that makes the process easier and easier as the planning includes that concept.
There were insights into current CIO thinking too, with a plan emerging of a joint session at the next meeting. CIOs, who suffer from that culture of a five year IT strategy are increasingly challenged by the fact that Google and others do not want to even see beyond a six month window.
Their opinion of operators is ‘if they cannot keep up, they will be left behind.’ OTT players want to partner but need agile operators to do so.
Meanwhile the CMOs biggest challenge is working with the CIO – and probably vice versa – according to half of CMOs recently interviewed by IQPC.
There were other issues discussed which deserve their own articles, and obviously a major one is the sheer volume of data that is now pouring through mobile networks. One operator reported data usage up by 40 percent in the last year and according to customer data in the US, data allocations are being used up, rather than left in credit, because of the roll out of LTE. These give rise to some serious challenges for both the OSS and BSS sides of the house – if such terms still exist.