TELECOM PROVIDERS ARE URGED TO ACT NOW TO CONSOLIDATE BILLING FOR VOICE AND DATA SERVICES
As Providers Introduce Data Services to Grow Revenues, Billing Systems Must Mature to Keep Pace
American Management Systems, Incorporated, now known as CGI-AMS in North America and CGI elsewhere, part of CGI Group Inc. (TSX: GIB.A; NYSE: GIB), is urging telecom providers to act quickly and decisively to consolidate their disparate billing systems as they seek new revenue growth by introducing data services. According to CGI-AMS, billing consolidation is a critical element of a provider's strategy to remain competitive while preparing their billing systems for the future. CGI-AMS will demonstrate the convergent capabilities of their Tapestry® billing and order management suite at TeleStrategies' Billing & OSS World 2004 on May 5-6 at the DC Convention Center, Booth #1030.
Increasing competition has shown that focusing on cost reduction can no longer be a provider's all-encompassing strategy. With voice margins declining, providers are looking for new revenue streams from innovative data-based products. As available network capabilities and bandwidth increase and voice margins decline, attention will turn to the roll-out of brand-new data services on which providers' profitability will increasingly depend.
CGI-AMS believes the challenge to providers is to consolidate their disparate billing systems while introducing new data-based products without incurring a huge capital investment*. To address this, providers can adopt an approach that helps consolidate over time, such as using a “rebiller” that imports data from legacy systems that can gradually become their future billing system. Or, use an “adjunct rater” to supplement some of the existing billing system capabilities, while simultaneously working toward consolidation.
“No telecom provider has the option of hoping customers will buy today's offerings in ten years' time,” said Nazzic Turner, senior vice president of CGI-AMS's communications, media and entertainment practice . “The absence of action today will make it much harder to compete tomorrow.”
“Displaying the innovation, creativity, and market understanding to introduce data-based products will differentiate the leaders from the rest of the pack. A state-of-the-art billing system that handles voice and data services is a key component to offering that vision to customers,” continued Turner.
According to CGI-AMS, data-based billing should enhance customer experience and support the easy definition of business rules. In situations where the actual quality of service is lower than the provisioned one, business rules should determine how the customer can be compensated prior to receiving the bill and calling customer service. Convergent bundles are important, as is offering attractive cross-product discounts.
The speed and efficiency with which new products and services are introduced will be critical to success and essential to maintaining a competitive edge in product innovation . CGI-AMS believes that providers should look for the following attributes in their billing systems to offer data services effectively:
- Flexibility is paramount. Providers must be able to react to the unpredictable. Future billing system choice cannot be based on current requirements, as these are bound to change quickly. Billing system suppliers should be challenged to articulate their products' other features .
- Look for modularity . A monolithic end-to-end offering takes too long to implement and, should you need to, replace. Even if you buy everything from one supplier, find out how modular the solution is and how easily parts of it can be replaced. Modularity can speed up deployment and allows providers to put into production quickly the part of the new system that addresses the biggest “pain point.”
- Speed and efficiency — look for convergence support with minimal time to market. Billing systems should be able to support product bundles with voice and data products rated on multiple parameters and supporting cross-discounting between voice- and data-based offerings. As time to market is the competitive edge, providers should be able to define such convergent products swiftly and without the need for extra programming/IT effort.
“Utilizing a flexible, modular, truly convergent rating and billing infrastructure is essential for profiting from the explosion in data services,” summed up Turner. “Tapestry, in conjunction with our Partner Business Suite to handle relationships with data providers , provides that capability today.”
Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent information technology and business process services firms in North America . CGI and its affiliated companies employ approximately 25,000 professionals. CGI provides end-to-end IT and business process services to clients worldwide from offices in Canada , the United States , Europe , Asia Pacific as well as from centers of excellence in India and Canada . CGI's annualized revenue run rate is currently CDN$3.7 billion (US$2.7 billion). CGI's shares are listed on the TSX (GIB.A) and the NYSE (GIB) and are included in the S&P/TSX Composite Index as well as the S&P/TSX Capped Information Technology and MidCap Indices. Website: www.cgi.com.