It seems, shockingly, that operators are no more on top of the billing systems mess than they were some years ago. In fact, the situation, according to a recent survey by Mobile Europe, has got dramatically worse.
The reason for the mess, according to the report, is that telecoms has grown by acquisition rather than organic growth, and, as we know, that tends to make the “spaghetti” IT problem worse.
Yet we thought that the situation was probably improving, as operators are now used to continually modernizing and automating their billing and BSS stacks. Indeed, we were encouraged to hear that the end point for most IT transformations is actually the beginning of the next cycle.
The statistics from this report are extraordinary. Fully 20% of the operators surveyed have between 50 and 249 billing management systems – and 10% have more than 1,000. Even allowing for the number of Excel spreadsheets still sitting in billing managers’ desk drawers, that is a lot more than during the Global Billing Association days when the most was 149 billing systems within one operator (no, it wasn’t that one).
It is no surprise then that it is estimated that by 2019 the telecom billing and revenue management market will be worth $11.78 billion.
The problem is only partly financial – it is, as we know, mainly political. If you have several systems, choosing which to keep and which to dump is either tedious and drawn-out, or quick, brutal and painful. As one VP of IT said some years ago, “You have to move quickly, cut deeply and repair things later.” otherwise you won’t get it down.
There is also the question of how many billing systems you should aim for.
The easy, and almost always wrong, answer is: one. But your auditors will rebel at that idea, and by the time you get to about a dozen, management has got bored and is spending money on sexier stuff like omnichannel customer service apps.
It is a sobering thought that, while the world has moved on amid discussions of green field operations and adjunct systems, the old billing minefield is still out there and needs to be addressed.