Billing for Service Providers is a critical process which unfortunately often ends up being complex and manual – usually mastered by few individuals who end up with a monthly recurring appointment of stress and anxiety.
I have talked to a number of customers and am very much aware that although the Atria system has all the information needed for billing, it’s not always easy to get it out into a usable form. We hence set out to try and improve the situation – for the past few months we have put many hours of thought into how we can improve billing, we have implemented changes and are now working through testing prior to our release.
This article just goes through some of the core features of the changes we’ve made and the problems we are trying to solve.
One source for billing
Atria now collates billing changes centrally –we have removed the dependency on the datawarehouse and are keeping all changes in the core Atria database. Changes are collated as part of provisioning processes. This means that billing detail can be recreated at any time without needing to worry about batch jobs failing to run.
From the changes tracked, Atria will now generate transactions which can be used to form the basis of invoice lines on a bill. We have not gone as far as generating invoices, however on a monthly basis the system will prepare transaction lines in detailed and summary forms. Detailed items are for example “John Smith, had a Standard Desktop”, Summary items aggregate all of the detailed items – e.g. “StandardDesktops 24”.
We have added the capability to flag transaction lines as non-billable. In reality there are many reasons why some services will not get charged. Our rules engine allows you to define flexible rules which will help ensure billing is more accurate and to allow you to streamline your month end processes. Tracking and storing reasons for not billing helps users understand changes that have been made.
Regenerate Billing Records
Atria is able to regenerate billing records and re-apply policy, so if you need to review and make changes to policy, you can do this and then regenerate transactions prior to generating invoices.
Transparency of Changes
Changes which impact billing are often the cause of conflict between providers and their customers, trying to understand why a customer was billed for 18 test accounts, or confidently knowing which person made the change and when.
Atria will allow both end customer and service provider users to see changes that have been made and when they made it.
We have added simple pages for accessing the billing transaction data – this allows you to find transactions for a particular month or customer, as well as view summary changes – including overall changes in quantity from one month to the next.
You can generate simple output in Excel format, this can then be used to either perform further analysis, feed into PowerBI or to import into a finance system.
A new REST based API is there to allow you to integrate into other systems, a simple JSON format provides summary and detailed information. A core view can be used to extract the core data needed to send into an invoicing system, including Customer name and address, Account reference and transaction lines (including SKU’s and quantities)
Flexibility for direct and indirect sales
Through configuration, the system allows each customer to refer to a different “bill to customer” – this allows customers to be either directly billed by the service provider, or the invoice to be charged to the end-customers reseller. Configuration for billing can be defaulted at the reseller level to make ongoing management of tenants easy.
Configurable Patterns for Invoice Line Items
As everybody has different requirements, we have designed the system to allow textual patterns to be specified for transaction line items and summary lines. This allows you to change the wording and add/remove detail from the invoice and summary items.
This is the first step we are making to improve billing. Services such as our new Office 365 module will provide data into the same billing feed. Similarly, if you have custom services, these will all automatically generate data into this common billing feed.
This new billing capability is part of the Refresh release, and coming soon.