Kirill Rechter is the Chief Executive Officer of LogNet Billing. He is an expert in designing and implementing modern billing solutions for prominent telecommunications and utilities service providers worldwide.
In a recent interview with Tara Neal, the Executive Editor of The Fast Mode, Kirill explains the evolution of telecom billing over the last 30 years and how the advent of the 5G era and the rise of the digital service provider(DSP) is pushing telcos to step up their billing capabilities to cater for the continuous growth in the breadth and depth of their services portfolio.
Tara Neal: You have been involved in billing for over twenty years now. How has the telecoms billing space changed over these years?
Kirill Rechter: Yes, twenty six years is a long time and of course a lot has changed in the billing space over this time.
When I first started in this business, telcos and vendors were talking about convergent billing. Convergence was the ability for a telco to process multiple billing records and formats in one data stream in order to produce a single consolidated invoice. At the time, this was a great technological and operational step forward. Prior to convergence, telcos that offered more than one service had to implement parallel billing systems for each service.
Multi-play billing for digital service providers
From convergent billing evolved the concept of multi-play billing. Whereas convergence allowed telcos to offer diversified products of the same service or network type, multi-play focused on allowing a telco to expand its product offerings to include services from different network types. With multi-play infrastructure, telcos were able to transition into communications service providers(CSPs).
Today, billing is a strategic part of the current transformation going on in the industry from CSPs to DSPs. Strong customer relationships, more business partnerships and better service agility are some of the drivers for digital transformation for which strong billing is essential.
Tara Neal: Where are the growth opportunities in telecoms billing and from where is the demand coming?
Kirill Rechter: Many telcos around the world are currently adopting omni-channel strategies as part of this digital transformation and ongoing efforts to improve customer experience. Self-service capabilities through digital portals on web sites and mobile apps are being planned and rolled out by service providers of all sizes. Here, we see that there is a strong demand for incorporating billing processes and workflows.
At the same time, we are experiencing a strong demand for B2B billing and partner reconciliation capabilities that allow our service provider customers to offer content and value added services from third party partners. We see these capabilities as an important part of a multi-play operation.
Tara Neal: Given these changes in the telecoms sector, have service providers adjusted their approaches to billing operations and support systems?
Kirill Rechter: As part of the current transformation processes, many telcos are embracing modern technologies as part of their efforts to both improve customer service and reduce costs. Here, many telcos are taking greater ownership of the technology lifecycle and roadmap of the OSS and BSS systems they use. Many are redefining how they work with vendors and in many cases are increasing the amount of software development they are bringing in-house.
The Cloud and virtualization are central pillars of many technology transformation strategies and projects. On the network side, many telcos have already started to shift some functions into the Cloud. However, the vision of combining separate architectures into a common platform and operating it at scale is still a way off.
The current situation for billing systems is similar to many IT systems in general. Telcos are starting to deploy digital capabilities in their customer-facing systems and migrating away from legacy billing and charging platforms because of costs, complexity, difficult vendor relationships and the lack of a clear return on investment. Similarly, telcos are beginning to use big data analytics and artificial intelligence for billing purposes, but these are still in the early stages of development.
Tara Neal: Can you share any insight or advice for telecoms providers that are looking to improve their billing activities?
Kirill Rechter: Any billing related project should begin with defining the strategic goals. These goals can be business related, such as entering new service markets, or marketing related, such as improving service agility, or customer service related, such as offering an omni-channel customer experience.
After this, the business processes and best practices within the billing operation that are required to achieve the strategic goals should be defined. Processes and workflows should be automated as much as possible.
What should not be done is just focusing on replacing the billing system or adding a few new features. This will lead to an endless migration project that will not deliver any tangible value.
For any billing project, delivering maximum value as soon as possible into the project is highly recommended. This means that the initial focus should be on the main strategical points and areas that deliver the maximum return-on-investment for the project.
An example of this is when an innovative product or service is launched and it has to be done fast to beat the competition to market. It usually pays off to initially launch a new service to friendly customers with off-the-shelf business processes and optimize them on the go, while confirming the business proposition and scaling in customer numbers.
I always recommend to our customers to view our company not as just a billing vendor, but rather as a strategic partner in the success of our service provider customer. We have been in the billing space for over twenty years and our experience can be leveraged to support the success of our customer's growth strategies.
Tara Neal: Does this advice apply to other service industries?
Kirill Rechter: Yes, this advice is certainly applicable to other service industries, especially in markets where there is strong competition for utilities services.
For instance, in competitive markets, well-established companies use new brands to launch innovation-based services. To do this, they contract multi-play solutions to avoid starting lengthy projects to incorporate new services to their legacy systems. This provides the freedom to innovate in product definition, business processes and improved customer experience.
Tara Neal: What can the telecoms market expect from LogNet Billing in the coming twelve months?
Kirill Rechter: We are currently working on a new Billing-as-a-Service platform that will give service providers a fast and reliable solution for implementing new services and addressing new business segments without a lengthy billing replacement project. This new platform will run in parallel to legacy billing systems, be implemented as a microservice and available from the Cloud.
We are adding chat bots and other machine learning capabilities connected to customer experience workflows, web portals, messaging applications and social platforms.
On the business side, I am happy to say that we have a strong pipeline and the demand for our MaxBill solution is continuing to grow in the telco market as well as in other service industries, including the competitive energy and water markets and online gaming sector.