Pipeline Publishing, Volume 3, Issue 1
This Month's Issue: 
Balancing Billing 
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Like Clockwork
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By Pano Anthos, President and CEO of Pantero

New Approaches to OSS/BSS Integration

Billing is about managing complexity and responding to ever increasing demands to make things simple, transparent and easy to understand. Billing is an evolving sequence of IT and data tactics designed to reduce the number of connections, systems and structures necessary to operate telcos efficiently and aggregate and report critical data clearly and speedily.

Billing lies at the nexus of every telco operational system. Billing cues provisioning, informs CRM, authorizes service access, drives customer care, fuels finance, tax and forecasting and populates critical fields in every management dashboard. Billing has to communicate simultaneously with multiple systems within an enterprise and between enterprises and its partners and vendors. So it’s no wonder that 80 percent of the time, energy and resources assigned to billing go into data integration.

Since many telcos have grown through mergers or acquisitions the problem has been compounded by the almost constant need to integrate and update disparate systems. Until recently there have been only two basic approaches for stitching together different systems -- point to point connections or installing/building one master system. But both have severe limitations which add new complications as they attempt to solve immediate problems.

The point-to-point tactic is straightforward. You connect systems together by mapping the relevant fields to each other. You can’t really get a global view of things but you can move data across the enterprise. Typically, all of the applications involved in the integration get together and pound out a message standard that is agreed to by everyone. Any change to this standard must be agreed to and adhered to by everyone ---a process that quickly becomes unwieldy.

"The trouble is that each time you make a change, you have to replicate the change in each connected system, a process that quickly becomes unwieldy. "

Each connection has to be tested with each transmission since there are no simulating tests in the design tools provided by integration technologies today. Meanwhile, the number of interfaces grows exponentially as each new system is added.  Over time you end up with a ragged collection of connected systems that resemble a Rube Goldberg contraption that requires more and more energy, resources and time to update.

The master data warehouse approach has a certain logic and conceptual elegance to it. Rather than connect all the pipes, you run all the pipes into a single, new database where it’s easier to sort everything out. The problem is that migrating operational and billing data into such a grand system takes forever to implement, costs a fortune, is rarely ever completed and even when finished is difficult to manage and difficult to change quickly in response to changing marketplace or regulatory needs. No sooner is the customer hub built then it has to be adapted to include yet another merger!

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