We’ve just had one Partner (the Billing Bureau word for “customer”) recently merge an acquired customer base into their retail billing environment, with another two of them recently announcing acquisitions, so the topic of billing migrations is high on my mind. While there is not a lot of consolidation at the bigger end of town, there has been a reasonable activity of this nature among smaller CSPs and ISPs.
The first one went very smoothly indeed. The Partner used our XML interface to upload all the customer data into our system, and they were automatically churned over to his wholesale account. This is “migration by churn”, and is probably one of the easiest methods around. The drawback is that customers will receive a (first) bill from the new system, and in the same month, a final bill from the old system.
One of the risks in any acquisition is the churn away of customers who are disrupted or unhappy as a result of being moved. Things that disrupt customers are a bill that suddenly looks different, that comes at a different time of the month, that includes monthly charges that are not consistent with a previous bill, and so on. Naturally, you want to make the migration completely invisible to the customer if possible.
So another methodology is to have the bill from the new system come out looking as similar as possible to the old one. But this means you must transfer all CDR collection from one system to the other on a given date (making sure there is no leakage in the process), shift customer balances from one system to the other with the correct as-of date, and ensure that payments get allocated correctly. If the two systems have different billing cycles, or one uses anniversary billing and the other doesn’t, it starts to get really difficult.
This is the trade-off between making it easy or hard for the biller, versus easy or hard for the customer. Too often, SPs underestimate the time and effort required to do this, and either rush things, or make decisions without consulting the billing team (or both).
What are your experiences (positive and negative) with billing system migrations?