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Cloud Expo: Article

Everything-as-a-Service Demands New Approach to Accounts Receivables

Today’s increasing service complexity is best handled by an integrated complete solution for monetization

When we first built our MetraNet billing platform our customers (large enterprises and service providers) generally offered services that were clearly defined in terms of character and scope, with fairly stable setup charges, usage charges, and periodic recurring charges. Back then, with some exceptions, it was normal to issue regular periodic invoices that consolidated all of those charges. The invoice would then trigger an entry in the service provider's Accounts Receivable (AR) ledger. That in turn, again with a few exceptions, would constitute the point at which Revenue Recognition would take place. The few exceptions (for example, an invoice for a payment in advance for a service set-up charge) would be handled by adding a matching journal entry in Deferred (or unearned) Revenue until such time as the services had been delivered. The adjustment could be handled automatically (triggered by a flag from order management or billing) or manually.

Things have moved on from there and the metadata driven character of MetraNet has enabled MetraNet to support new requirements fluidly and easily. A few years ago, we developed a capability to handle the increasingly more complex requirements of services-related AR. In discussions with customers on AR, it is becoming clear that the additional power and flexibility delivered by our approach to AR will no longer be an exceptional need - it will be an everyday requirement for most service providers.

I have written a lot recently about "Everything as a Service" (XaaS) and the closely linked concept of the "Internet of Things." These labels are helpful in crystallizing in our minds what has been going on for some time. We are observing changes on multiple fronts. Products and devices increasingly become tools for the delivery of services. Services can be delivered by Agents that interact with other Agents to deliver more complex service bundles, or strip out service components to recombine them with other components to create new services. It's conceivable that Cloud Service Brokers will evolve into brokerage networks, collecting and representing services for adaptation and resell in a way that compensates multiple contributors along the value chain. At the same time services providers have to do all this while continuing to operate, and be seen to operate, within the regulatory rules.

Periodic invoices just seem so slow for this kind of environment!

As invoicing becomes more flexible and more complex, the way we handle Accounts Receivables needs to keep up. MetraTech's AR solution (MetraARTM) abstracts accounting securely from the dynamic business modeling of the billing system and enables solid and auditable integration with our customers' accounting systems.

What is special about MetraTech's metadata-driven approach? For one thing, it provides a flexible and pragmatic way around the all-or-nothing choice usually available with traditional systems. The traditional approach forces a choice between Invoice Accounting and Line Item Accounting. Invoice Accounting doesn't provide sufficient granularity when reselling supplier services, selling or re-selling regulated services, or in any case where different parts of the invoice have varying contractual or legal demands for prioritization. On the other hand, Line Item Accounting becomes completely unwieldy and difficult to scale when used on enterprise accounts or for any high-volume, event-based service.

Within MetraAR we have built on our innovative patent-pending "Demand for Payment" (DfP) technology. This enables a service provider to select the most appropriate level of granularity for managing receivables. Rather than being forced into an all-or-nothing choice, a service provider can segment different components of the invoice into separate DfPs without having to go down to the line item detail. For example, perhaps you are reselling cloud services from different vendors. One vendor has a net 30-day contract with you and the other a net 45. You would want to distribute payment against the receivables associated with the Net 30 supplier, but you don't want to track the hundreds or thousands of line items that wound up on your channel partner's wholesale invoice. Instead you can group all the charges into a single Demand for Payment and manage that group as one entity.

It doesn't stop there. Each Demand for Payment can be further split as needed to handle partial payments, payments on account, disputes, and any other events that affect receivables. A single customer payment can be apportioned across multiple DfPs in whatever way is required.

The MetraNet billing platform already provides a complete and flexible system for handling subscriptions to the most complex accounts. With the added MetraAR functionality, we provide even more scope for handling those "exceptional" needs that are rapidly becoming normal everyday business. It is now even easier to set up custom payment plans, reassign and consolidate debt, and manage external debt. The use of DfPs enables Aging to be managed more accurately, with a range of aging algorithms that ensure that priority is given to the right accounts for collection and follow-up.

Our customers realize that today's increasing service complexity is best handled by an integrated complete solution for monetization, rather than a fragmented approach using separate point products. At the same time, the solution needs to work smoothly with financial accounting systems. The latest evolution of MetraNet with MetraAR does all this, and does so in a way that enables the service provider to introduce more complexity only where complexity is really needed, and to keep things simple where simple is the smarter way.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of OSS software, now part of Extreme Networks (Nasdaq:EXTR). At Avici Systems (Nasdaq:AVCI), Esmeralda was Vice President of Marketing for the networking pioneer from startup through its successful IPO. Early in her career, she was a Director at IDC, where she led the network consulting practice and worked with startup and leading software and hardware companies, and Wall Street clients on product and market strategies. Esmeralda holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Marketing and International Business from Northeastern University.

You can view her other blogs at www.metratech.com/blog.

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