February 28, 2012
Current Telecom Billing Systems Stifle Introduction
Of New Communications Services, Accenture Survey Finds
Communications service providers in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East recognize need for convergent billing
NEW YORK; February 28, 2012 – Legacy telecom billing systems are hindering communications service providers (CSPs) in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America (EALA) from introducing new digital services to meet customer demand, compete more effectively, and generate incremental revenues, according to a new survey from Accenture (NYSE:ACN).
Ninety-two percent of the communications service providers (CSP) executives who participated in the survey said their billing systems impede the launch of new offers, and almost half (46 percent) said their current billing capability is a major barrier to delivering new products and services to customers. 
Accenture conducted the survey, entitled “How Communications Service Providers Can Transform Telecom Billing Operations to Support a New Convergent, Digital Business,” www.accenture.com/telecom-billing-research  to help identify the most prevalent issues and challenges faced today by CSPs in the EALA region. The survey also explored the strategies and priorities related to the billing practices required by today’s communication and media ecosystem. It found that CSPs worldwide are particularly challenged by the proliferation of intelligent devices, increased customer sophistication, network commoditization, and new competitors that offer consumer content-heavy services such as streaming video and audio. 
CSPs cite billing system shortcomings
Survey participants cited three primary limitations of their billing systems: billing accuracy, billing for bundled services, and capabilities for data services volume processing related to the growth of data traffic. Among the CSPs who responded:
  • Sixty-six percent cited billing accuracy as a key challenge because current billing platforms cannot handle the expanding array of new services and devices, and the resulting explosion in the amount of data consumed. 
  • Sixty percent said billing for bundled services is a challenge; and,
  • Sixty percent said they are concerned with their system’s ability to process the volume of data typically generated with digital services. 
The survey also found that configuring billing systems for introducing new products and services also poses additional challenges. 
  • Seventy percent said their current billing capabilities delayed time-to-market, and 84 percent said it takes two months or more to develop the billing capability – a major hurdle for CSPs given the critical importance of time-to-market in a highly competitive industry. 
  • Billing accuracy and costs (94 percent of respondents, for each) were cited as the top two billing challenges their companies will face in the next two to three years due to the rapid move to digital content.
  • Seventy percent said their billing systems are not effectively integrated with other key systems, such as CRM, product catalogs, and order management. 
“Communications service providers are under extreme pressure to introduce innovative, new services in an environment of shrinking development and product launch time frames because they know they can’t grow revenue by operating as traditional ‘communications’ businesses,” said Jean-Marie Pierron, billing lead, Accenture Communications, Media & Technology operating group. “It is critical for CSPs to rethink their billing systems and design new infrastructure and processes that are attuned to the demands of today’s communication environment. This can improve their responsiveness to customer expectations, and also help enable them to support the kind of real-time, convergent billing that today’s bundled, digital services require.”
Convergent billing a priority; improvements required in key areas
To support growth in the coming years, 60 percent of respondents cited implementing convergent billing -- a single bill for all products and services -- and consolidating multiple billing systems as main priorities. When asked specifically about convergent billing, CSPs cited three areas for improvement:
  • developing triple- or quad-play billing (85 percent);
  • real-time charging and billing capabilities (79 percent); and,
  • scalability (77 percent). 
Among CSPs that plan improvements to their billing capabilities in the next two to three years:
  • eighty percent said they must provide services and products that target various customer segments;
  • seventy-two percent said they would implement new rating or billing capabilities to support new product launches;
  • sixty-two percent said they would improve data quality and billing processes operation; and,
  • fifty-five percent said they would enhance billing presentation.
High growth and mature markets vary on telecom billing, growth
According to the survey, CSPs in high-growth developing markets, such as Russia or the Middle East, were almost twice as likely as those in mature markets (59 percent versus 30 percent) to cite delivering continuous innovation as one of their main priorities to drive growth in the next two to three years.   More providers in high-growth markets (53 percent) cited convergent billing as a key priority to drive growth, versus 27 percent in mature markets. Also, a higher portion of providers in high-growth markets (88 percent) are investing in, or plan to invest in, end-to-end billing integration, versus 48 percent in mature markets.
“Although there are significant trends disrupting the communications industry – such as the rapid increase in on-demand video content consumption from multiple devices - there are equally significant opportunities for growth,” Pierron said. “With convergent, real-time billing, complemented by powerful new business support systems, communications service providers can be positioned to reduce time-to-market for new, in-demand products and services, become more customer-centric, and compete more effectively in a rapidly-changing marketplace.”
Accenture conducted telephone interviews with 50 senior executives at leading communications and media companies in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Most of the interviews (70 percent) took place with Europe-based firms; 18 percent of the respondents were in the Middle East or Africa; and 12 percent were in Latin America. The majority of executives interviewed work at large companies (80 percent) with revenues of more than US$1 billion. Executives interviewed included those in charge of business functions (52 percent) and IT (48 percent). For more information on the topic, the report is available at www.accenture.com/telecom-billing-research.
About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with over 244,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.  Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments.  The company generated net revenues of US$25.5 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011.  Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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