Eighteen years after the world’s first modern cellular phone network went on air in Finland and twenty-two years after the Internet was opened to commercial use, the global explosion of the Internet, of wireless networks, and the rise in broadband capacity has transformed how we connect to the world. New and innovative services can be delivered anytime, anywhere – everything from applications emailing you scans from the copier, to location-based services on your in-car navigation system, to Internet-based services that we use every day. New SAP software enables providers to charge and bill for all these new services.
We have long moved on from using mobile phones just to make calls. We write e-mails, check the headlines, watch videos on YouTube, upload photos to our Facebook profiles, buy the latest apps, pay for bus tickets, or donate money to charity using our mobile phone.
We expect all of these services to be available wherever we are in the world, be it at home using our usual mobile network or on vacation in Venice, in the Bahamas, or the Himalayas. And of course, our mobile phone provider may also be our Voice over IP (VoIP), IPTV, and home Internet provider and we have high expectations for all these services too.
We can upload hundreds of photos to Flickr while downloading a video on demand movie to our television and if we suddenly have a medical emergency, we expect the call to go through. Digital communications has become our gateway to countless new services.
As consumers, we demand a great deal from the providers of these services: We use services, often simultaneously, from myriad providers, but we expect to receive one consolidated bill with a clear breakdown of all pre- and postpaid charges and, of course, with all information available in real time.
We don’t expect to have to deal with complicated billing and settlements. We do expect to be able to set price caps and receive warnings when our and our family’s spending nears those caps. We do not care how this is done. Let the provider figure it out and that is where IT comes into play.
Highdeal, which was acquired in 2009 by SAP, specializes in pricing, rating, and charging solutions. In other words, it untangles the webs of services, providers, and charges that we weave every day with our communications activities. The French company was spun off from France Telecom as a startup in 2000 and received many awards and customer references due to it’s leading functionality. SAP acquired Highdeal in the spring of 2009. Highdeal’s software product under the SAP banner is the application SAP Convergent Charging. The software helps communication providers to offer the packages and bundles we often take for granted and ensure that each cent on our bill finds its way to the right service provider or partner without us having to think about this complex value chain.
Whole worlds transforming
Besides telecommunications providers, the software benefits companies in many other industries. Across industries, companies are under huge pressure to find new business models, and, most of all, to be able to implement them quickly. These challenges are signs of a fundamental transformation: “What we’re seeing is the transformation of entire economies from manufacturing economies to service economies,” says Eric Pillevesse, CEO of Highdeal. Any business with integrated service offerings and complex, highly flexible settlement options, and a high transaction volume is affected. That includes the telecom sector, but also covers High Tech, Media, Transportation, Finance, and Utilities.
Mobile communications networks are a common example of complex settlement systems: monthly base fees, varying prices per minute to different networks and depending on the time of day, monthly free text message allowances, royalty agreements with music labels for ringtones, revenue sharing with application developers, and rates that shift according to the number of minutes consumed in the current month. And then service providers rework their price plans every six months, much to their programmers’ despair. “With our application, you can now make such changes very easily with just a few mouse clicks in a graphical user interface,” says Eric.
Small company, big benefits
Though such simplicity is a dream come true for many companies, some potential Highdeal customers hesitated. Highdeal was too small a company and the investment therefore considered too risky. “With the power of the SAP brand now on the former Highdeal product, we don’t have that problem anymore,” says Eric. “Companies around the world know and trust SAP as their reliable source for enterprise applications.”
SAP Convergent Charging is already integrated with SAP Convergent Invoicing and is currently being integrated with SAP ERP and SAP CRM. This fully integrated and highly scalable solution, now covering the full Consumption to Cash Process chain, will as of June 2010 be part of the SAP Business Suite, SAP’s software for large enterprises. We have built a very attractive alternative to the high cost custom billing solutions we see in the market, attractive for all industries that sell products and services to end consumers.