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The future in billing

Comms Business sat down with Tony Cook and Vincent Disneur from Union Street this month to talk about their progress over the last year and how they are handling customers as they transition to the cloud.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Can you fill us in on the last twelve months at Union Street?

Vincent Disneur (VD): This year we have grown about 20% year-on-year again. We have maintained that level of growth consistently over the last five years, not many software companies have done that.
We have grown up a lot as a company in the way we operate and deal with partners. Moving to an Agile framework for software development is a prime example of this. We’ve also grown in numbers. Five years ago we had 35 staff, we’re nearly ninety now! We aren’t a small business anymore which is why we have spent time analysing the business and introducing processes that will ensure we continue to scale up effectively.

Tony Cook (TC): A lot of our recent product development has focused on transitioning our aBILLity product set from what was predominantly an on-premise solution to a cloud SaaS model. We’ve made some great strides in this area and, as a result, most of our new customers are going straight onto our cloud platform.

CBM: How many is ‘most’? What developments are going on in the cloud space?

TC: 80% of our new customers are going straight onto our cloud platform and 50% of our total customer base are now using a cloud delivery mechanism. We still support, and will continue to support, our on-premise clients. Both platforms have common functionality and features so the idea is you have an identical feature set over both services.

VD: If you take a look at the industry, everything is moving towards the cloud however it won’t be right for everyone such as those that trade heavily in regulated industries. The Union Street proposition is built around flexibility and choice. This is why we will continue to invest in and develop our on-premise solutions.

CBM: There are lots of new bodies in the company, how are these people helping steer your vision?

TC: We’ve brought some key people into multiple different areas. The appointment of David McGrath in a new role as the Head of Cloud is highly significant. He will be in charge of the strategic vision of our cloud portfolio and to make sure they deliver everything they need to in terms of functionality and security etc. McGrath has extensive knowledge and experience in delivering SaaS solutions and we think he is the perfect fit to steer our in-house development teams.

VD: Our product team are going out into the market to research what our customers need and want. Speaking to customers is really powerful, without it you risk going off on a tangent. We’ve always consulted with partners when developing our products but haven’t had the capacity to do this on the scale we are today. The product team are absolutely critical to keeping us ‘on point’ all the time across the different markets we operate in.

We now have 35 UK based people in our development team, which is far more than most other billing providers operating in the channel. This means we can develop all our solutions in house without the need to outsource development work to external companies.

Training is another area of the business we’ve been pushing so resellers can make the most out of aBILLity. We launched the Union Street Accredited Professional scheme last year and we have recently just had two people complete the accreditation to become certified experts on our software.

This is really important stuff that customers should be looking at as we often find, when people move to Union Street, that they have had some long term discrepancies in their billing processes. One customer was losing 16k a month! That’s 200k a year straight off the bottom line!

CBM: Do you have any new products in the pipeline you can talk about? What about the future for Union Street?

TC: We have a new product called NxTier which is currently being used by a Tier 1 carrier. It basically allows a customer to build their own service portal. It’s completely configurable and allows customers to essentially provision anything they want to.

It’s really simple for a customer to be able to input their data capture requirements themselves and then build a provisioning screen for it. Then it can address the charges that need to flow through to billing, it’s a complete business process engine which can be applied to anything.

VD: If we have got it right with the direction we are going in I could see us being prevalent in new markets and overseas in under ten years. There is still massive potential for the business to grow and I only see that continuing.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine