B2B Subscription Billing – “Source System of Record”

By Tim Cook

To really focus on “customer success”, you should align your packaging, pricing, and delivery of products and services around customer segments. Yet, many companies continue to align packaging around product or service categories because of no source system of record for a standardized service catalog.

Partly, this is due to gaps between products and services that reside in multiple systems and spreadsheets, which impede the ability to build a customer-segment-focused catalog.

Part of the process of consolidating and standardizing your product/service catalog is determining a single, Source System of Record (SSoR) for your catalog.

To bridge this gap, companies often fall back on disparate, manual processes that span across platforms, as they attempt to manage margins, generate quotes, fix billing errors, and facilitate order fulfillment. But these manual tasks often fall on the shoulders of the sales organization and impede sales growth. To really focus on “customer success”, companies will need to consolidate and standardize their product/service catalogs by adopting a Source System of Record (SSoR).

A system of record (SOR) or source system of record (SSoR) is a data management term for an information storage system (commonly implemented on a computer system running a database management system) that is the authoritative data source for a given data element or piece of information. The need to identify systems of record can become acute in organizations where management information systems have been built by taking output data from multiple source systems, re-processing this data, and then re-presenting the result for a new business use.  -Source: Wikipedia


The SSoR and Your Monetization Framework

Building your SSoR is one of the first steps in building a broader “Monetization Framework” that will help your company implement greater automation and visibility in your entire quote-to-cash process.  For a more detailed view of how to build your Monetization Framework, download the ebook:  How to Create a Monetization Framework for Your Business. For more on how and why to build an SSoR at for your business, read on.

The Benefits of Your SSoR

Implementing an SSoR at your company can free up sales peoples’ time to sell, a huge benefit, yet the bigger benefit of using an SSoR for your product/service catalog is often data

A Single source system of record (SSoR) is a concept used to ensure that everyone in the organization bases their decisions on the same data.

To get value out of your data, one critical thing you need to do is ensure that your stakeholders are actually using the same data to make decisions. By working from a single source system of record, you ensure that everyone is working with the same baseline data when calculating results, forecasting sales, and analyzing business operations.

This will provide decision-makers with a clearer picture of the data they have and the obstacles that stand in the way of optimizing sales and operations. 

How To Make Your Product/Service Catalog SSoR Decision:

To make good decisions about implementing an SSoR, I first recommend you analyze your company’s quote-to-cash process to determine your optimal system of record.

There are essentially 6 steps in the quote-to-cash process. Your system of record should optimally be the system that supports the majority of these processes because this allows you to leverage the automation between processes, which is likely already built-in to that system.  You should also consider critical system functionality required to support and integrated process from quote-to-cash.

Quote To Cash Steps

  1. Quote
  2. Quote to Order
  3. Order to Activation/Fulfillment
  4. Activation to Charging
  5. Charging to Invoicing
  6. Invoicing to Reconciliation

Three Critical System Considerations

  1. The system should be able to easily support integrations with legacy CRM and ERP systems. It should augment existing processes, rather than replacing them and should not require major upgrades or replacements.
  2. The system should be able to ingest data relevant to billing and charging via automated processes by integrating with other systems or file exchange.
  3. The system should provide a customer interface to enable clients to pay invoices, set up auto-pay, facilitate e-commerce, and deliver relevant charging data and usage reports.

In thinking through these automated processes, you can begin to imagine how a solution like this will free up sales resources by:

  • Enabling sales to quickly generate quotes and approvals with margin integrity
  • Eliminating quote to order misalignment to prevent “backtracking” the sales process
  • Automating order fulfillment to increase speed and accuracy of deployments
  • Stopping customer calls that consume time to track down billing errors
  • Easily identifying upsell/cross-sell opportunities during the sales process
  • Tracking renewals and contract expirations with email alerts and notifications

Why Can’t I Use My Existing CRM or ERP Solution? 

The challenge with using your CRM as your system of record for your service catalog is that these systems are customer/account centric systems vs. product/service catalog centric.  This shortcoming becomes apparent as your transaction requirements become more complex.

A CRM solution may not be able to associate a product or service with a provisioning API, facilitate financial transactions based on “general ledger” rules, and consume data from external sources for charging and cost reconciliation, for example. These processes are critical to reducing the load on your sales and operations teams, yet CRM solutions simply fall short. 

The challenge with using your ERP as a system of record is that most ERP solutions are General Ledger (GL) centric. 

Managing external data and exchanging data that is not GL related creates a challenge because the ERP operates solely with your GL.  This greatly restricts these systems’ capabilities when it comes to building a rich and diverse product catalog and makes it difficult to automate your business rules based on real-time data using an ERP.

What Options Exist?

B2B Subscription Billing platforms can fill the critical automation gap between your CRM and ERP. This enables companies to build a system of record for their standardized service catalog and enables them to share data from their CRM (to support configure, price, quote (CPQ) functions), and exchange General Ledger data with ERP systems (to support accounting functions).

These platforms can be configured to work with most mainstream business software, and platforms like BluLogix have “out of the box” integrations with CRM solutions like Salesforce, which will enable your sales team to quote using the catalog data from your SSoR.

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