Stephen Jones writing on Billing and Application Migration
Some networks, in conjunction with billing, can support logical (rather than physical) divisions of their services' products and related charges. These divisions create charge groupings that can be billed either by different billers, or within the one biller to different customers. These groupings are usually artificial in nature and based on historical, regulatory or technological delineations.
For example, the products and related charges (installation, access) associated with a fixed phone line service may be divided into (at least) four groups: 'local' calls, domestic 'long distance' call, 'international' calls and (if installed) DSL broadband products. Government regulations may allow different 'retail' businesses to 'own' the customer relationship (and bill) each of these groupings using either their own infrastructure (e.g. DSL connections in the exchange) or by reselling the network operator's own products (e.g. local calls).
Another example of artificial service segmentation is where a retail water business splits the billing of water charges between the property owner (landlord) and a tenant. The landlord may be held responsible for recurring network access charges, while the tenant is responsible for their water consumption (and initial 'installation'). The metered water is the same, only the billing arrangements are different from a regular residential bill. When the tenant completes their tenancy, the retail water business can revert the billing of water consumption to the landlord until a new tenant is 'installed'. This arrangement requires a segmentation of the charges that apply to the landlord and tenant, and the establishment of separate billing arrangements with which to bill them (the landlord's being for the longer term).
Service types can either be segmented into niches like those described above, or operate only at the level of a complete service. For example, gas services are measured by the utility's in only one dimension (e.g. cubic meters). Electricity meters can coarsely differentiate consumption by time-of-day supporting peak and off-peak pricing. Electricity meters that measure in half-hour blocks enable further service segmentation, charging higher prices during periods of peak demand.
The account and service data structures can blend together in a similar way to the blending that occurs between the customer and account data structures. For example, a pre-paid mobile phone biller may focus their billing on each service individually (phone number / handset) and not allow multiple services to be associated under an account. In this scenario, discussions about the account's balance or the service's balance amount to the same thing, and the service (phone number) may be used interchangeably as the account's reference number.
The customer, account and service can also be blended and merged into one entity when presented to the end customer, even though the underlying data structures stored in the billing system may be held separately. For example, a bill for local taxes or rates on a property may focus on the property identifier (service) without drawing specific attention to the 'customer' or the service's 'account'.
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Previous - Note 72: Billing Services: Non-Network Service Details
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Stephen Jones is a consultant who has focused specifically on Billing and related processes for over twenty years. Recent work has included integrating a major telco's billing extracts with technical logs from call centres.
I contributed an essay on testing design assumptions in the O'Reilly book 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know. This book was written in an 'open source' style with more than four dozen authors. The 'source' of the axioms / koans / advice can be reviewed on the project's wiki.
» Note 70: Billing details held against the Account
» Note 69: Account Complexity by Customer Segment