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MetraTech Adds Value to Billing

Billing has become more than a way to simply get paid. Service providers are constantly challenged to come up with new pricing strategies to help increase revenue, lower costs and improve customer service. To manage this complexity of service offerings, many have turned to outsourced billing services such as those offered by MetraTech.

The Waltham, Mass.-based Web services-based billing software provider today announced at Billing World in Baltimore the availability of the MetraNet 3.0 platform The goal of the new billing software, according to Metratech president and CEO Scott Swartz, is to "add value by billing." For an enterprise, Swartz said, a typical monthly bill from a telco is about 30,000 pages. "It's delivered by a forklift."

Adding value to all that information is where MetraTech's XML-based MetraNet 3.0 comes in. It's designed to allow service providers to offer customers unique pricing, reporting and account management capabilities.

"Billing is typically referred to as a 'back office' activity and the only time customers interact with the billing system is when they get their monthly statement. With the latest version of MetraNet, billing moves from a back office application to a customer facing application," said Swartz.

MetraNet 3.0's drag and drop hierarchy maintenance feature is designed to allow both service providers and their customers to manage complex corporate account hierarchies using only a Web browser. For example, changes made to the hierarchy automatically take into account effective dates, group discounts and account periods.

According to MetraTech, service providers can increase customer satisfaction and lower costs by ensuring that enterprise customers bills are accurate by reflecting their most current organizational structure.

Changes that previously required a customer service representative can now be made by the administrator or department manager, Swartz said, which lowers costs. Department managers can drill down, for example, into detail for each employee and get accurate an up-to-date look at departmental costs.

To make sense of billing data, MetraNet now offers interactive, permission-based reporting features. These reports, the company says, are customized to present the data that the customer wants and are controlled through permissions so only authorized managers or administrations see the information. The data in the reports can also be downloaded, allowing customers to analyze the data on their PCs.

To help service providers offer and manage flexible pricing plans, incentives and rewards, MetraNet 3.0 offers a group rates and discounts for ad hoc groups feature designed to allow any accounts to be included as part of discount and aggregate rate calculations.

The accounts can then qualify for discounted rates based on the usage for all the accounts in the group, not just the use of a single account, according to MetraTech. The group discount functionality can be combined with the independent periods allowing, for example, a corporate end-of-year rebate based on what the entire corporation accumulated — even though bills are being delivered on a monthly basis to separate geographical areas.

Billing Meets Web Services
Last week, MetraTech announced an alliance with Web services infrastructure software provider Cape Clear. The alliance is designed to allow customers to expose their existing systems as Web Services and integrate them with MetraTech's billing platform.

"Web Services open the way for organizations to leverage their existing IT investments and deliver new commercial services to their customers," said Annrai O'Toole, CEO at Cape Clear Software, in a statement last week. "MetraTech has created a powerful Web Services billing platform that helps organizations manage the usage and billing of those services."

Campbell, Calif.-based Cape Clear provides products that enable companies to design, develop, integrate and deploy Web Services and Web Services-based applications. MetraTech's platform will help companies immediately generate revenue from these services by billing for them according to any metric, including usage and content.

As part of this relationship, MetraTech is joining Cape Clear's global partner program. Swartz told ASPnews that MetraTech doesn't "need" Cape Clear to function in a Web services architecture. However, Swartz said Cape Clear offers a solution that is attractive to Java-centric customers and customers with a mix of .NET, Java and legacy applications.

MetraTech is listed by ASPnews as a Top 30 Enabler.


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