January marked the start of a new large project at GCOMM. In fact, we think it is one of the most important in our history which will be the development and implementation of a new and integrated software system. Like most other businesses, there are the core requirements of the company such as human resources software, contact relationship management, financial applications, sales forecasting and tracking. Add to that the need to integrate banking, develop wholesale partner tools, provide online pricing and sufficient data to support our partners who are customer facing, plus the task of developing a complete and integrated billing platform. It’s an undertaking that will significantly help towards great efficiency gains and greater customer satisfaction or prove to be an endless money pit that goes on to hurt the current and future prospects of the company.
The business of provisioning, upgrading and terminating broadband and other IT services under the surface is very complex. The carriers all have different software systems with varying degrees of quality. Some have electronic ordering systems whilst others have manual order systems. The process of checking if they invoice correctly also takes time. With so many services and customers, it’s no wonder they make mistakes. Added to that, there are ongoing active services that require maintenance, investigation, modifications and monitoring. Of course, access to customer services information, billing history and service performance metrics is all part of a modern service requirement.
In 2001, as the Internet service provider began to grow, we embarked on developing a software application that would help automate the billing process and manage customer services. We tried to find commercial based software that would serve the purpose, however we were unable to locate something that was going to meet the needs of GCOMM. We developed the software database in SQL and developed the user interface in ASP which meant it was accessible via the Internet. Today, it would be called SaaS. Remarkably, it is still what operates the business today, managing our provisioning and billing systems.
The problem is that the existing software has ran its course. Twelve years is a long time to be running the same application and whilst we have made modifications and updates, it was time to establish how the future of GCOMM will interface to its suppliers and customers. We spent two years investigating different commercial software vendors. Most of the vendors have telephone style billing software which isn’t our core business. Other vendors have subscription based billing applications that don’t really meet the needs of telecom and data rating. And so, we were left with a range of expensive options, trying to shoehorn the needs of GCOMM into existing applications that would have required significant investment and perhaps still not have met our needs in the future.
Given that we already had significant knowhow within our existing billing application, we decided that we are going to take that knowhow and use the best parts of it to contribute to the new version, as well as take advantage of all the new software and programming tools on the market. The main difference between the first time we attempted to develop the software and this time around is 10 years of experience and a much stronger, more robust team of analysts and programmers. We are engaging with our long term programming company, as well as adding expertise in screen design, significant work flow design and a team of project manager and support staff to ensure that the project remains on track and that the quality meets our expectations.
We believe that having an outstanding, integrated software solution at the core of our business has the ability to create efficiencies and help GCOMM to increase its competitive advantage for the future. We have ideas that should enable our channel partners and customers to gain a competitive advantage that will make the entire experience of GCOMM superior to our competitors. We will keep you up to date as it develops and we look forward to sharing with you the new and enhanced features we plan to incorporate. These are exciting times ahead.