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Aria Systems has developed a cloud-based unified billing product that addresses the challenges faced by businesses that sell recurring revenue products and services through multiple channels. The Unified Channel Billing platform enables the entire billing process in each channel to be automatically managed and reported for each entity in the chain. The platform supports recurring revenue, subscription- and usage-based billing models, as well as one-time charges.

One of the problems large channel-based organizations have going to market with their channels is not just managing the relationships, but also managing the billing functions, said Andy Eliopoulos, senior director, product marketing, Aria Systems. Unified Channel Billing offers three core capabilities: channel governance, channel monitoring and channel reporting.

Under governance, channel-based businesses can set policies and create a billing template across the entire channel operations, while providing each channel partner with the ability to add features and functions, said Eliopoulos.

As an event-driven platform, channel monitoring allows the monitoring of billing and subscriber activity across all channel partners. It also provides consolidated reporting by channel, by account, by product line, etc., as well as integration with business intelligence tools.

With the Aria billing system, channel businesses can set up and manage billing and reporting systems across distribution networks with any level of complexity. They have full transparency for billing in the downstream direction, and reseller partners can anonymize data in upstream reporting to retain control of their customer and pricing information.

Channel partners are very protective of their customers, Eliopoulos explained, adding that the billing platform allows for anonymity. As a result, they don’t divulge or provide any customer information while reporting the number of widgets, goods or services sold during any particular increment of time.

However, if partners want to provide insight into their customers, the system supports that as well, he said. “It depends on the business relationship between the vendor and the partner.”

A key benefit, according to Eliopoulos, is that the platform supports one of three use cases: direct/indirect model, indirect model or line-of-business scenario. Unified billing gives the vendor the capability to enable the Aria billing system throughout its channel (or across lines of businesses). This enables partners to use the platform to manage their own promotions and pricing downstream, as well as to add features and functions. It also provides a roll-up/roll-down capability so vendors can quickly get a view into their channel through a daily batch process.

“As companies transition to offering cloud subscription services, one of the challenges they often face is enabling their partner and reseller network to sell subscription-based offerings,” Amy Konary, research vice president at IDC, said in a statement “Aria’s Unified Channel Billing helps address the needs of channel-focused companies.”

The cloud-based unified billing platform enables the enterprise to have a monetization strategy and flexibility in how to go to market by supporting different billing and go-to-market pricing models—whether it’s one-time use or subscription-based, said Eliopoulos.

“[Vendors] are used to putting a shrink-wrapped piece of software or widget in the channel, and then the channel might add some value to it—or do something to increase their margins—and then go to market,” said Eliopoulos, “but a recurring revenue model for goods or services changes the dynamic a bit. They are trying to get their arms around the new types of model.”

The biggest problem is tracking and billing for those recurring revenue services, Eliopoulos said. “We’re seeing a watershed moment in how vendors are looking at these new recurring models,” he explained. “[They’re] saying this is a great idea, but how do we build the infrastructure around it, how do we bill for it, how do we recognize revenue, etc. And that doesn’t take into account traditional challenges, like who owns the customer, who has first-, second- or third-tier support, what do we do in a channel collection situation, and how do we get the revenues back upstream.”

Aria acts as a middle layer that simplifies the complexity of these processes and allows connectivity from front office to back office by using the billing platform as a core layer, according to Eliopoulos. “When you layer in all the complexities of the channel, it gets even more complex,” he said. “Through all that, we’re able to connect all systems to give a 360-degree view.”

Implementation of the billing platform varies from 30 days to 12 months, depending on complexity.

Gina Roos, a Channel Insider contributing writer, specializes in technology and the channel.