Elastic Cloud for Billing

Elastic Cloud for Billing - What Does it Mean for You?

Subscription billing platforms such as LogiSense are inherently exposed to highly variable workloads which are a challenge to manage efficiently. Two of the system's primary functions, rating event records and creating invoices, are generally short-lived, compute intensive, high throughput processes that occur at unpredictable times and intervals across a customer base. Given that the infrastructure must be able to handle these load spikes whenever they occur, how do you ensure that your computing resources are utilized efficiently during normal load periods?  Imagine a business processing a billion user generated events each month across 100,000 accounts; what if an error is discovered during invoicing that needs to be fixed quickly across that large base?  This is a scenario only handled well in an elastic compute environment.dataSuccessfully sizing systems in the days of bare metal servers often involved an in-depth capacity planning exercise. Architects, System Engineers and DBAs would create a model that allowed them to predict how the underlying infrastructure would respond under various load levels. These models could range from basic to very complex depending on the level of accuracy required. With the model complete it was simply a matter of entering peak load parameters, and then provisioning sufficient infrastructure to satisfy the calculated resource requirements.

Monetization Debt, the Avoidable true cost of Copy & Paste

Technical debt is a commonly understood term within the software industry, whereas short term velocity gains are knowingly accepted in exchange for an ongoing “cost” in maintenance. This type of debt compounds just like your mortgage and becomes drastically more expensive over time if not dealt with.

Working From Home: A Virtual Reality

Like all business-people, I’ve been deliberating a lot lately about what the coming years look like economically and what the impact of the pandemic will be on the long-term resilience of existing business models as well as what sort of social change we’re likely to see. 

 

Like many technology organizations, LogiSense is thriving in a virtual construct. We’re quite fortunate in that regard. We went virtual on March 13th just as the gravity of the situation started to hit North America and governmental restrictions on businesses and individuals were being put in place to help diminish the spread of the virus.  I recall having asked our IT leaders at the start of that week if the VPN and other systems were ready for everyone to start using them concurrently during business hours and whether or not our infrastructure was ready for full virtualization. Luckily, we were ready and made the switch with an absolute minimum of fuss – or so it appeared to me - thanks to the thoughtfulness and capability of our amazing team. 

 

Services, Entertainment, Manufacturing, Retail, Travel and a multitude of other industries face more severe challenges as to how to adapt to a present-or-post-pandemic mode of operation. For us in the software business, however – moving everyone to virtual work has been surprisingly successful on a number of fronts, and I believe it will change the way that people work forever in this industry. 

 

When we originally shifted to a 100% virtual structure – with only a few days to plan things out – I was deeply concerned about productivity from home. We’re all humans and are all affected by human things at times: need of a quiet place to work, perhaps you have kids bouncing off the walls while you are on a call with your colleagues, perhaps you need those in-person social interactions or are missing the ‘hallway updates’ and the communication that inherently comes from being together in the same place. 

 

Our capacity to stay engaged without having a physical location in which to collaborate and our capacity to develop relationships and stay properly connected virtually had never truly been tested, and I’d wager – still hasn’t fully. All of this said, within the first few weeks, we had a handle on our ability to measure, monitor, communicate and be confident we could ‘carry on as usual’ without being together in the same facility. Our meeting frequency has increased, and we have deployed some additional tools over the past couple of months to help collaborate virtually, but all-in-all; the daily operations seem to have become routine again and the business is moving forward: despite our not having been in the same room in nearly three months. When we surveyed our employees to ask them how they were adapting to this new normal, the vast majority of respondents said it was subjectively the same, or a better quality of work and life in the new virtual world we now inhabit. 

 

Though nothing is perfect, a few key observations from our shift so far have been: 

  • Make sure you have tools that can replace the water cooler. There’s a grim comedy in the theater of the conference call: The 10 minutes wasted getting everyone connected and functional. The poor bandwidth and robot voices. The formality of it all. Big formal conference calls are major time wasters, but sometimes necessary.
  • We implemented a couple of tools to help facilitate more ad hoc virtual collaboration and started using those to replace the daily interactions you would get by casually getting an update from a colleague in a hallway. It’s not a perfect replacement for the in-person information sharing that happens when everyone’s in the same building, but it’s close. 
  • People are happier – so far, they report - and have better balance. I know there may be an older school of managerial
    thought out there that prescriptively measures productivity with activity monitors and explicit measurement of ‘the # of bums in chairs · # of hours’, but I think this shift is an opportunity for us to appeal more to human nature in how we look at the workplace.
  • Some research shows that an office worker is productive for about 2 hours and 23 minutes a day (https://www.vouchercloud.com/resources/office-worker-productivity). The rest of the time is spent socializing, eating and surfing the web, in unproductive meetings, etc. Hopefully my and your organizations are slightly higher than average, but I think it’s naive to believe that most people are truly grinding productive work for a full 8 hours a day. Include in that 8 hours a couple of additional hours to press your work clothes, commute, and take care of the other things that life requires and about 10-11 hours a day become dedicated to what is effectively – hopefully – 3 to 4 absolutely productive working hours.
  • What happens then to the ‘other’ 7-8 hours. Why then do we ask so much more, and what happens to that missing time? I have an idea, and I think it may be spent, resentfully, occupying the hours unproductively with any available filler (surfing the web, socializing, texting friends).

I’m not describing an organization’s star athletes or executives who are self-motivated to perform above the pack, but I’m describing the majority of employees who are there to get the job they were hired for done, professionally and properly.

 

Would a human being be willing to give more to an organization than 2 hours and 23 minutes a day if they were NOT asked to waste 2-3 hours on a commute and preparation for a formal environment every day? If they weren’t asked to pretend to be engaged for 8-10 straight hours in an uncomfortable setting? I believe deeply that they would. Although this proposition comes with risk and a need for trust, a shift in balance and a focus on the human nature of your team will reap dividends in the long run, and it’s a transition LogiSense IS going to make as we transition from our current situation over the coming months, but hopefully not years.

  • People still need to be together; we are social animals. For all the virtues I extol and my suppositions about human nature, true productivity and the ‘filler time’ that exists in almost everyone’s relationship with their productive day; I still believe people need to be together sometimes to develop relationships, socialize and get to know each other.
  • In a post-pandemic world, I think the right balance towards massively increased virtualization and a focus on happy, motivated humans lies in the ability to still be together and develop those relationships. I’ve drawn no conclusions but believe a weekly or monthly get together for employees within travelling distance is something that should be preserved. Regular meetups and the opportunity to use a facility for white-boarding, sharing a lunch & learn, hosting team meetings and gatherings, entertaining clients is still imperative, but it becomes more of an ‘event space & hotel’ concept than a regular working cube farm.
  • When LogiSense surveyed its people, we found that 23% found communication with coworkers to be more challenging and 46% of the team felt socially isolated since the pandemic restrictions began.  Striking the right balance in the ‘new normal’ is going to be the key to the effective marriage of remote communication and operations meeting happy, balanced employees who are energized and engaged giving 5-6 absolute productive hours a day to the company – what a utopia! Though there is a lot of supposition here, in my opinion this would be huge success for most any organization if you believe the baseline metric of 2-3 productive hours a day in an ‘average’ office environment.
  • Is this the right trade off for people and business? Is this the new normal? Is this more or less productive than some more dated philosophies? Will people care more about the business if the business cares more about them?
  • A scramble for value is kicking off with every business as we confront the changes and expected economic sluggishness that will likely ensue for some time. With plenty of uncertainty and an unprecedented situation at hand, almost 40 million unemployed in the United States alone, surely only the fittest and most adaptable will endure.
  • Long-term confidence and an outlook for macro-economic growth are not reassuring at the moment and economists are not expecting a 'V-shaped recovery'; suggesting we will be dealing with a slow recovery from the impacts of an unprecedented global ‘shut down’.
  • There is a heightening sensitivity to value-for-money and a reassessment of where and how businesses choose to spend money, particularly as high unemployment levels and unclear timelines for continued exceptional government assistance loom. This reassessment of what’s important will impact everyone as we emerge from this transition. A major part of this transition is a shift from a throw-away mentality to hard scrutiny on what is actually being consumed within a business. What is essential?
  • When times are lean, people will rightfully cut out anything that isn’t strictly necessary or isn’t being used. This phenomenon doesn’t apply only to businesses either, individuals react to uncertainty and reduced activity levels in the same way.
  • Something that has been a great benefit to us and our customers is a capacity to charge on a consumption basis with recurring baseline pricing structures or subscriptions. This provides for a level of certainty in the business, while ensuring customers who do have a usage or consumption component are charged proportionally as their business, usage or revenue streams fluctuate up and down. I know as a part of this pandemic, our preparedness included taking a look at our vendors, relationships and obligations and we wanted to prudently ensure we were using all of the services we had procured or were rightly charged for services should we see impact on any areas of the business in the coming years.
  • Our easiest discussions were around those vendors who had consumption or usage based agreements with us, so we were sure that if/when there was a change in buying activity or a prolonged slump in market activity our expenses wouldn’t be disproportionate with our demands on those relevant vendors.
  • I deeply believe this mentality will permeate commerce in the ‘new normal’ and those organizations who are capable of adapting to a value-for-usage or consumption-based model will benefit greatly as ever increasing transparency,  technical capability  and competition add even more pressure to an economy in recovery/transition post global shut-down.

LogiSense has been adapting to the changing environment well, and we’re in a privileged position being a software-only company to do so. Some of the key learning and observations as we transition through this time as a society are that:

  • People need the infrastructure to effectively communicate, whether it’s in person or virtually. We are social animals and we must collaborate to create a ‘sum that is greater than the parts’.
  • People like the freedom of being remote, and supposing you believe that true, absolute productivity from an average employee lies in the ~3 hours a day mark and the rest is lunch, breaks, web surfing and other activities to ‘fill the mandatory time’. We must understand this and we must understand if people can be as or more productive if we start taking a harder look at the human factor and what the post-pandemic economy and our human-needs are. The more receptive and balanced employers will gain the best productivity and most dedicated individuals. Be a team people want to play for.
  • Even if virtual, we must provide the capacity for relationship and inter-human communication or something vital will be lost.
  • People and companies are in a scramble for value. At a time when we can ‘shut down’ almost everything we ‘used to do’ and things – so far- seem to soldier on, we need to re-evaluate what’s vital, what’s real and what do businesses really need from their people to accomplish their mission. Only those companies who truly deliver value, interact fairly with their customers and are easy to work with will survive in the new world.

Despite the terrible nature of the pandemic, it is going to impact our society and our economy both negatively and positively. Those organizations who can hear the call and adapt will flourish as they emerge from this transformation of economic and social disruption and our changing perceptions of fairness, humanity, commerce and work.

 

Exciting times are ahead, this much is certain.

 

Flexible Usage Pricing – A Strategy to Thrive During Recession.

Pundits all over the globe are warning of an economic slowdown. As a result, consumers are anxious and rethinking their budgets, looking for ways to cut spend. The choice many face is: can I live without this service in order to save money?

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Customer Centricity and Monetization

RoundTable Report on Customer Centricity and Monetization: How Do Agile Billing Platforms and IoT Help Modern Companies Engage Customers and Generate New Revenue?

PowerfulMediation

Mediating Usage Feeds with Powerful Configurations and Transforms

Mediating usage feeds can be a complex process of reading headers, making sense of multiple fields and classifying records. To stay on top of adding new usage feeds you need powerful tooling to make it easy

Subscription-Fatigue

The Usage Economy an antidote to Subscription Fatigue

Subscription angst, fear, fatigue ... whatever you want to call it, is a real and growing concern. The list of services that can be subscribed to are ever expanding covering a myriad of industries and markets. Enterprise software, apps, gaming, movies, TV, music, lawn care transportation, hygiene, grooming, exercise, nutrition, industrial equipment; are just a few examples of markets that have begun the transition to subscriber centric business models and this list of services continues to expand at a rapid pace.  Subscriptions have a growing share of world-wide consumer and corporate budgets, offering benefits to vendors and customers alike, however there are problems emerging.  Subscriptions tend to categorize subscribers into large groups, limiting choice by not considering unique subscriber lifestyle and consumption behaviours and needs. Subscription fatigue is a growing response, inviting closer examination of the cost/value benefit from these memberships. The solution? Include a Usage Pricing Strategy in your go to market efforts that substantially thwarts seeds of subscription discontent, drive additional revenue and ultimately improve your customer experience and bottom line

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DataFlows – Transactional Control of Restful API’s

API access to a BSS system or Enterprise software opens up lots of integration opportunities. But what happens if you need to call multiple APIs in series and one fails? How do you roll back? LogiSense’s DataFlows provide that extra transactional control on your RESTful APIs.

ImportExport

Managing Import/Export of Data

Migration of data between disparate systems remains a significant challenge for organizations as they consider onboarding new back office systems. Organizations will often procrastinate and delay the procurement of a much-needed business transformation due to their legitimate fear of the data migration headaches this may cause. While this fear is legitimate, it also means that many companies continue to maintain archaic systems and tools thereby impacting their operational efficiencies. It is evident then that simplifying the data migration challenge can go a long way towards alleviating service provider concerns.

RevenueRetention

Using a Data-Driven Approach for Increasing Retention & Revenue

In the fairly recent past, collecting general demographic data on your customers—such as age, income, industry, geographic location, etc.—gave you enough insight to target your customers at a basic level and remain competitive in the field. However, with the rise of big data, customers are increasingly looking for more tailored options. The general data you collected in the past is no longer enough to acquire and retain customers. In an environment where telecom customers have numerous options, even your most loyal customer might switch to a competitor if they feel their needs can be better met elsewhere. To prevent this, you need to develop a deeper understanding of your customers through data. Using a data-driven approach will help you retain customers and increase your revenue.