When it comes to billing your customers, having a reliable yet flexible system is crucial. When it’s your revenue on the line, there’s no room for second-best solutions or providers.
Chorus was ready to progress from its 20-year old legacy billing system shared with Spark, to achieve greater flexibility, independence and speed to market for its business users and customers.
Who is Chorus?
Chorus NZ Limited (Chorus) builds and manages New Zealand’s largest telecommunications infrastructure network so Kiwis can connect to and enjoy greater broadband.
Labelled one of the world’s best, Chorus provides open access internet networks and rolls out ultra-fast, congestion-free broadband via Fibre and Copper to urban and rural areas of New Zealand. The country’s phone and broadband providers, like Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees, access Chorus’ network to offer innovative products and services to their end customers.
- Broadband connections: 1.1+ Million
- Fixed-line connections: 1.4+ Million
- Assets: 11,000 cabinets and 280,000 poles
- Annual turnover: $1 Billion
- Headcount: 900 staff
- Number of wholesale customers: 100+
Seeking independence and flexibility through transformation
“Chorus has been using a legacy billing system that was over 20 years old. It was inflexible, out of date and didn’t meet our needs,” explains CTO Finance Manager Paul Kerr.
Qhilst Chorus separated from Spark in 2011, its billing runs were still being performed on Spark’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system until just recently. The key reasons for developing a new solution were remediation of the billing process from Spark as part of the formal Chorus/Spark split, to give Chorus control of billing its wholesale customers from its own SAP ERP and to provide Chorus with flexibility and agility around billing.
“We really wanted a modern billing system that fitted our wholesale business and provided a lot of flexibility. Something that we didn’t have to customise a lot but was configurable to our needs,” says Kerr. “A solution that was easy to use and integrated well with our existing systems,” adds Program Manager Adrian Blair.
“Chorus wanted to transform customer experience – provide customers with a better bill and transform the business process at the same time.”
The winning Proof of Concept
Chorus brought Zag in to discuss potential solutions for its billing requirements. Zag delivered a quick and effective Proof of Concept (POC) by extending Chorus’ existing SAP platform functionality to bill its customers through Zag development and configuration services.
This option averted the need for Chorus to purchase new software (only additional user licenses) which made the solution very cost-effective.
“Our engagement with Zag throughout the POC was really good, the technical guys from Chorus really appreciated the work that they did,” says Kerr. “There was a real commitment and focus on wanting to get an outcome through this process and it gave me a lot of confidence going through to Executives to get the business case sign-off, just to see that Zag could make this happen for us.”
Why did Chorus engage Zag?
“We’d previously worked with Zag on the implementation of our financial systems, including the development and enhancements therein. Zag had supported us in this area and has been supporting our systems, so it made sense to engage with Zag on this project,” explains Kerr.
“If we were looking for a supplier in SAP, Zag would certainly be the first partner we would go to,” says Blair. “There is nothing like a proven track record of getting things done.”
Zag was appointed to deliver the billing solution and provided services for project management, solution architecture, technical architecture, development, Basis, testing and security. Chorus engaged Zag on test support right through to production implementation and production support.
How we worked together to achieve the best outcome
To deliver a project of this size and complexity in only a year, with quite a tight budget, it had to be a collaborative effort with Chorus and its vendors working together on an outcome.
“We started off working around a whiteboard in the Zag offices discussing and drawing components of the design. Quite often we would address the same thing a couple of times and challenge each other’s thinking but, at the end of the day, we respected each other’s opinions because it was clear we had the same goal in mind – a great outcome for Chorus and its customers,” says Principal Solution Architect Dafydd Hunter.
Over the project, Chorus’ trust in Zag’s recommendations grew, including the suggestion to follow a phased implementation approach. The project team did a number of sprints, showing demonstrations and playbacks every month to give Chorus confidence that things were happening.
The regularity and quality of the engagement meant that Chorus had full trust in Zag to guide them through the implementation. “Zag’s people were professional, knowledgeable and were always willing to help,” says Hunter.
Blair adds, “a key part of that trust was due to our active risk management on the project. Zag fully participated in that and understood how important it was to mitigate risk throughout the process.”
“Zag is a really easy supplier to work with, we didn’t sweat the small stuff and everything went well. When we had things to change it was easy. Having them onsite, co-locating and working as part of one team with Chorus and our other suppliers was awesome.”
The new bill and its benefits
The project delivered a working SAP billing solution that Kerr describes as a “fit for purpose modern system that works for us.”
“It’s a simpler solution, a lot less manual – the processes in the background run a lot smoother. It really helps that we were able to integrate the billing system with our other SAP finance system as well as the portal our customers use.”
As part of this project, Zag supplied Chorus with a Disputes Portal, where service providers can collaborate with Chorus around invoicing issues. This facilitates quick invoice dispute resolution.
The benefits and advantages of the new billing solution are:
- A simpler, more accurate and robust billing process without reliance on Spark
- Mitigates risk to Chorus’ revenue collection
- Full control over the end-to-end billing process
- Ability to alter pricing easily to adapt quickly to market conditions
- Increased agility meaning new products and services can be brought to market faster
- More efficient reconciliation with better visibility over the entire billing process and easier invoice tracking
- Simplified month and year-end processes
- Increased employee productivity due to process efficiency
- New insights from information handling for better reporting and analytics
- Ability to easily enhance, build and develop on the new billing platform
An outcome only teamwork can achieve
“Overall the project was viewed as very successful at Chorus, it came in on time, under budget and covered all of the functionality required. All of our revenue was captured, we’ve had no cases of any revenue leakages since go-live which is awesome given all of our revenue was at stake,” states Blair.
“We have reduced our costs and saved a substantial amount of money by decommissioning our costly legacy system and billing from our new SAP platform,” says Kerr.
Importantly, “customer satisfaction has improved and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” says Blair. “It’s a simpler solution, easier for our customers to understand as it provides more information about what they’re being billed for, which is great,” adds Hunter.
“This project has been a success and one of the key reasons for that has been that we’ve worked so closely and well with Zag. I always felt throughout the project that Zag wasn’t just interested in fulfilling its contract but was dedicated to delivering and driving through a successful project, which they did through collaborating with Chorus,” concludes Kerr. “I can’t thank them enough, Zag was fantastic.”