Entering the UK energy market? Here are some questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line with a billing system provider;
- Does your system work? It might seem obvious, but there are plenty of examples of providers making promises they can’t keep. Can your supplier of choice provide examples of clients who are up and running, over a sustained period of time? How long has the supplier had customers running? Do they migrate to other systems at a certain point in their growth? Has the product ever been withdrawn from the market , and if so why?
- How does your supplier handle change? Nothing is so certain as industry change – whether that be regulatory or product based. How will your system cope with this change – and does your supplier plan ahead, implementing code drops ahead of time, without excessive product charges, and with no nasty surprises? Is there an available road map with regulatory updates such GDPR and timescales associated with the updates?
- How long will implementation take? You might be promised an ‘out of the box’ implementation but how long will it really take? Has the company had any failed implementations, where a client has backed out because it’s just taking too long? What’s the quickest they’ve brought a client to market/CME? Lengthy implementations burn through investment – both in product and people time.
- If you’ve got an existing system – how will the supplier handle migration? Have they managed migrations before? Were they successful? There are many well documented examples of large scale migrations going wrong, with serious regulatory repercussions (as well as monetary!) – make sure you can trust your supplier to deliver.
- How many suppliers are live on the system currently? If it’s only a few, smaller names – be careful!
- Have any of their existing suppliers been investigated by the Regulator for failings in billing or customer service failings? The first pinch point is billing – if you can’t bill correctly, you can’t collect debt – and your customers will start to become vocal, attracting regulatory attention.
- How does the supplier manage compliance with GDPR and data protection? If this system is part of a managed hosting solution do you have your own ‘box’ where your data is kept completely ringfenced from other users? Or is it in the same pot? With new regulation there are huge risks in not having your customer data kept on its own hosted solution. Although “multi-tenanted” is a positive in the SAAS industry, this can mean you are sharing a system with other similar companies and therefore data could cross the “chinese walls”
- Can the system scale with your business? Your business plan has meaty growth aspirations – has the system you’ve taken on been tested? Ask for examples of real life customer growth examples as well as benchmarking tests to make sure performance wont’ suffer and create a ceiling for your growth. For a true reference call try and speak to someone who was in charge of the delivery for a customer but has since moved on. They will generally provide an unbiased view of the system as the existing customer must be careful not to denigrate the supplier of their core IT system.
These questions are only the first in a series of detailed due diligence that suppliers should carry out before choosing their provider. A product might look cheap – and the company might make lots of promises about future developments – but can you be sure that they will deliver?