​​Best Practices to Get Paid Faster – Building a Successful Recurring/Subscription Business​

As Simon Sinek says – “Start with Why”?

Volumes play an important role in a subscription business. This revenue is billed more frequently, in fact monthly- for 1 customer you are generating 12 invoices a year! The invoices are typically smaller in size than one-off sales. If you are reselling products (which is true for most Microsoft CSP Partners), the margins are tight. If customers don’t pay or delay payments, there is an impact on cash-flow.

How to Collect Cash Faster?

Step 0: Sell to who will pay: In order to make sure there is no risk of non-payments you need to establish credit limits, do background checks and ensure that you won’t be left with the proverbial “bag in hand”- this is typically part of your Sales Process.

Step 1: Invoice Accurately. An accurate invoice is correct on all counts.

  • Who has the check or credit card? It could be the finance department, the procurement department, and the IT manager or relevant stakeholder who would need to approve your invoice.
  • What are exactly are they getting billed for? Are all the services and subscriptions correct, prices, changes in quantities, and refunds clearly shown in the invoice so that there isn’t any confusion?
  • When do they need to pay and most importantly receive the invoice? Is the invoice being sent to the customer on the correct date and with the correct due dates?  The invoice needs delivery needs to predictable. We see so many cases where customers have cash flow issues but are not able to generate an accurate invoice on the correct date based on the billing frequency.

Step 2: Invoice: Delivery, Persistent, Actionable, Convenient: It’s imperative your invoice is delivered to the right stakeholders in a medium that is acceptable to them (email, mailed physical signed copies). Is the invoice persistent? Can the invoice be easily accessed by the intended audience? A self-service portal that shows their orders and invoices would allow them to access your invoice when they need it. Is the invoice actionable: Does it clearly state how to pay you and how convenient is it to pay you?

“The customer experience is the sum total of all customer moments. The invoice is a defining customer moment. “

What Systems are Involved in Generating an Invoice and Collecting Cash?

The problem with the above situation is that while you’ve got all the pieces together:

  • There are multiple logins/identities
  • Your brand is diluted and there is no consistency is not there because of the different looks and feels.
  • Data is the new oil – and it’s messy to have oil all over the place
  • Access to these systems is limited and to a few people. The lack of access to this data creates problems like selling to customers you don’t want to, inability to create an accurate invoice.

What is Required for a Successful Billing Automation Solution to Generate Accurate Invoices and Collect Cash?

  • Customer data in one system 
  • Single Identity 
  • Single Portal for everything: what they’ve bought from you, when they bought is from you, agreements, invoices 

Cash Collection is a business function: 

  • Credit Limit should be associated with Aging Data and affect new Sales 
  • The customer Payment information should be in the customer system 
  • Automate Collections using Payment Gateways 
  • Don’t reward bad behavior – Credit Holds so that provisioning is stopped 

Work 365 offers a Billing and Subscription application that helps cloud companies archive the necessary requirements and processes to grow your revenue. Learn more here.

Adjusting the Billing Contract to the New Frequency Using Work 365

Billing Contract Changes

Annual billing contracts are always great if you can get your customer to agree with them. It is great for your cash flow; it reduces the impact from the billing standpoint and your collection. Several companies enjoy the facilitation Annual Contracts brings to the table. But in today’s ever-changing environment you might be asked by your customers to change their billing cycle.

Then, what should you do?

There are two specific scenarios that you want to think about when it comes to change a Billing Cycle from annual to monthly or quarterly:

Scenario 1

The relationship changes at the renewing of the contract. The customer had an Annual contract and now wants a Monthly contract.

 

Solution:

  • Run the Change Log Invoice

This step is important because if there were any changes that happened between the last billing date and the last time you invoiced your client. You want to make sure you will include all those changes to the new invoice which you can see using the Change Log Invoice.

  • Adjust the Sales Unit and Sales Price, if needed

Work 365 can divide or multiply based on which sales unit was set up as the sales price and adjust on what needs to be invoiced at the time the invoice is generated. You need to take extra care if you sell your own IP where the annual price is different from the monthly price.

  • Adjust the Billing Contract to the new frequency

This is the simple step you need to perform in the billing contract to change the frequency of your invoice.

Scenario 2

The relationship changes in the middle of the contract. The changes are made mid-cycle. They want to add more licenses or products and they don’t want an Annual billing right now to conserve their cash flow. If you add the new changes to the current billing contract the invoice that is generated will show the balance for the year.

Solution:

  • Create a brand-new subscription to accommodate the change and associate it with the new billing contract

You will want to create a new subscription and associate with a new billing contract because this is an existing relationship which will be billed using the original frequency as it was set up in the billing contract.

The Need for Collecting Cash Fast

Accounts Receivables processes can take up valuable time and energy in any organization.This is why “Collecting Cash fast” is one of the key metrics for building a successful recurring business. Very often the longer it takes to collect cash the higher the risk of collecting that cash correctly. You need to ensure that you are collecting the payment as quickly as possible.

Work 365 supports the typical billing frequencies – Monthly, Quarterly and Annual billing. Some of the data we see with users of the application and the billing frequencies:

 
More than 70% off the invoicing is on a monthly basis. Monthly billing is the most common way of billing CSP and cloud services. Annual billing tends to be used by ISV’s and other solution providers that bundle their products or package their solutions through CSP.

Collecting cash through automated systems lowers the risk of non-payment, and reduces your DSO (Days of Sale Outstanding).mUsing manual processes like check payments is not practical for monthly payments. Typically, you want to keep your DSO to 30 days and lower than 7 days for monthly billing contracts.

Work 365, maintains the schedules for your billing relationships and using the integrated payment solutions can provide a convenient way to collect cash either through credit cards or direct debit solutions through Global leaders in payment solutions like Stripe, Authorize.net and GoCardless.

The video above demonstrates how you can leverage these integrated payment providers directly into Work 365.

So, what’s your DSO? Let us know your thoughts schedule a demo to discuss these options.

Extend Work 365 with PowerApps Automate

PowerApps Application

Work 365 is built on the PowerApps platform as a native Dynamics Application. With Automatic provisioning capabilities changes to licenses from within the Dynamics 365 application get provisioned automatically to the Microsoft Partner Center and distributors like TechData and Synnex.

This also means that your end customers who use the Work 365 self-service portal can add or reduce the number of licenses and have them provisioned directly with the providers.

Changes to licenses from the Portal get synced back to Work 365 and then provisioned automatically. From a service standpoint, it is very important that these provisioning changes are tracked and managed.

The questions that usually get asked are– “How do I know what changes my customers are requesting from the portal?” and “Did the changes get provisioned successfully?”

Two specific outcomes are likely:

  1. Changes are provisioned Successfully
  2. Or Changes Failed to Provision

Failures in provisioning can happen because of two reasons:

  1. Technical Issues – Unavailability of the endpoint, security or authentication failures
  2. Business Rules- The provider rejects the changes because of data validation errors like exceeding a certain threshold

Work 365 is built entirely on the PowerPlatform– which means you can utilize the capabilities of PowerApps, PowerPortalPowerAutomate, and even PowerBI to manage processes and drive outcomes.

For license change notifications here is a Sample process you may follow:

In simple terms, you may describe this process as “If  a license change is made through the Portal and it is successfully let the customer know that the provisioning was successful, however, if the provisioning fails to let my Service team know so that they can fix the issue!”

You can expand and modify this workflow into many areas and connect additional steps through the entities and capabilities of Work 365 and the PowerPlatform. You could include additional information in the notifications like error messages, and pricing information for the customer from the subscription.

If you would like to implement this PowerAutomate template, follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn and we will be sure to share this with you.

Understanding the Azure Plan vs. Microsoft Azure 

Microsoft Azure (Class Azure) will be available through Nov 1st, 2020. Microsoft MSP and CSP partners are currently transitioning their Azure customers to the Azure plan and the modern commerce infrastructure before the deadline.

Partners purchasing a new Azure offer in Partner Center must choose between Microsoft Azure or the Azure plan. Partners will not be able to provision both offerings at the same time.

Provisioning the Azure plan

Partners choosing the Azure plan must ensure the terms of the Microsoft Customer Agreement are accepted.  Resellers will have one-time provisioning of the Azure plan per customer via Partner Center. The Azure plan acts as a container for all Azure subscriptions. When the Azure plan is provisioned, an Azure subscription underneath the Azure plan is created by default.

  • To provision additional Azure subscriptions, Partner’s would NOT provision additional Azure plans. Instead, additional Azure subscriptions can be created under the customer’s existing Azure plan through the Azure Management Portal.

Transitioning a Microsoft Azure subscription to the Azure Plan

  • If customers have existing Microsoft Azure subscriptions, Partner resellers will need to transition those subscriptions to the new Azure plan.
  • Partners transitioning the original Microsoft Azure offer to the Azure plan can initiate the transition directly in Partner Center. There is no customer action required.
    • In the Partner Center, there will be a button on the Microsoft Azure subscription to transition to the Azure plan. After hitting the button, the Partner Center will direct Partners to the Azure Management Portal for the transition to be processed and completed.

Managing Azure Resources for PEC (Partner Earned Credit)

  • To earn PEC on Azure plan subscriptions, Partners must, at minimum, have AOBO (Admin On Behalf Of) Access at the resource level.
    • Direct CSP Partners or Indirect Providers provisioning new Azure subscriptions are automatically assigned AOBO rights to perform administrative tasks on the customer’s Azure AD tenant on behalf of the customer.
      • Customers do not have admin rights unless provided by the Partner; however, customer’s do have the ability to remove a Partner’s AOBO access.
      • Indirect CSP Partners: For Indirect CSP Partners to gain access, their Direct Providers must give AOBO rights to the Indirect CSP Partner.
  • Azure resources can also be managed through RBAC (Role-Based Access Control):
    • RBAC is assigned to specific users where the appropriate RBAC roles can be assigned at the resource level (ie. resource, resource group, subscription).

The Impact

Classic Azure was billed to Microsoft partners at a discount (usually 15%). This discount was the retail margin that partners were expected to markup the reported usage summary to create a customer-facing invoice. However, with Azure plan the Microsoft invoices the partner (reseller) the full retail amount without any margin. Microsoft will later provide a Partner Earned Credit equivalent to the resale margin 2 months later based as a credit on the invoice as mentioned above. What this is means is if you are transitioning existing Azure subscriptions to Azure Plan

  • Be sure to review the markup percentage on existing customer subscriptions. If you retain the original markup you are going to be potentially overcharging your end customer.
  • Review your default margin that is applied for new Azure subscriptions through the configuration in Work 365
  • Daily Usage data is no longer available the same way as it was for Azure Plan (your customers will not be able to view consumption the same way.
  • Be sure to adjust all your billing dates as the G invoices will be available for the entire previous calendar month.

Using a billing automation solution like Work 365 reduces and even eliminates the complexities around the Microsoft CSP Partner program.

Learn more about how Work 365 can help you!

CSP Reconciliation in Dynamics 365 using Work 365

Work 365 is a Billing automation system.

One very important question we get very often from Finance and Account teams is how does Work 365 help with CSP reconciliation?

CSP Reconciliation is a very important accounting function and in the Microsoft CSP partner world, that means reconciling your customer billing with your invoices from Microsoft or your distributor.

The above video will show a brief demonstration of how you can use Work 365 from within your Dynamics 365 system to do some basic audits and review the data from a visual perspective to perform a high-level reconciliation.

This graphic above shows in one Work 365 Table :

  1. The customer selling price on the billing side (revenue)
  2. The cost of information from the provider (cost)
  3. The quantities in the billing system (revenue)
  4. The quantities from the Provider Invoice (cost)

Using this simple table/view it’s easy to visually spot any discrepancies. However just because the quantities don’t match it doesn’t indicate that there is an actual discrepancy. This can happen if there was a change made to a subscription after the provider invoice was received.

So the subscription count in the table may show the current subscription, however, the provider invoice will show the subscription count for when the bill was generated. Having the context and history of the subscription (through change License Change Logs) helps to further clarify any such reconciliation concerns.

Work 365 provides bi-directional sync between Partner Center and Work 365. If your system is healthy and functioning correctly every customer subscription in Partner Center will sync into Work 365 and Work 365 Subscriptions will sync with Partner Center.

Learn more- Watch our video webinars!

Learn More About Microsoft Modern Commerce Platform

Microsoft Customer Agreement (MCA)

Partners will need to have their customers confirm acceptance of the Microsoft Customer Agreement by January 31st, 2020. If these agreements are not signed, no new subscriptions can be added or license counts changed in Partner Center.

Here are the 3 methods of confirming the Microsoft Customer Agreement:

  • Attestation through Partner Center
  • Attestation through APIs like Work 365
  • Sending the agreement link to accept the terms of the agreement through the Microsoft 365 Admin Center

The Microsoft Customer Agreement is a global purchase agreement across multiple purchase streams.  For Cloud Solution Partners going back to all the end customers and getting this process completed can be tedious.

Work 365 self-service portal makes it easy for customers to log in and review an existing agreement and confirm the acceptance. The customer’s acceptance from the Work 365 Self-service portal syncs back the data like Date of Signing, Signer back into Work 365 and into the partner center to continue with the Order provisioning process.

Microsoft Modern Commerce Platform

The Microsoft Customer Agreement is also required to transition customers to the Azure Plan subscriptions on the Microsoft Modern Commerce Platform. The Microsoft Modern Commerce Platform and Azure Plan billing is completely different. Partners earn their margin through the Partner Earned Credits (PEC).

PEC in the new commerce experience is earned at the Resource level of an Azure tenant. If partners manage the tenant at the resource group or subscription level, they receive PEC on all resources within those containers. Reader level access to resources do not qualify for PEC.

Once access is granted, Partners should ensure they will earn PEC for that customer’s Azure subscription by tying it back to the Partner’s MPN ID:

Partner Requirements

  • Billing relationship with MSFT
  • Provision the subscription
  • 24/7 operational control of the Azure resources in CSP (Azure Admin access)

On the Microsoft price list, all items will be listed at retail price with a monthly exchange rate for the existing 16 supported currencies:

  • AUD, GBP, CNY, EUR, JPY, NZD, RUB, CHF, BRL, CAD, DKK, INR, KRW, NOK, SEK, TWD. Any currency not listed will be billed in USD.
    • Then any earned PEC is taken off the total invoice amount as a net charge.

For existing Microsoft Azure subscriptions, Partners will continue to receive separate reconciliation files for usage and license based subscriptions. However, moving forward in the new commerce model, any new subscriptions created for the following offers will be consolidated to one recon file:

  • Offers consolidated to one recon file: Microsoft Azure, Azure Plan, Azure reservations, server subscriptions, marketplace offers
  • Partners will have a single recon file per currency

Ready to streamline Azure invoicing? We can help just let us know. 

How Manual Processes can be Hindering Growth of Subscription Billing Business

Subscription Billing and Recurring Billing

Recurring Billing and Subscription Billing involves a significant change in the way a business sells and collects revenue.

As you first start with Subscription-based sales and recurring revenue its more than likely that the tools and processes are not known and the excel is what you are likely to use to keep things simple. Subscription-based sales by their inherent nature are smaller sized sales! However successful subscription-based businesses are not small!

The important thing with subscription-based sales is that they are smaller bills over longer periods of time and over larger volumes of customers!

Subscription-based businesses thrive and grow through growth from their existing customer base while simultaneously continuing to acquire new customers. It’s a cumulative effect, each customer is a building block. Once you get the grasp of this the only way to build a successful Recurring, subscription-based business is through automation and the deployment of the right tools for your internal teams and your customers.

Humans are error-prone and they don’t want to do repetitive tasks. No matter what kind of safeguards are in place, expensive mistakes are likely to happen as you scale and grow. Automated processes for billing, subscription management and invoicing are the foundation elements to grow a Subscription-based business model through recurring revenue.

Complex workflow

How Work 365 Helps you Growth

  • All subscription data including the number of licenses, custom bundles of services and products, discounts, billing and payment information, billing terms, etc. are all in one place using Dynamics
  • Provisioning can be automated with Cloud Providers like Microsoft through Partner Center or Distributors like TechData and Synnex.
  • Automated Billing– helps with creating, sending and collecting cash for invoices that are accurate every single time whether a customer is paying monthly, quarterly or annually.
  • Self-Service Portal for your end customers allows them to see all their purchased services, billing history and most importantly adjust quantities of existing services and purchase new services!

Work 365 synchronizes, coordinates and automates.

Watch our following webinar video on best practices for subscription management and billing automation to scale your recurring business.

See how Work 365 integrates with accounting systems like Quickbooks or how Work 365 helps manage customer credit in recurring billing.

Work 365 2.7 Fall 2019 Release

Version 2.7 addresses the core needs around business insights and self-service.

Microsoft Partners and CSPs Need Billing Automation Systems – Why Excel Isn’t Enough

Billing Automation

If you’re in the business of generating recurring revenue like Microsoft CSP Partners and using Excel to handle your customer’s subscriptions and billing, you’re not alone. Dynamics 365 can easily be used to manage your sales and service, and with Work 365 you can manage recurring revenue and Billing automation for subscription sales.

While Partner Center and Distributor portals are available, most Service providers still use spreadsheets to log and record the changes that are being made to subscriptions and services. These changes along with a combination of all the different invoices are used to invoice and bill a customer.

This process can take hours or even days for teams of sales and accounting members to manually go through customer accounts and match up customer data in Dynamics CRM with the appropriate subscription changes in order to manually create and send out invoices. Most importantly this process is not scalable.

Automating this process can save a service provider hundreds of employee hours that can be used to focus on value creation tasks around customer service and sales to grow the business. Billing automation solutions like Work 365, that are built on Dynamics 365 allow Microsoft Partners to grow their recurring revenue with these great features around billing automation:

1) Bundling products and services into custom packages

2) Automatically Creating invoices by calculating prorations, refunds, and renewals

3) Automatically Sending and Collecting payment for invoices through

4) Calculating monthly Sales commissions and incentives

5) Integrating with accounting systems

Resources – https://work365apps.com/work-365-payment-and-invoice-integration-for-csp-automated-billing/

6) Enabling Self-Service scenarios for customers to directly provision and manage their services

Work 365 is built on Dynamics 365 and has bi-synchronization with Partner Center, all subscription changes, billing and payment status, and invoicing can be done directly from Work 365 with a click of a button, saving Partners and CSPS time and using multiple systems to keep their records in check.

Watch our webinars to see how Work 365 can help Indirect and Direct CSPs automate and reconcile billing and invoicing.