Let’s be honest, do you trust your bill for cloud services?  Do you know it is accurate?

Whether you are a Line of Business user seeing a chargeback bill from your IT operations data center or a finance manager looking at the bill from a public cloud provider, there are days you look at the amount at the bottom of the invoice and ask, “Can this be right?”

Cloud service providers, both public and private are recognizing the value added when invoices are clearly understood.  When the customer can easily see what has been consumed and who has been using it, confidence in the bill accuracy increases.   This confidence extends to the provider as well, fostering a more positive client-supplier relationship.

The best billing processes have a foundation which uses automated, consistent, and repeatable processes.  These five characteristics produce invoices which are reliable, easily understood and available to the client:

  1.  Automated Data Collection

Automated data collections are essentially “hands-free.” The processes are run from an automated job scheduler at preset times and have carefully defined exception handling processes if deviations occur.   An automated process allows for increased frequency of collection, a critical aspect of capturing cloud usage.  Self-service provisioning makes it possible for instances to be spun up and shut down in a matter of minutes. With a fully automated process, collections can be done every day, every hour, even every five minutes.  Picking up those instances which would have been overlooked when usage was captured daily means more revenues to the provider.  For the consumer, it means truly paying for only what you use, not a full day if you used less.

  1.  Consistent Methodology

Consistent processes are reliable processes.  If you are applying business rules like rates or discounts, you want to see that results are constant.  Consistency also is important during the transformation process when you tag who is using resources.  You eliminate the guesswork of compliance by using automated, consistent identification of consumption and increase reporting accuracy.

  1.  Repeatable Processes

Let’s not trivialize the concept of repeatable.  This sounds so easy.  Just do the same thing again and again.  If you are manually updating spread sheets, think of the number of opportunities you have to change your pattern. As the amount of data you handle grows, you must have repeatable processes defined and automate those processes to insure the output is reliable.  Cloud usage records number tens of thousands each month or more, even for a small account.  Scalability in your processes is critical as you attempt to handle an ever growing data file.

  1.  Historical Repositories

Holding all your data in a historical data base and using business analytics to create dashboards and reports completes the configuration of the best invoicing solutions.   As the number of cloud providers you use expands, you will benefit most from a common database which facilitates a single pane of glass view into your hybrid world.  The data you collect can support many types of resource management in addition to invoicing.   It can be used for supply and demand balancing, capacity realignment, long-range forecasting, and business value analysis.

  1.  Self-service Reporting

Self-service reports, fully secured and accessible via the web are mandatory.   We like to play with our data in our own ways.  After all, we have developed some battle-tested review processes over time and don’t want to lose that investment. Using the BI tools to digest massive amounts of data, aggregate it, and parse it out into just those records you need is a significant advantage.  Reports that let you drill down to view details and then download subsets for your own use offer the greatest functionality.  As a customer, you can validate your own bills and see immediately what changes are taking place.   As a provider, you have less disruption in your revenue stream as there are fewer inquiries, disputes, and refunds.

When you are ready to optimize your data collection and billing processes, look for a solution that is highly-scalable and supports a hybrid IT environment.  You can save money and increase revenues, delivering more profits to the bottom line.