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.

Accounting Systems vs Automated Billing Systems: What’s the difference for CSPs?

As a Microsoft Partner and CSP, a requirement is to have automated billing and accounting systems in place to keep a record of transactions and send out invoices. While the line between the two different systems has blurred in recent years, billing automation and accounting systems still serve two different purposes and require a software decision.

Today, we’ll review the differences between automated billing and account systems in order to help cloud businesses build efficiency.

The Differences Between Accounting And Automated Billing Systems

Accounting Systems

QuickBooks2019

An accounting system like Quickbooks, NetSuite, Xero, or Freshbooks, is meant to document and classify all of a business’s financial transactions. It is most commonly used to show the following data:

  • Money that comes in and goes out of the business
  • Total revenue
  • Total profit
  • Company budgets and expenses
  • Accounts payable and receivable

Most accounting systems allow users to create manual invoices, which can handle the needs of the typical smaller business. However, a cloud service provider bases its billing and invoicing on more complex information such as customer provisioning, pro-ration, license tiers, and discounts.

While this information can be manually compiled, doing so consumes significant time that could be better spent elsewhere in your business. That’s where a billing automation system comes in.

Billing Systems

A billing system automates much of the manual work required to create an accurate invoice. Billing systems typically track the following:

  • Actual product/service usage
  • Client provisioning
  • Discounts
  • Payment Plans
  • Subscription tiers
  • Customized services and pricing
  • Tax levies
  • Billing automation systems then automatically generate customer invoices, either directly or through integration with an accounting system. This process delivers a more efficient way of invoicing customers.

Why CSPs Should Use A Billing Automation System?

Work365 Provision Sales

Work 365 App

Automated billing systems like Work 365 help CSPs send and track more accurate invoices to they get paid more quickly with less effort. When integrated with an accounting system, Work 365 can help businesses:

  • Streamline processes by unifying all data collection and tracking into a fully integrated front to back system.
  • Save time by allowing the creation of things like payment plans, auto-pay services, tax calculations, and automated invoicing and payment reminders that are action triggered and not manual.
  • Offer better service self-service portals allow customers to view their balance, understand their charges, and pay on their own. This lets your business focus its resources on improving support rather than reconciling accounts
  • Make fewer mistakes automated services decrease manual actions that lead to errors.

See how Work 365 can improve the accounting and billing systems for your cloud solution provider business with a demo. Ready for the next step? Give us a call at +1-571-429-5171 and start scaling your cloud business.

Managing Business Credit Risk for CSP and Recurring Billing with Work 365

Recurring Billing

Not all customers are created equal. This is especially true when it comes to payment timeliness – businesses that offer pro-rated or ongoing services in advance of payment are taking on risk and can be affected by slow or missed customer payments.

Evaluating the extent of that risk and coordinating that risk can be difficult when invoices, payments, and services are all on different systems.  With cloud services and recurring billing, we need to apply a different mindset to provisioning, invoicing and payment collection.

In a previous post, we shared best practices on Subscription Billing. Subscription billing cannot be treated the same way that we handle one-time items or paper-based licenses or even project-based invoices. It’s commonplace to apply protections like Billing in advance to ensure that the payment is received before incurring any costs.

Recurring Billing or Cloud services have these characteristics:

  • Generally long term in nature
  • Customers tend to purchase with options like Monthly or Annual billing
  • Purchases are not always large
  • Cloud Services tend to be essential services that are commonly used to run the business like Email

Credit Hold Functionality

Regardless when there is a new relationship – financial and accounting processes need to be in place in order to streamline and Sales and Billing operations. Credit management is one such item. Dynamics 365 Sales provides out of the box fields like Credit Limit and Credit Hold. These fields are exactly what they are meant to be which is to flag a customer for Credit Hold and specify a Credit limit for the customer.

Work 365 leverages these features to limit the exposure and synchronize the process between sales -> service and finance. A new or existing customer may be on credit hold as the sales team closes their first sale and even set up subscriptions and billing contracts.

While the Account is on credit hold the system doesn’t provision any services thereby allowing the finance team to complete any credit management processes like requesting a payment profile or collecting documentation. Once the Credit management process is completed and the Credit hold is lifted the system automatically provisions any items that are in the awaiting state.

office-365-provisioning-and-licensing

Another use case is when a credit hold is placed for non-payment. The customer’s account can be put on credit hold preventing them from making further changes or adding subscriptions. Sales and service teams can indicate to the customer that the account is on credit hold and not something they are able to workaround. Giving your finance and sales teams further leverage to collect payments while also providing adequate system-based responses. This credit hold feature prevents revenue loss from unpaid balances. This is also another example of how Work 365 leverages the Dynamics 365 Sales application to synchronize the tasks between Sales, Service, and the finance teams.

Work 365 syncs account and system information from sales and accounting and streamline the credit check process to make sure all information is accurate and up-to-date. Holds can be immediately paused or un-paused based on the customer’s payment and credit history with your services. These features, coupled with invoice integration for automated billing, help Cloud Solution Providers to control their cloud business even more than before, saving time and money.

Check out our customer case studies to learn more about the problems our CSP customers faced.

Work 365 Payment and Invoice Integration for CSP Automated Billing

Payment and Invoice Integration

When it comes to billing, invoicing and payment collection, there’s more involved than just sending out an invoice.

One of the main challenges of a cloud solution provider within the Microsoft CSP Program is to either create or find solutions that will standardize the invoicing and payment collection process to help scale their business.

To scale the business service providers, must tackle several tasks seamlessly:

  • Provision and bundle services and offerings
  • Pro-rate based on usage and providing usage metrics
  • Invoices Creation
  • Delivery of Invoices
  • Payment Collection

For many IT services companies including Microsoft partners, billing reconciliation and payment collection is a manual task that can take upwards of 10 hours a month for just 15 recurring customer invoices. This effort grows significantly based on the volume and types of services provided.

There is coordination between the accounting, sales and operations teams to collect all the data necessary to just generate invoices accurately. Not only does it take a lot of time and is error-prone, but also requires using several different systems to complete tasks.

Streamlined Accounting Process

Work 365 tackles these issues by becoming the all-in-one service option for cloud providers and partners. For whoever looking to scale their business and automate the sales and billing systems to deliver better service, with accurate invoices on time every single time.

Work 365 can integrate with Accounting systems like QuickBooks, Xero and Business Central as well as payment gateways to directly accept payments from automatically generated invoices.

Deep Dive: Work 365 Integration with QuickBooks Online

Work 365 invoices are automatically generated. The invoices can then be Auto-Synced into your accounting system or synced using a one-click function with Work 365.

invoicing for csps

In case, if there are multiple companies or accounting systems synchronized with CRM, Work 365 system allows the configuration and setup for more than one accounting systems.

quickbooks integration

The invoice is synced to QuickBooks automatically or with a single click and all the details along with product information, pricing and descriptions are all passed over to the accounting system.

invoice sync with quickbooks

The invoice line items reflect the Work 365 automatic license proration for previous mid-term license changes, as well as the full upcoming billing cycle.

invoicing for billing cyclesinvoicing for billing cycles 2

The cash can be applied to the QuickBooks invoice and the status will update automatically in Work 365. These invoices can also be visible through the Work 365 Self-Service portal.

With these integrations, Work 365 allows users to collect payments and sync any invoice, any product, service or subscription within the system.

Learn how to charge invoices and collect payments using the invoice and payment integrations in Work 365 2.0.

Check out our customer case studies to learn more about the problems our CSP customers faced.

The Customer Experience – Combining E-Commerce and Self-Service with Work 365

E-Commerce and Self-Service

Businesses often treat e-commerce and self-service as separate solutions to two distinct business needs. As a result, each solution only solves one issue and customer data is not synchronized between all systems that touch a customer. For example, if a customer purchases an incident tracking solution that solution won’t have a market place and vice versa.

Now let’s look at how we can enable an end customer scenario with an E-commerce site.

Work 365 with the Self-service and e-commerce solution automates these steps and create a better experience while enabling the additional for sales.

Watch our webinar related to Ecommerce and Self-Service with Work 365

Work 365 creates a back-and-forth relationship between self-service and e-commerce systems that helps businesses expand self-service beyond support ticket submissions to support the following:

Adopting this holistic self-service mindset allows organizations to realize the following benefits:

  • Increase in quantities and densities of products purchased
  • Better customer retention and renewal rates
  • Growth of customers from referral business

While also decreasing the following:

  • Customer attrition or turnover
  • Cost of new customer acquisition
  • Cost of service
  • Time and effort spent on dealing with account changes and billing

Thinking about how you can get self-service set up at your CSP? Learn more about e-commerce and self-service with Work 365.

The Customer Experience – Self-Service Portal with Work 365

Self-Service Portal

Some estimates show that up to 80 percent of customer interactions will happen through the self-service portal as early as 2020. Customers are looking to place orders, submit tickets, get billing information and receive various other services on their own terms.

These services are enabled through technology investments which can be challenging to implement for smaller businesses. In this article we will examine the three questions in the golden circle around Self-service – Why, What and How?

Why do you need Self-Service Portal for IT Services companies?

The first and most important reason is that even if your customers are not explicitly asking you, they are expecting it from you. Secondly, this investment is the only way you can scale your business in the world of recurring billing cloud-services.

Self Service and customer-facing Microsoft CRM portals create better customer experiences and allow Technology Services companies to scale at a fixed and predictable cost. As a service provider if you are not thinking about Scale and Customer experience your opportunities are going to erode.

Self-Service Portal delivers and creates better Customer Experience, and Customer Experience is one of the main reasons why customers chose to work with a service provider. For an IT services company, the customer experience journey starts from the initial contact and as shown below, the path is not linear and is littered with an infinite number of interactions.

customer journey & experience

To provide an exceptional customer experience at every step along this journey, Microsoft Partners and Technology Services companies need to have the infrastructure and tools in place to manage these interactions.

What can you do with Self-Service Portal for your customers?

Self-service is about enabling scenarios for your customers at every stage of the journey shown above. Some example of the things customers want to do:

  1. Register for a training event
  2. Update their personal and company information
  3. Create and receive a Quote
  4. Update Payment Information
  5. Place an Order for new services
  6. Review and Manage their existing services
  7. Request help for an issue
  8. Review and update their agreements
  9. Review their invoices.

Most often the only self-service scenario that is enabled is ticketing and case management and the primary reason is that the data and processes are initiated and enabled in different systems. The challenge for Service providers is how do you enable these various scenarios when the data is actually scattered in multiple systems?

How can you achieve these great experiences and outcomes?

Self-service creates better customer experiences and allows technology service providers to scale their business. Customer data and business processes are stored in various systems.

great-experience-and-outcomes

  • Accounting Systems have Billing Information and Payment Data
  • Ticketing Systems have incidents and Service Data
  • Providers like Microsoft or Distributors have the Subscription and Service Data
  • PSA systems have Time and Project Information and
  • CRM Systems like Salesforce, Dynamics 365 have Customer Relationship data

Self-service can become very hard to deliver when the data is in so many different systems. Work 365 delivers a unified solution for all the applications with Billing Automation, Service Management on the Dynamics 365 platform.

Dynamics 365 + Work 365

dynamics 365 + work 365

Built on Dynamics 365, Work 365 creates opportunities for us to transform services and deliver better outcomes while also reducing the following:

  • Customer attrition or turnover
  • Cost of new customer acquisition
  • Cost of service
  • Time and effort spent on dealing with account changes and billing

Thinking about how you can get self-service set up at your CSP? Learn more about e-commerce and self-service with Work 365.

Work 365 Version Handles Microsoft’s New Control Panel Vendor Program Security Requirements And MFA

Control Panel Vendor Program

Microsoft recently announced new mandatory security requirements that tackle potential security risks from unauthorized access to the Microsoft Partner Center, the CPV program. A Control Panel Vendor (CPV) is an independent software vendor that develops applications for use by Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners to enable them to integrate their systems with Partner Center APIs.

The new security model from Microsoft is based on the requirements:

  • CPV Vendors and the tenants cannot store credentials
  • API based access must provide the purpose of impersonating credentials to access partner center
  • Use a consent framework to receive permissions
  • The systems and CPVs must be able to support any future requirements
  • Both human and system admin CPV users must use multi-factor authentication to access the partner center

Direct Partners and In-Direct Partners using Work 365 have varying uses:

Control-Panel-Vendor

(figure 1)

The Figure 1 above shows how Partners and users access the Partner Center and Services and subscriptions for their Customers. Work 365 (CPV) is the automation and control system between the partner center that ultimately leads to the provisioning of services and a financial impact from Microsoft.

Lost credentials (or claims of lost credentials, including sharing of credentials within a partner organization) can result in the provisioning of unauthorized services. Many CPVs are SaaS applications and need to store the credentials within their systems, which represents a potential security risk.

What is the Work 365 Advantage?

Built on Azure Active Directory

Microsoft built its platform on Azure AD, Office 365, CRM, Partner Center all leverage Azure AD and So does Work 365. One consolidated platform to manage user identities, prevent ‘leakage’, sleep better.

Built on Dynamics 365

The CSP business changes rapidly – change or your customers will. Dynamics 365 is a platform – extensibility is a core tenet. Work 365 inherits the capabilities of the platform, making it a truly extensible platform. Adapt to a rapidly evolving business landscape

Designed to keep you in control

In stark contrast to competitors, Work 365 is not a custodian of your data – the data resides with you. Work 365 is a set of services designed to operate on your data at its rightful place. You control who has access and how much

One version of the truth, your version!

Consolidate your business data in a single location. Enrich your data with integrations (Partner Center, distributors, ERP systems). Leverage the rich self-reporting capabilities of Dynamics 365 (Advanced Find, Dashboards, Charts) to quickly highlight what’s important or find what’s amiss.

Work 365 is Compliant with Control Panel Vendor Security Requirements.

Work 365’s fundamental architected to comply and meet the security requirements.

  1. All the data is stored directly in the Dynamics 365 tenant
  2. All the access permissions are managed by the Partner’s AD. The end user controls who has access and roles.
  3. Work 365 uses the consent framework to manage security and permissions.

Work 365’s version 2.1 security enhancements allow a CSP to control access and permissions through the Dynamics 365 security model. Because this model is tied to the partner’s Azure ID in order to use Work 365, no third-party system is required.

Work 365 then accesses the Partner Center through a flexible provider model.

How Work 365 Gets Consent for CPVs

  1. Using the Provider configuration model, you can specify Identification information to your Partner Center ID. Work 365 generates a “get consent link”.get consent link
  2. Users can use the link to login with the credentials for the Admin agent and provide consent for the application to manage the subscriptions.consent successful
  3. Once you provide consent, credentials are cleared from the system settings.

Work 365 enables CSPs to satisfy the new CPV security requirements regardless of direct or indirect partner status. Read more about how Work 365 can help with your recurring billing and payment collections under the latest CPV program.

Watch our webinar about CPV Program Security Requirements & MFA

CPV Solution for Payment Collections and Recurring Billing with Work 365

Recurring Billing and Payment Collections

Since August of 2018, Microsoft has required its Direct Partners in the CSPs program to have billing and provisioning infrastructure. Partners in the CSP program are using ISV and SaaS-based solutions that Microsoft refers to as Control Panel Vendors (CPVs).

With Control Panel Vendor solutions like Work 365, Partners are expected to achieve scale with automation and deliver strong customer service.

Work 365 is in the CPV program and includes subscription management, billing automation, managing Office 365 licensing, and payment collections for recurring billing in Dynamics 365.

Direct bill and Indirect bill Partners have both adopted CPV solutions like Work 365 to scale their business. These CPV solutions are intended to solve complex automation challenges like subscription-based, billing management, billing reconciliation, and customer support for services like Office 365 and Azure.

Managing these services and subscriptions are time-consuming and error-prone tasks through the complexities and parameters shown in the image below :

CPV-Billing-Solution

Having a billing automation system and subscription management system in place allows the partner to focus resources on providing better customer service and technical support.

Streamlined Workflows in Work 365

Work 365’s automated billing and payment management system allows Partners and CSPs to streamline accounting and sales by having all aspects of the billing management in one place.

Partners can provision new customer accounts with the pricing and sales information that was used to win an opportunity in just a few clicks using the Customer Account Provisioning Wizard. Finance and Accounting can use Work 365 to review provider invoices, reconcile vendor bills with customer services, manage invoices, and receive payments for the Billing Contracts that are set up in the system.

The image below shows how Work 365 plays a role in influencing and aiding the Sales and the Finance function in the organization.

Work-365-customer-experience

Work 365 improves on these processes with the ability to create customer payment profiles and collect money. The invoices can be created and sent from the system, payments can be processed, and the account balance is updated, all in one place.

How to Charge a Customer Invoice

Before you can charge an invoice, you need to create a payment profile for your customer.

  1. Go to a Work 365 customer invoice. Hit the charge button at the top of the invoice.Change button
  2. A pop up will appear showing the customer’s payment profile, and the invoice details. When the pop up appears, the payment amount entered will populate the balance amount that’s due on the invoice. However, this payment amount can be reduced to make a partial payment (Work 365 users cannot charge more than the invoice amount). After the amount is confirmed hit save and the invoice will be charged.Charge Invoice

After the invoice is charged, 3 things will occur :

  1. The Invoice Status reason will either say Partial, if partial payment was made, or show the balance of the invoice.
  2. The invoice itself will be marked as paid.
  3. Under the Total Amount section of the invoice, the first line item will show the amount that was charged, and the second line item will show the Balance Amount that is left on the invoice. If the full invoice was charged, then the balance amount will show zero. If a partial payment was made, then the balance amount will show the remaining balance that’s due to be charged.

For Partial Payments

partial payments

To charge an invoice with a previous partial payment :

  1. Go to the same invoice
  2. Hit the Charge Button
    1. A pop up will appear showing the customer’s payment profile, the invoice details, and the remaining balance on the invoice due to be charged. The payment amount that is entered will populate the balance that’s due.
  3. Hit save to charge the invoice.save change invoice
  4. The total amount section on the invoice form will be updated to show the new balance amount.new balance account

Work 365 enables Partners and CSPs to manage customer accounts & manage office 365 licensing efficiently and profitably by providing the following functions and capabilities :

  • Provision and bundle subscriptions and licenses for customers
  • Apply custom and individual discounts and promotions
  • Create customer payment profiles for automating invoices and invoice payments
  • Log customer payment information and process payments, partial payments and follow up charges all in one place
  • Tackle manual changes and update accounts (upgrade/downgrade licenses, pro-rated licenses) quickly with two-way synchronization with Partner Center
  • Access to change logs and customer utilization/consumption

Work 365 helps Microsoft Partners and CSPs scale and grow, tackling the time consuming and manual processes that lead to mistakes, too much time spent on calculating costs and chasing down invoices instead of on customer support, and growing revenue through sales. Managing billing and payment systems gives Partners one less thing to worry about and keeps accounting records accurate and up-to-date.

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!

Cloud and Subscription Sales Incentive Management with Work 365

Sales Incentive Management

Why Have Sales Incentives? A high-performance sales team knows the answer to this and generally, any organization trying to achieve goals knows incentives work to motivate our teams and create a competitive environment. Incentive plans are important for several reasons:

  • Acknowledgment of Milestones and Achievements
  • Exceeding sales goals
  • Fostering teamwork
  • Improving employee retention
  • Motivating sales staff
  • Rewarding employees
  • Rewarding extraordinary Service and Top performers

However, incentives can be particularly hard to track if the item you are incentivizing against keeps changing.

This is particularly important for Subscription and Cloud-based sales!

Most Microsoft partners do not have sales compensation and commission tracking systems. These are expensive systems and require significant time and effort to implement. The general sense is that Sales Incentive management systems are good for much larger sales teams.

Because of these perceived costs and complexities, most Sales organizations just don’t have Sales incentives for Cloud-based Sales -even though this is where the growth is. And in the rare case where the Sales plans are set up, the process is All manual and takes up a LOT of time!

The commission and sales incentive tracking process is usually a manual task consisting of spreadsheets and calculations. And the sales teams have no idea what their payout is until the accounting team concludes the calculations at the end of a period and confirms the payout.

Sales Incentive Management

Sales Incentives Implementation Challenges

This process creates an ineffective incentive implementation that does little to motivate the sales team. The typical challenges that we see with traditional incentives implementation:

  • Having different incentive plans, different types of services and keeping track of commissions
    • Recurring revenue: i.e. cloud solutions
    • One-time sales
    • Service solutions: i.e. managed, resource and support services
  • Manual calculations of incentives and types of payouts
    • Payout based on cash receipts — salesperson is not paid until the customer has paid
    • Payout based on the invoice — the commission is based on what is charged to the customer
    • Payout based on booking — A customer makes a commitment to purchase the solution
  • Keeping the sales team motivated to keep selling if they don’t know how much they’re making

Work 365 is a Subscription Management and Billing Automation solution built on Dynamics 365 for Microsoft Partners in the CSP program. Work 365 helps MSPs, VARs and ISVs grow and scale their monthly recurring revenue. And add to the bottom line by providing bundling, self-service, e-commerce, payments, and incentive management

So How Does Work 365 changes the Sales Incentive game?

Work 365 calculates incentives based on the invoices that are generated against a Partner’s services within a determined period of performance through this simple three-step process:

Step 1: The Leadership defines the Incentive Plans which can be specific to a Product Class (i.e. IP, Resale or Services), for a specified period, frequency and the Incentive type. The plan can specify whether the incentive is earned on a Net basis or a Revenue basis.

Step 2: The Sales Person sells and Provisions a Subscription that matches the Incentive Plan

Step 3: …thats it!

Work 365 Earnings Payout

Work 365 Earnings Payout

The earnings and payout calculations are then fully automated just like how the Billing is automated through Work 365. The Sales team members can confirm/audit their incentives, and finance and admin teams can approve, manage, and make the payments — all within the same system. Whether the sales commissions are for Azure Sales, managing CSP Licensing Sales or Service based sales the system can calculate the incentives!

  • No more manual calculations of incentives — Work 365 automatically calculates incentives based on the billing contracts and subscriptions invoices that are generated from the system
  • Automatic prorated incentive calculations — Work 365 already prorates licenses on a monthly or daily basis. Now the prorated incentives tied to the prorated licenses are automatically calculated.
  • Saves time spent on incentive management — Work 365 has the potential to cut time spent by 30-50% because all the information is within one system so there is no back-and-forth or validating data/calculations

Work 365 helps you scale and grow! The sales members keep track of their sales progress, commissions, and payouts. While the accounting and finance teams save time managing the sales compensation plans and ensuring that payout is accurate based on the sales data located within the system. Your sales team is the driving force behind your CSP business. Managing the sales incentives properly can help keep your sales team motivated and incentivized to keep performing and driving business growth.

Since all the source data is in the system, everyone can access the information directly from within Work 365, leaving little room for error.

Watch our webinar on how Work 365 can help your CSP business with sales incentive management.

Sales Incentive Management with Work 365

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!