Work 365 Payment and Invoice Integration for CSP Automated Billing

When it comes to billing, invoicing and payment collection, there’s much 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 team to collect all the data necessary to just generate invoices accuratelyNot only does it take a lot of time and is error-prone, but this 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 synched 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

 

ecommerce-and-self-service-for-csps

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:

  • Services and subscription management
  • Usage consumption reporting
  • Billing, invoicing, and payment support

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 and E-Commerce with Work 365

Some estimates show that up to 80 percent of customer interactions will happen through self-service 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 portals 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 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 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 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.

Dynamics CRM Portal

Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

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:

partner center security changes for direct partner

(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

Since August of 2018, Microsoft has required its Direct Partners in the CSPs program to have a 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, 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 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 changelogs 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? High-performance sales team know 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 a 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 incentive for Cloud-based Sales -even though this is where the growth is. And in the rare case where the Sales plans are setup, 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 — 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 specified period, frequency and the Incentive type. The plan can specify whether the incentive is earned on the Net basis or 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 is for Azure Sales, License 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!

Seven Pros and Cons of Microsoft’s Change to Default Office 365 Delegated Admin Privileges (DAP) for Partners in the Partner Center

Microsoft has been making an investment and change in the CSP program. Some of these changes are program changes and technology changes to better align the channel.

Some of the recent changes include Advanced Support, Billing Automation, Microsoft Cloud Agreements which we covered in our previous webinar and now Beginning November 1, Delegated Admin Privileges (DAP) are no longer automatically granted by default.

Prior to this change, all new relationships included Office 365 DAP, and the removal of DAP in Office 365 occurred after the reseller relationship was established. Now, when Partners use Partner Center to connect with customers, they must choose whether their customer relationship includes Office 365 DAP.

How Do the Partner Center DAP Changes Affect the Customer’s Experience?

Instead of being directed to the Microsoft Office Admin Portal when accepting reseller relationship invitations, customers will now be directed to the Microsoft Store for Business.

Whether Partners choose to include Office 365 DAP for new customers will determine which communications and landing pages customers see in the Microsoft Store for Business.

  • Customers with DAP included: their invitation will mention DAP, and they will see a screen allowing them to accept DAP privileges as usual.  
  • Customers without DAP included: DAP will NOT be mentioned in the invitation, and these customers will need to assign Partner permissions for Office 365 and Azure to themselves. 

Note: Work 365 Provider Configuration accommodates the scenarios where a partner can request the specific relationships in the 1.8 release of Work 365.

How the Partner Center DAP Changes Will Affect Partner/Reseller Customer Relationships:

Pros:

  • Easier for Indirect CSPs: this change allows Indirect CSP Partners to send a “DAP-free” relationship, enabling a customer to purchase and the Partner to provision, but not have access for delegated admin.  
  • More Flexible for Customers with Strict Compliance Requirements: Partners will not face compliance and/or security hurdles related to DAP access when working with highly regulated prospects, which means it may be easier to do business with those clients.  
  • The Change is Optional: Partners that require DAP access in order to provide support to customers can continue to send reseller relationships with DAP. They will just need to verify the invitation settings.
  • Reduces Partner Conflict: Partner competition over Digital Partner of Record privileges (DPOR) can be resolved by the customer since they will have control over who they believe should be their DPOR.  

Cons:

  • Quick Adjustment: This announcement was made 10 days before going into effect, leaving Partners little time to adjust to the new Partner Center process for sending reseller relationships.  
  • Providing Support May Become More Complicated: If a Partner sends a “DAP-free” relationship to a customer and the customer later needs support, the customer will have to give DAP access to the Partner. This could lead to delays and confusion. 
  • Reseller Support is Still Required: Even in “DAP-free” reseller relationships, this does not excuse a Partner from providing support. The MCA agreements have not changed, and resellers are still responsible for providing support.  

Next Steps for Managing the Partner Center DAP Changes 

  • Starting Nov. 1, 2018 Partners must choose whether to include DAP when establishing new reseller relationships using the Partner Center.  
  • Make sure to send your invitations using the appropriate links.  
  • Ensure you update existing documentation and collateral to reflect the new experience. 

We will discuss these changes in our next Work 365 Webinar if you would like to learn more. Any additional information on this topic will be shared in our Work 365 Yammer Group.

Sign Up for Work 365 Customer Experience Platform

Advanced Support for Cloud Solution Providers: An IOTAP Review

Microsoft announced the new Direct CSP requirements for Partners in May with an effective start date of Aug. 31st, 2018 for Partners to become compliant based on their CSP renewal dates.

The major changes to the CSP Direct Biller program are the new requirements to purchase an Advanced Support Plan, along with a Billing Automation solution and a Managed Solution offering.

The Advanced Support plan costs $15,000 and includes quicker response times of under an hour, break/fix problem resolution, and the ability to manage support incidents on the customer’s behalf.

The Premier support plan begins at $30,000, it has additional features and is customizable to Partners’ needs.

You can check out comparisons of the two programs here

Although the requirement was established to ensure adequate customer support among the Direct CSP Partners, it was quite controversial in the Microsoft community and there were differing opinions on why Microsoft made the change. Some Partners had experienced the program in its early stages and had poor feedback. Partners did not want to be forced to purchase a service that wasn’t great and add additional costs.

Other Partners asserted this requirement was a deliberate strategy to reduce the number of Direct Partners, and to have the relationship be built with distributors instead.

Over the last several month partners have taken the plunge and stayed with the Direct Biller program and implemented some strategies to recuperate the cost of ASfP:

  • Partners can provide a differentiated support offering of providing escalated Microsoft support for customers that want a faster turnaround, and then continue to offer a basic support plan as well. This is specifically helpful for Azure and Business Applications.  
  • Use the cloud consultation as a service item and service offering.
  • Leverage the differentiated messaging of having advanced Microsoft support available to customers to help increase sales.  

There are a few aspects of the program that have been highly beneficial with the biggest impact:

1. Response Times and Quality of Support

“We spend less time waiting for a response. Response times have been cut down by as much as 50 minutes. Normally when I file a ticket sometimes I would wait for an hour. Now most times when I submit a ticket, it’s ten minutes or less for a response with ASfP.”

2. Quality of Microsoft supports improving

The difference between the quality of support is night and day. We spend less time troubleshooting, we spend less time waiting, and people are more knowledgeable. So it’s tremendous times savings both on the front end, with waiting, and with the backend with the actually troubleshooting as well. And that’s amazing.

3. Monthly Cloud Consultations

These are engagements with Microsoft technical specialists that can become involved in engagements with potential customers. Involving these technical specialists with customers keeps them interested and demonstrates our relationship with Microsoft. For example, they have been very helpful in Azure engagements such as helping set up Azure clients’ infrastructure environments that are a bit tricky.

We also use cloud consults for internal development as well. Instead of using one of our monthly cloud consults to help with a client engagement, we use it for technical training purposes.

4. Account Manager

The last and probably the most important reason our technical support experience has improved so dramatically because of our SAM (Solutions Account Manager). An effective and committed SAM will ensure Partners get the value out of the relationship.

The overall result of these features has been our ability to drive better customer experience.

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!

Optimize Azure Billing and Cost Management

Azure Billing and Pricing Best Practices

Many Microsoft Partners starting out in Azure get stuck on the cost of Azure and managing the billing thus discouraging them from selling it and losing out on the dominating cloud opportunity Azure provides.

The IDC chapter “Optimize your Operations” in the ebook The Modern Microsoft Partner Series, sponsored by Microsoft, discusses building repeatable business practices and touches on Azure billing and pricing.

IDC asserts that “maximizing margin is directly related to the customer’s perceived value,” and therefore influences whether a customer sees enough value for the price in order to buy the solution.

In other words, a customer must have a true need for which the solution addresses in order for pricing to be justified by the customer. The first issue with this lies around communicating that value of the solution and how it addresses the customer’s needs specifically. The second issue is actually pricing the solution.

IDC recommends pricing within a range with which customers find acceptable but still allows for enough margin to be profitable. However, unless one understands how to optimize the infrastructure of an Azure cloud environment, the truth is Azure can be very expensive depending on the workloads.

Regardless of the methods used in optimizing cloud infrastructure, one should always give a range in Azure pricing to the customer to allow for slack in the event of unforeseen circumstances that could not only affect profitability but also reduce client satisfaction and jeopardize one’s credibility.

Another possible solution, as demonstrated by Rackspace’s business model, is to have customers pay monthly for consumption, but to have customers sign a flexible agreement so that when there are spikes in consumption the cost is spread out over several months instead of having one big bill.

IOTAP’s CEO also discusses his thoughts on the subject of Azure billing for CSP Partners; read it here! You can also attend his Webinar discussing Azure subscription Management and invoicing for CSP Partners using Work 365.

How to Azure Pricing

When pricing Azure, one needs to think about more than just the number of VMs and storage a customer will need. In order to quote optimized Azure pricing, one must first understand the client’s business. Questions to ask could include:

  • Are there any servers that don’t need to be on all day every day? Are there any that can be turned off during non-business hours?
  • Thinking about the customer’s industry, are there certain times in their business where spikes in consumption can be calculated? For example, if the customer is in retail will they get more activity on their online website during a holiday season? Appropriately changing server sizes when more capacity is needed is an excellent way to not acquire overhead costs of unused larger servers, and to easily scale up or down as the business demands.
  • Instead of big monolithic boxes for RDS sessions, can some of those sessions be reduced to redundant smaller RDS boxes? For example, gateways often have identical sessions. Instead of letting a large monolithic box go mostly unused, put those sessions in much smaller boxes that can be scaled up and down when more capacity is needed.  

These may be infrastructure related questions, but they directly influence consumption and the end cost; therefore, these variables must be considered when leveraging the Azure calculator to produce quotes.

Tips and Tricks on Azure Cost Management

To see detailed information around Azure cost management, the article “Prevent Unexpected Charges with Azure Billing and Cost Management” found on Microsoft’s Azure documentation site lists several examples with instructions. Here are a few highlighted features: 

  • Set up billing alerts: Billing email alerts can be set up so that an email alert is sent when usage costs exceed an amount that is specified. 
  • Add tags to group your billing data: For example, use tags to categorize costs by business departments or production environments that run their own VMs.  
  • Enable auto-shutdown for VMs in the Azure portal for cutting costs: Create scripts for shutting down specific VMs during specified times. More information can be found here.
  • Turn on Azure Advisor recommendations: Identify resources with low usage to reduce costs. More information can be found here.

Lastly, here are two Azure optimization benefits that can save on costs up to 80% combined! 

  • Azure Reserved Instances: Get 72% price savings when purchasing VMs up front for one or three years in specified regions. Use this savings to reduce cost and increase margin. 
  • Hybrid-Use Benefit: If a client already has Windows VM licenses Software Assurance or Windows Server Subscriptions, for each license Microsoft covers the cost of the operating system while the customer just pays for base compute costs.

Work 365 Tip of the Month

Bundle different types of subscriptions as differentiated product offerings!

Work 365 allows Partners to bundle together license-based subscriptions, usage-based subscriptions, and even service-based subscriptions.

What this means is that Partners can create bundles incorporating Microsoft licensed products and usage-based products like Azure, third-party vendor products, packaged IP, and services such as support and migration services in the Work 365 application.  

To create bundles like these, Partners create a Parent subscription with the name of the bundle and then child subscriptions, which are the various products and services included in the bundle, are added and linked to the Parent subscription.

This way, anytime a customer would like to add licenses to their subscription all the Partner has to do is add the licenses to the Parent subscription and the child subscriptions are automatically updated.

Furthermore, when the invoice is automatically generated the only subscription information that shows comes from the Parent. This allows Partners to send simplified invoices that only show the product bundles they provide and not the various products and services included within the bundle.

About the Author

Samantha Peka

 

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!

 

Check out these resources to learn more about Work 365!  

Related Blog Post: Best Practices of Subscription and Recurring Billing for CSPs 

Best Practices of Subscription and Recurring Billing for CSPs

Subscription Based Billing Best Practices

As a Microsoft Partners, start to scale, we are faced with the challenge of collecting funds and chasing payments for the subscription-based products and subscription billing best practicesservices that we sell. Time spent talking about collections can be invested in improving products and services.

It’s important to understand the reasons why B2B customers don’t pay on time or worse don’t pay at all:

  1. Customers don’t feel like they have a relationship with you
  2. Your Service or Product Quality is not meeting expectations
  3. Your Credit Policy is too liberal and not aligned with the service
  4. Your Service is not correctly aligned with the Sale.

To address some of these issues, we apply some of the best practices to align your CSP business with the tools and capabilities in Work 365. This article addresses the issues around how to ensure your service, sales, and billings are aligned with customer expectations.

Align Payment Terms with Service Terms

Cloud and Subscription services are like rent payments. Just like Rent payments, they should be collected upfront for the duration of the service term.

Typical terms that partners use are annual, quarterly or monthly payment terms. For each term, incentivize your customers correctly. Making every customer purchase with either monthly or annual terms erodes customer experience.

If a customer wants to purchase monthly then they must pay immediately. Also, they get the flexibility of adding or reducing the license counts on a month to month basis. This is the typical case with usage-based Azure subscriptions. And a customer with a monthly billing plan needs to pay via credit card or some form of automatic debit. Customers have a perception of value through how much they pay. If it’s a few hundred bucks a month and takes some time to write a cheque – the payment can be delayed.

If the customer is paying on an annual basis then provide at least 15 to 30 days to collect the funds. You have enough time to collect the funds for a service that they are pre-paying and resolve any disputes.

 

How Work 365 Subscription Billing and Invoicing Helps CSPs

For a customer paying annually, they are looking for 

  • Ease of purchase 
  • And Savings

These customers are likely to have a stable number of users and well-defined expectations of the service. Their incentive is going to be a discount for making the annual payment. As a CSP, you can collect the payment upfront and continue to pay the providers monthly. You may want to recognize the revenue using a Deferred Revenue Report. However, you should not provide refunds for any reduction in licenses. In fact, any additions to the license count during the term should not receive the upfront discount. Paying for Licenses upfront is a commitment to using those licenses and receiving the discount for paying upfront.

  • The customer saves money 
  • They don’t have to request for changes through the year

This makes sense when your agreement is aligned with your Sales and Billing System. Work 365 aligns these processes for you.

Sign Up for Work 365 Demo for CSPs

 

Some partners think that providing credit for unused licenses is part of the service offering they provide and this is what differentiates them.

Imagine a rental agreement with similar terms. On an annual agreement if you offer a discount for an upfront payment, incentivize your customers to buy the bulk of the licenses upfront. If you continue to honor the upfront discounts for licenses that are purchased over the course of the year the customer is not incentivized to make a significant commitment upfront.

Have an Agreement that Models Customer Reality

One consistent billing challenge for Microsoft CSPs is coordination between accounting and sales. Having standard prices is great with terms that everyone can have access to.

However, your system for billing should be able to support the customer reality – do they want one service billed on an annual basis and others on a monthly basis? Are you providing discounts on some of the services and using a retail price for other services?

If your billing system is not flexible to a model of the customer reality then it will take a lot of manual effort to service the customer.

Our Experience,

Recently, a partner reached out to inquire about Work 365 and how it could help them with their Billing Automation Scenario.

They had sold a deal and found themselves in a bind where the billing and service management would become very tedious. They had a large organization with a lot of small subsidiaries.

Collectively the organization had many seats but at an individual subsidiary level, they had very few licenses, sometimes only a handful. Additionally, they had decided to send them an Annual invoice but also agreed to give them a refund if they terminated the licenses during the annual term. Each subsidiary wanted an individual invoice and they were provisioning these licenses through a distributor.

There was a lot of things wrong with this  but the main thing they were looking for how to model a single distributor scenario with multiple invoices on their end.

 

Work 365 Billing Solution

Experienced partners with systems like Work 365 would have no problems being competitive in this situation. They would know the costs and processes required to get this done. But if you are looking to implement a system after having to sell this deal, it’s an uphill climb to make this a profitable deal.

As part of the Work 365 onboarding process – we discuss sales and billing alignment. This is one of the most significant outcomes of the process for both Direct and Indirect CSP Billings.

Work 365 is built to scale your CSP business profitably. It is built on Dynamics 365 using the Partner’s IURs, which allows the partner to keep ownership of all the data. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is at the core of the Digital Transformation Agenda. Microsoft partners that use Dynamics 365 to run their business will be able to help their own customers with these initiatives, promoting enhanced customer experience, thus nurturing revenue growth.

Work 365helps Microsoft CSP Partners grow revenue, provide exceptional customer service, and increase profit margins by unifying common functional areas in a single solution.

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