Work 365 and CSP Control Center are SaaS applications used by Microsoft CSP partners to automate and manage Microsoft Cloud subscriptions and products.
Microsoft requires Direct CSP Partners to implement an order processing and a billing automation system as part of the Microsoft CSP program requirements.
At the outset, Work 365 and CSP Control Center (C3) can help you meet these program requirements. However, some critical differences exist between the companies and the product to consider as part of an evaluation.
We’ll cover what’s expected in a subscription management and billing automation system and highlight the differences.
This article will provide a framework to identify the fit within your organization as part of a SaaS application evaluation. We will cover these differences:
- Product Architecture
- Subscription Management and Provisioning
- Billing Automation and Price Management
- Self-Service for end customers
- Pre-Built Integrations
- Ability to customize, extend, scale, and security
- Other considerations: Pricing and Support
Work 365 is a SaaS Application built on Dynamics CRM (Sales) and Power Platform, and C3 is a standalone, independent SaaS application.
For Work 365:
- Work 365 users are in your AD, and you control the application’s security, licenses, and access as if you were managing any other Office 365 application in your tenant.
- The business data, including customers, subscriptions, and pricing, resides in your Dynamics tenant and can leverage the Power Platform ecosystem to extend application usage and integration scenarios. Data manipulation and access are naturally built into the platform.
- Work 365 uses out-of-the-box entities like Account, Contact, Product, Price Lists, Order, and Invoice entities to enable business scenarios. Work 365 can be utilized for more than just CSP management. For existing Dynamics users, your customer data lives alongside the subscriptions and billing data which enables account management and renewal functions
- Work 365 uses the Customizable Dynamics Portals (Power Portal), which can be used to surface other customer data along with Subscription and Billing Data from Work 365.
- Users require Dynamics CRM licenses; however, Microsoft Partners receive Internal use rights for Dynamics CRM for Sales to enable Selling processes.
- Out-of-the-box dashboards in Work 365 can be limited since all subscription and billing data is the partner’s Dynamics tenant; users can create any report using Power BI directly since they have complete access to the data.
- C3, on the other hand, is an independent application, and you may be able to start using C3 without support from internal IT. However, this can be an advantage for smaller organizations or companies with limited technical resources, especially if there are no security and data management considerations.
- C3 can also be hosted in your own Azure instance, creating a private hosting environment, which will incur infrastructure maintenance and hosting considerations.
- C3 offers out-of-the-box summarized dashboards. Since all your business and customer data is in C3’s data center, the reports and dashboards are readily available on C3’s application.
- C3 supports Single Sign-on with the limited role and privilege management capabilities.
C3 can be faster to set up, and Work 365 can take longer and have a steeper learning curve for users unfamiliar with Dynamics CRM. However, if you are excited about the possibilities of the Dataverse and the Power Platform, Work 365 provides unlimited opportunities with a secure, scalable, and flexible architecture.
Provisioning and Subscription Management
Both solutions integrate with Microsoft Partner Center and other distributors and are widely used by both Microsoft Indirect Resellers and Microsoft Direct CSPs. In addition, there is support for NCE and Microsoft products and program changes. Apart from Microsoft subscription licenses such as Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365, they both support Azure (Usage-based) subscriptions, bundles, add-ons, non-Microsoft products, and one-time items.
C3 offers a simplified way to synchronize subscriptions from Partner Center and supports customer-specific pricing strategies. In addition, the Microsoft product catalog is available for provisioning services directly.
Work 365 offers a range of Subscription management and provisioning capabilities, including different provider types, automatic providers, scheduling changes to subscriptions, detailed audit and change logs, and bundling of products. Work 365 allows for mix-and-match scenarios and advanced subscription calculation scenarios as well. Work 365 subscriptions can be created from the Dynamics Product catalog and support custom pricing and discounts. Work 365 includes calculated subscriptions, licenses, usage, and service-based subscriptions that can be bundled. Work 365 has a bidirectional sync with Partner Center and distributors.
Work 365 recently announced the support for Pax 8 and Crayon. Work 365 also announced the Provider REST API. With more pre-built distributor integrations and the APIs, partners have the flexibility to automate CSP provisioning, which gives them more choices and flexibility to work with vendors.
Work 365 also supports tracking time and billing service-based tasks.
Price Management and Billing Automation
Both solutions have advanced billing capabilities such as proration, handling refunds, defining custom pricing, and discounts at a customer or subscription level.
Work 365 offers a feature called price indexation, which allows businesses to automatically adjust subscription prices at renewal time based on factors such as inflation or promotional pricing. This is useful for software companies and MSPs looking to manage their pricing effectively.
“CSP control center automates Microsoft pricing changes by leveraging Microsoft APIs.”
Work 365 can handle price changes from Microsoft in a number of ways. The Product Service feature includes:
- Automatic updates: Work 365 maintains and manages the entire Microsoft product catalog across categories, segments, and currencies. These include license-based subscriptions such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365, Azure Reserved Instances, Usage-based such as Azure, Software Subscriptions, Perpetual Licenses, and Marketplace items.
- Price lists: Microsoft CSPs can maintain a list of current prices for Microsoft products and services. When creating subscriptions and invoices, the solution can use the latest prices from the list. Work 365 also syncs products and cost pricing based on what has been provisioned in Partner Center.
- Price rules: Work 365 highlights subscriptions and customers where there is a price change and can verify and update the subscription cost based on Microsoft’s invoice to account for promotions and partner-earned credit. In addition, partners can update the cost price and selling price based on a specific date or an event, like a renewal date.
- Price notifications: The solution highlights new products, NCE, legacy, or price changes.
Work 365 also syncs the product catalog and pricing based on what has been provisioned in Partner Center.
Clear, professional-looking invoices: When compared, we are often asked about our invoices. Work 365 uses Microsoft Word templates to generate invoices. Work 365 supports multiple templates and formats of invoices. Also, because of the advanced billing capabilities, there is clarity on every invoice line item, reducing friction and confusion for the end customer. Azure invoices can be rolled up and grouped by parameters such as Charge Type or Tags.
Self-Service for End Customers
Both solutions provide a Self-Service Portal for end customers to manage subscriptions, purchase additional services, provision changes, and view/pay invoices.
Work 365 is built on Power Portals, and you have complete control of the branding and data you want to expose to your end customers. The partner can completely manage the portal so that they can engage customers and provide differentiated and unique customer experiences.
Accounting Software & PSA Software:
Both Work 365 and CSP Control Center integrate with QuickBooks and Xero, Autotask and ConnectWise
Native integrations with Dynamics Business Central and Netsuite.
Work 365 uses the standard invoice entity in Dynamics. Integration platforms such as SmartConnect make it possible to integrate Work 365 with hundreds of ERP and accounting solutions, and with the Dataverse, partners can build their own integrations.
Work 365 is built on Dynamics. Why?
Select a subscription management solution that supports all current and future channels of customer interaction, including customer self-service. Ensure that it is possible to manage as well as sell subscriptions. – Gartner
Subscription billing and managing recurring revenue can be complex and time-consuming, leading to revenue leakage of up to 3%. Multiple revenue-generating events may occur during a subscription’s lifecycle, such as changes in quantities, upgrades, and renewals. These events can originate from the sales process, provisioning process, or external sources such as a partner or a customer using a self-service portal. These events typically result in an invoice that includes customer and financial data. To accurately track and manage recurring revenue, it is vital to have a single system that consolidates customer data from various sources, including sales, service, provisioning history, billing, and renewal.
A comprehensive billing solution can help businesses streamline the subscription billing process and better manage recurring revenue by providing a single record of truth for customer data. In addition, a billing solution can help businesses tune and adjust various levers such as payment terms, contract duration, refunds, discounts, or sales terms to optimize revenue. Aligning the billing process with the sales process can help businesses grow and manage recurring revenue more effectively.
Work 365 can also support multiple languages, currencies, and localization out of the box.
According to Gartner, when selecting a subscription management and billing automation solution:
“Choose a recurring billing solution with a modern, flexible, low-code, scalable cloud architecture. Seek out-of-the-box support for the service rating patterns used by your business today and planned for the medium term.”
The advantage of Work 365’s platform:
Work 365 is a cloud-based business management solution built on Microsoft Dynamics and Power Platforms. This allows it to be customized and extended through form changes, plug-ins, and workflows, allowing businesses to tailor the solution to their specific needs. In addition, Work 365 is built on the Dataverse, a secure, scalable platform for storing and managing data. Businesses have complete control over their data and can choose to expose any data to their end customers through the Self-Service Portal. For example, this can be useful for providing customers with real-time updates on their billing and payments.
Apart from features, functionality, platform, and technology, several other factors go into a software purchase.
Pricing: The core philosophy of Work 365’s pricing is based on providing the best billing experience for your end customers and reducing the admin burden on your licensing, sales, and finance team. The pricing is based on plans and billing contracts, not your Microsoft or Provider Invoice (apart from Azure).
Support: Every customer gets a dedicated CSM, and because of our presence in multiple time zones, customers can get timely and expert resolutions to their questions and problems. We also conduct Office Hours 4 days a week, attended by Customer Success and Engineering to resolve technical issues and provide guidance on specific use cases and best practices.
Conclusion and what is better for you?
If you need a billing automation solution that aligns with your sale process, gives you the ability to scale your recurring revenue by managing complex and evolving commercial contracts and changes to the Microsoft program, can manage bundles, resale of subscriptions, or one-time items, a solution that can be extended, configured and customized based on your own unique business processes, and ultimately digitally transform the way your entire organization works so that every function is supporting the growth of recurring revenue than you should consider Work 365.