Always a popular topic amongst IT service providers is the the subject of billing for all that hard work done and often also for items sold such as computer hardware and software. A business simply isn’t a business if there’s no money flowing and of course it needs to flow the right way – in, not out!
A very typical workflow goes something like this:
1. Log it > 2. Solve it > 3. Charge it > 4. Bill it!
Log it basically means opening a support ticket for the issue then you can work on it to solve it, then you charge it for the various hours worked and any equipment provided (depending on the contract terms), and finally the bill it part arrives where the client actually pays for the service provided or at least is asked to pay – actually getting the money is another matter!
However despite the seeming simplicity of this four step workflow there lies a myriad of technicalities and details which all need to be accounted for, one way or another in order for the money to flow into the business.
Billing comes in all shapes and sizes and clients are forever demanding new and exciting ways to spend their money with you. Some want to pay by the hour for the work you do, others pay monthly, some are just one time fees while others are recurring and some wish to pay only when there’s a full moon or the sun is at a certain angle (well ok maybe those last two don’t really happen – but never say never!). On top of all that, some are “all you can eat” for a fixed fee and some are the “block” options such as block of hours, block of tickets and of course block of money. To make matters even more complex, clients may have multiple services and contracts each with different types of billing requirements such as managed services (MSP) contracts.
Being able to quickly add charges for work done when it is done or items sold when they are sold is essential for a business to ensure nothing is missed and to facilitate healthy cash flow. Tools which enable charging easily and quickly from wherever you may be and on whatever device is being used, desktop or mobile, and for whatever managed service or item was provided under whichever form of contract are what every IT business needs to succeed.
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are a common sight these days and technology has provided many ways for SLA’s to be tracked and enforced appropriately which not only helps ensure the customer gets what they pay for but also helps the business keep on top of things and run efficiently without having to waste time and brain power manually trying to work out whether or not you are managing to stay within the terms of the framework agreed.
Everybody loves Taxes as I’m sure you’ll agree. However even if you don’t it makes no difference as there’s no escape from the inland (or outland) revenue no matter where you travel in the universe, so applying, charging and accounting for all manner of taxes correctly is essential and whatever billing tools and services you use, need to cope with this appropriately without driving you to the drink in the process.
Defining the precise billing format which will apply to a client, the taxes which must be included, the services which will be provided for the fees charged and the service level agreement which must be adhered to, along with various other business terms, is generally where the contract comes in and being able to quickly create and manage a diverse array of sometimes complicated contracts catering to the needs of your business is obviously very important.
Accounting for all this billing is commonly done these days with accounting and bookkeeping software such as the ever popular QuickBooks which is used by countless businesses, both in the IT services field and others. Of course being an IT business means you’re more likely than most to be using software for every part of your business where it is at all possible and so deep integration with Quickbooks, or whichever accounting system you prefer, is high on the list of priorities when choosing business applications.
Actually collecting money from your clients after (or before) doing the work, is a task fraught with risk but these days there are many online billing companies that take the pain away from you and the money away from them. They make charging your customers a click of a button at most and in many cases not even that as the whole process is automated and integrated using API’s on one side of the transaction or the other. Companies such as Paypal, Blue Snap, Stripe and even Amazon now provide customized billing to ensure you get your money without losing your shirt.
Knowing what is going on in your business is critical and knowledge is power which is why reports are so important and popular, whether they be simple spreadsheets or complex graphical reports pulling data from multiple sources to present in an easily digestible form. With reports you can know how much time was logged by each employee, get itemized account charges and much more which ensures you can always see what is going on with every client and every employee, as well as in the business as a whole.
Managing all this billing complexity is where Professional Services Automation comes to the rescue and puts everything you need at your fingertips, on your desktop or mobile device wherever you are, integrating with the business applications you depend on and turning what could quickly become a major headache into an automated breeze.
Until next time,