Apr 1, 2024data monetizaiton

Why Companies Should Stop Trying to 'Roll Their Own' Billing Solutions

Call it metering, billing, or invoicing. But trust us, as digital products evolve, there are better answers than building your own solution. It's time to trust the experts so you can focus on your core business.

Building a metering and monetization solution is complex and expensive, requiring a dynamic and flexible technical architecture. Trust us; we've been working on and iterating the Revenium platform for several years.

But, at least once a week, we engage with a prospect who has already tried or is seriously considering building a slimmed-down version of Revenium in-house.

"It's just counting, right?" (Wrong.)

Given the number of times we've had this conversation, it's valuable to share some insights from these conversations and prevent your organization from making a costly strategic mistake when faced with the same decision.

"Lots of organizations built their own billing for their business. How hard could it be?" (Very Hard)

Call it metering, billing, or invoicing. But trust us, as digital products evolve, there are better answers than building your own solution.

The Myths of DIY Solutions

The vision of aligning specific customizations and controls with business requirements is the most common driver when considering whether or not to build an in-house solution. However, organizations move forward with mistaken ideas.

  • We need customization: Off-the-shelf options cannot fully address unique business needs, and only a bespoke solution can do the job.
  • We have to control it: Total management over every detail, from data handling to user experience, suggests new operational efficiency. The reality is much different.
  • We will save money: The buy vs. build discussion is skewed. Development cost estimates are front-end loaded and commonly don't include realistic long-term maintenance costs versus paying subscription and vendor licensing costs.
  • If we own it, we can leverage it: Owning bespoke technology seems to offer competitive advantages and the promise of future commercialization opportunities.
  • If we build it, it'll be easier to use with what we have: A custom-built solution is assumed to integrate more easily with existing processes and systems, reducing time to market.

A Cautionary Tale (Nearly) As Old as Time

To explore these myths, we'll highlight the experience of a company we helped that built its own metering, rating, and billing solution and where it ended up

TLDR: "Excel is a 'solution,' right?!" (Wrong)

Unfortunately, this organization's experience is not a one-off, and we have dozens more similar stories.

  1. The Company initially built the system as a "point of pride" to retain control of a key business process.
  2. As time passed, the system grew, people changed roles, new business requirements were addressed, and the code base and functionality expanded. The result? A cumbersome legacy system that was technically hard to manage and functionally difficult for users.
  3. More and more technical resources were required for the upkeep of this business-critical system, creating operational risk.
  4. Market requirements evolved, outpacing the business's ability to evolve the solution and innovate products, while customer satisfaction suffered.
  5. The result was a "huge mess” of workarounds, and the Company admitted to being unable to unwind independently.

In fairness to any company in this situation, the decision to build an in-house system may have been made a long time ago. However, the myriad options available today make it much harder to defend the in-house development of billing and monetization solutions.

What's more, bespoke or DIY systems rely on expertise outside core business expertise and, to put it bluntly, are at their "best" on the first day they are operational. From there, it's an inevitable slow slide to higher complexity and costs.

What's Missing in DIY Conversations?

Multiple factors comprise the hidden cost of DIY solutions, which should be considered if you are still considering building rather than buying.

  • Ongoing Maintenance and Scalability: Bespoke systems require ongoing updates to keep pace with technology and business growth, leading to resource-intensive overhauls.
  • Resource Allocation: Maintaining non-core systems diverts financial and human capital from innovation and core product development.
  • Opportunity Cost: Investments in in-house solutions can detract from strategic alternatives that drive business growth and competitive differentiation.
  • Risk of Obsolescence: Technology moves fast. Custom solutions become outdated quickly, risking system functionality, security, and overall competitiveness.

Would You Build A Cash Register?

If we still haven't convinced you, think of it this way.

Would any current retail store owner build their own cash register? No. It's impractical and time-consuming; building cash registers is not why they are in business. But this extreme example perfectly encapsulates the impracticality of architecting a DIY solution for metering and billing digital products. Yet, for some reason, product managers & developers fail to recognize the comparison.

While admittedly not free, “off-the-shelf” solutions (like Revenium) offer:

  • Expertise and Innovation: Vendors dedicate their efforts to solving the complexities of billing and monetization, ensuring compliance, security, evolution, and a seamless user experience.
  • Cost Scalability and Market Adaptability: Off-the-shelf solutions scale with your business, allowing you to start with a minimal investment of cost & time. Further, these solutions release new functionality to address new market requirements, typically requiring little to no additional investment from your business.
  • The Ability To Focus on Your Core Business: Leveraging the expertise of an external vendor lets you concentrate resources on innovating around your competitive advantage.

Resist the Temptation

While we understand the temptation to build an in-house metering and billing solution that gives you complete customization & control, it is rarely the right choice. The complexity of building a metering/rating/billing platform and the rapid pace of technological change make using a vendor solution practical and strategic. Regardless of industry, businesses must do everything they can to remain agile and focused on what truly matters: their core offerings and customer satisfaction.

Of course, we'd love to have you use Revenium to make your business more awesome because it's a great solution. But in the end, we don't care what metering and billing platform you use. Please, please, please, just don't build it yourself.

Jason Cumberland, CPO


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