Solving complex problems faster and more cost effectively

How PhixFlow’s platform has a truly innovative approach to delivering business solutions

Read this article to learn:

  • How PhixFlow evolved, which sectors it serves and who some of their key clients are
  • The unique features of their platform which allow for superior agility as businesses adapt
  • Limitations in managing billing and revenue assurance which PhixFlow helps clients overcome
  • Specific examples of the impact that PhixFlow has had on select customer operations
  • PhixFlow’s interest in discussions with MNOs and towercos including active sharing billing impacts and power SLA management

With extensive expertise working with a diverse client base, from the UK Post Office to more recently IHS Towers, PhixFlow has developed a reputation for being able to connect to any system, fixing data and processes in a highly agile manner. To learn more about their solution and the impact that it has had on customer operations, TowerXchange speak to PhixFlow’s CTO, Andy Humphries, to find out more

TowerXchange: Please can you introduce PhixFlow, how long has the company been in operation, which sectors is it active in and how has it grown?

Andy Humphries, CTO, PhixFlow:

Based in Cambridge UK, PhixFlow began in 2004, when co-founders David Coales and I identified a need in the market for a new approach for telecoms billing, rating and revenue assurance. Before founding PhixFlow, we both worked on delivering the globally successful telco billing engine, Geneva. David was a member of the Geneva Technology board, heading up the global services team, and I was a member of the product strategy group, responsible for integrating Geneva billing with emerging technologies.

The complexity of tariffs and pricing at that time amongst MNOs in the UK, combined with the volume of call event data, was restricting the MNOs’ ability to adapt to meet the commercial needs of the business. Legacy systems were too big and taking too long to change. The early versions of PhixFlow addressed this problem by providing a central platform, with a large number of interfaces to different systems, that could be configured to find and fix data quality issues, provide what-if analysis for new pricing models and provide many different revenue assurance controls. This approach gave PhixFlow an early reputation in the sector for being able to connect to any system and fix the data and processes. This approach is still being used by large MNOs and Internet Service Providers today.

Since that time, PhixFlow has grown by building on the initial functionality of the core product, adding rapid application development tools for building user interfaces, data visualisation tools and other concepts that make it easy to quickly develop and deploy applications without the need for traditional bespoke software development. 

Customers now use PhixFlow to solve highly complex and challenging problems, building solutions in many sectors including towerco, TV & media, utilities and financial services. More recently PhixFlow is winning contracts in such diverse sectors as healthcare, retail and automobile manufacturing.  PhixFlow is proud to be working with some of the UK and world’s largest and most successful and companies including Liberty Global International, TalkTalk, Tesco, BUPA, The UK Post Office, Fujitsu and more recently IHS Towers across Africa. These companies rely on PhixFlow for business critical processes, knowing that our approach, a combination of expert consultants and the PhixFlow platform, delivers solutions quickly.

Privately owned, PhixFlow has achieved year on year growth since its inception, re-investing back into the business, and achieving in excess of 30% growth per annum. PhixFlow is constantly building future capacity by adding technologists, consultants, project managers and subject matter experts in the sectors that we are active in. The majority of our business comes from existing customer relationships, our market reputation and existing users recommending PhixFlow when they move companies, with minimal outbound sales and marketing activities.

TowerXchange: How does PhixFlow help to support clients and what is so innovative about your platform?

Andy Humphries, CTO, PhixFlow:

PhixFlow supports clients with specialist consultants from each sector it works in, and has a truly innovate approach to delivering business solutions. 

Where a highly standardised process is used such as in accounting, off-the-shelf packages typically serve the business requirements well, and deliver good return on investment.  But not many processes are standardised. Software must continually adapt to help companies stay ahead and gain a competitive advantage. Processes need optimising continuously to reduce costs and software must be agile enough to meet the ever-increasing demands of legal and regulatory compliance. 

Large ERP platforms claim to address this with customisation or configuration. But many products that claim to be configurable are often actually being customised with significant amounts of .NET code plugins. These modules often represent the core logic and functionality and can take as long to develop as bespoke development. Over time this approach creates the same technical debt as with bespoke development, leading to slower delivery of changes, issues upgrading older code onto new operating systems and an inability to migrate to modern cloud platforms. 

In order for businesses to adapt more quickly shadow IT is now commonplace in many companies, for example, creating processes in spreadsheets. This brings a whole set of new problems for IT governance.  PhixFlow responds to these types of challenges in a number of ways:

– The PhixFlow Platform and its features alone are used to build all applications – zero source code is created.

– The original integration capability is still a pivotal part of PhixFlow. The platform has built-in modules for any type of connectivity, from switch binary data to vendor specific OData API’s, as well as FTP, Email message discovery and even web page scraping. This significantly reduces time and complexity to connect to any system or data source.

– Whilst trained business users can and do extend the solutions within some customer companies, PhixFlow security, access and authentication tools ensure that this is managed properly with granular access and privileges and utilisation of a customer’s existing authentication providers such as Microsoft Active Directory. The product also includes robust audit tools to track changes and the ability to export and transfer configured applications between development, test and live environments.

– Since inception, PhixFlow has released a new version of the platform at least every six months. Each release introduces new functionality which makes it faster to create applications and integrate with other systems and services. Each new version upgrades the platform and existing customer solutions automatically – no upgrade development work is needed.

TowerXchange: When looking at billing and revenue assurance, what are some of the challenges that you have observed in the telecom sector that lead to inefficiencies?

Andy Humphries, CTO, PhixFlow:

The major limitation has been the inflexible nature of the legacy systems used and the time to adapt them to changes in business requirements. With PhixFlow, logic is built iteratively and hierarchically, using configurable objects which are then linked together onto PhixFlow “models” and grouped into “applications”.  This approach makes PhixFlow extremely agile.

Within revenue assurance systems specifically, many solutions stop with the identification of mismatches between systems leaving users to figure out and manage the corrections manually. With PhixFlow you can set up a workflow defining exactly how each type problem should be resolved, assigning issues to different queues and individuals together with screens showing all relevant data in one place. PhixFlow correction paths can be set up and initiated through menus to either apply fixes directly or to initiate corrective processes in other systems.

Within rating and billing, the sheer volume of the data can create challenges to completing processing in a timely manner and prevent what-if analysis from being done. PhixFlow has been built to scale from day one.

TowerXchange: Can you share details on clients that you have worked with and the impact that PhixFlow’s solution has had?

Andy Humphries, CTO, PhixFlow:

Within each customer, PhixFlow typically delivers many projects of different sizes, working closely with individual teams to deliver tactical solutions as well as with central IT departments and the office of the CIO to deliver strategic solutions. A small number of examples are given below.

TalkTalk

A team of trained TalkTalk staff have configured their own revenue assurance framework on PhixFlow with just application support to help build the very first models. Since 2011, TalkTalk have used our examples, online training, context sensitive help and application support staff to create their own models to cover all aspects of revenue assurance.

Processing approximately 1.6 billion switch CDR’s as part of the interconnect reconciliation alone each month, the scalability and performance of PhixFlow is proven.

Post Office

The Post Office needed to replace the process of checking hundreds of thousands of received payments between their bank accounts and their general ledger. PhixFlow delivered a solution in just six weeks using one consultant with the following results:

– Significant reduction in manual effort leading to a reduction in team size required to manage the process

– Unallocated payments reduced by 50%

– Reconciliation completed in hours instead of days

Liberty Global International

The PhixFlow platform was used to develop natural language processing rule sets to analyse, categorise and rank vast amounts of IT support data from helpdesk software. This was then used to understand the utilisation of several thousand software applications across the enterprise globally as part of a software portfolio management project.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media deploys high speed underground fibre infrastructure to residential and business regions in the UK. These projects are extremely complex; each site has varying requirements regarding size and complexity and requires detailed planning, civil engineering and cabling which all need to be costed and scheduled as part of the business case. Traffic sensitive areas require liaison with local authorities to apply for permits in advance to close roads and substantial fines can be imposed by the authorities if delays occur.

The PhixFlow platform was used to quickly build an application to automate estimating, scheduling, costing and revenue generation forecasts for deploying fibre to each region. This solution was deployed to users nationwide. Virgin Media staff and a PhixFlow telecoms consultant worked closely together to ensure that the system met both the business and end-user requirements. By providing a working, end-to-end prototype very quickly, Virgin Media staff were able to confirm that the PhixFlow consultant understood the scope and logic required but also enabled quick feedback and turnaround on new features, logic and screen layouts so that the toolkit evolved towards exactly the functionality required. From start to finish the PhixFlow consultant worked a total of six weeks on design, configuration and testing. Because the users were engaged throughout the process, acceptance testing was completed in just one week enabling the solution to go live successfully.

TowerXchange: What’s next for PhixFlow?

Andy Humphries, CTO, PhixFlow:

Our overall strategy has remained unchanged since 2004, to manage growth carefully, to continually enhance our product, enabling customers and consultants to deliver solutions to complex problems even faster and more cost effectively, and to forge strong long-term relationships with successful forward thinking companies.

With a number of projects now in Africa and the Middle East, a current area of interest is opportunities within MNO and towerco sectors in these regions. We are in the process of gaining product certification from the Zambian Revenue Authority and working on various projects to help customers meet IFRS reporting requirements.

PhixFlow are particularly interested in talking to companies facing challenges in the following areas:

– Impact of active sharing and sectorisation technologies on billing and revenue assurance 

– Management and reporting of SLAs for power consumption and availability

– Companies interested in rapid solution prototyping or trialling the PhixFlow platform to assist with regulatory compliance projects or to replace spreadsheet-based processes.

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