X4 Fuels Agent Business with New Tool

Master agency X4 Solutions Inc. announced Tuesday the launch of a new back-office system that will consolidate and automate its internal processes and provide agents with a business lifecycle management tool.

Called FUEL, the new system was 21 months in the making, and manages processes from opportunity to quote to order to provisioning to commissions. The tool has been in beta testing with seven of X4s agents since Dec. 15. Rollout to the entire subagent base will begin in January.

X4 CEO Steve Braverman said FUEL ultimately will consolidate several of X4s systems, including its accounting, web content management, e-mail broadcast and quoting/commission software. This will enable X4 to have one interface and one database, he explained. One advantage of the holistic approach is that FUEL can automate notifications to agents about pending contract expirations, order status and opportunity status. It also can correlate promotional campaigns to quotes and orders, he said.

CIO Steve Snure said the system initially will have two modules. The Process Management Module covers opportunity through provisioning. A Commission Management Module will be cut over in early 2011, replacing the companys existing commission management system from RPM Software.

I think what FUEL does for us internally is allow us to basically manage by exception,” said Snure. By that I mean that when things are going well, we dont necessarily need to have eyes on that. The system brings to us anything thats coming due or needs attention.”

Agents and X4 staff will have their own dashboards” customized to their roles and tasks within the system. However, FUEL includes push technology” that notifies users of status changes that need attention.

Braverman said this was a critical feature X4 wanted to provide busy agents. Instead of having to log in to the portal, any time something happens, it gets pushed out to them via e-mail with a link” to click on to see details or take action within the portal.

Next on the list is extending FUEL to a mobile platform, so agents can view select, critical functions from their smart devices, Snure said. Additionally, Snure said the platform also will be modified to support X4s growing product line, namely its foray into energy products and services.

Braverman said the X4 approach is unique in the marketplace and will allow X4 to differentiate itself among master agencies. A lot of master agencies have become competitive with commissions and incentives. And, we dont want to look like we are buying the business,” he said. We said we have to be different and provide something of value that is going to set us apart from the rest of the guys out there. Thats exactly what this does for us.”

While Braverman said FUEL has to prove itself, he is confident that it will since there are no solutions like FUEL available for the telecom channel.

Snure said the company looked at existing software vendors in the telecom channel space and was unable to find one with the capabilities or a development roadmap that matched X4s specifications. With such a small universe of master agents, he acknowledged the dilemma developers have in making such an investment with no guarantee of return. Nevertheless, it forced the company to look beyond telecom software vendors to the broader market. Eventually, Snure settled on NetSuite, which was customized by a team of NetSuite and third-party developers to meet X4s needs.

Aside from X4s ambitious requirements, the development time was lengthened by the challenges of the master agent business model, Snure said. Our model doesnt fit the traditional company that buys at wholesale and sells at retail,” he explained. The ways the monies travel back and forth is unique. We dont invoice or receive payment from the end customer. That created some interesting challenges in developing the software.”

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