article

A Bill with a View

Posted: 01/1998

A Bill with a View

d.b.Express-A-Bill Makes Record Analysis Easy
on the Eyes

By Charlene O’Hanlon

Bohemia, N.Y.-based Computer Concepts Corp.
has come up with a novel idea for telecom analysis and reporting:
make it easy.

d.b.Express-A-Bill, a reporting and billing analysis software
program designed for the telecom industry, can help make short
work of large amounts of call data. Carriers, billing companies,
resellers–anybody that generates a long distance bill–can take
advantage of the program’s easy-to-use (and efficient) method of
generating useful calling information for their clients and
themselves alike.

The program presents information such as calling patterns,
costs and durations of calls and destinations of calls in
user-friendly graphics, called Filescapes (a technology so cool
the company was awarded a patent for it), that allow users to see
trends and anomalies.

"Basically, d.b.Express-A-Bill allows users access to
specific data that they want to see," says Orland
Chamberlain of Computer Concepts. "When a user has millions
and millions of bytes in records–huge amounts of data–this
program allows him to ‘drill’ down quickly to the data he wants
to look at."

d.b.Express-A-Bill was developed from the company’s core
product, d.b.Express, visual data mining software that relies on
point-and-click commands. No standard query languages with this
program; d.b.Express uses a patented process to index information
that allows the user to point and click his way to specific
information.

"The graphics are all dynamically linked so when you
select certain calls you want to look at, other graphs react to
your selection," Chamberlain says. "Say you have a
graph on your screen that represents interstate, intrastate,
intraLATA and international calls. If you wanted to get a quick
look at your international traffic, you could click on the
international information bar on the graph and all the other
graphs would respond to your selection immediately by showing
cost distributions, duration distributions, terminating
countries, amount of calls to those countries, etc.

"The graphs are really what make the analysis, they show
all kinds of trends and anomalies, patterns that you’re looking
for," he adds. "It’s neat stuff; there’s nothing else
out there like it."

So neat, in fact, that the program now is being used by such
large companies as British Telecom’s Syncordia Services, billing
provider Profitec Inc. and Oklahoma City-based billing software
company Digital Communications of America (DCA), which is using
d.b.Express-A-Bill as an end-user billing analysis tool. In
addition, DCA has entered into an agreement to license the
program to resell. Marketing the program under the name VBOS, DCA
has tailored the product to serve the needs of its customers.

"The program is very flexible–mentally you don’t look at
mining the data the same as you would with a traditional tool.
With this program, you mine through the data and then decide what
you want," says Scott Pearson, vice president for marketing
for DCA. "It’s an exciting product."

Wallingford, Conn.-based Profitec, which is using
d.b.Express-A-Bill as part of its electronic billing service, is
equally impressed by the program. "What I really like about
the product is the huge data volumes that can be derived within a
single graphical view," says Randy Minervino, vice president
of marketing for Profitec. "In addition, the program is not
difficult to use. Instead of doing a text-based inquiry and then
depicting the results, you actually use the pictures as your
inquiry tool into the data. Because of that, it is very readily
used by a non computer-literate person."

Profitec has created an interface between its own billing
application and d.b.Express-A-Bill. The result is a joint product
called Express-A-Bill, which acts as a companion product to
Profitec’s Access-A-Bill, a text-based diskette billing system.

d.b.Express-A-Bill also is great for billing via the Internet
using the d.b.Express Internet Server application, which enables
the end user to access his bill and drill down into the call
detail via the Internet that, if printed, might cost the life of
one or two trees. "Say the user (an Internet service
provider, for example) has a large bill consisting of thousands
and thousands of call records. Using our software, the user
doesn’t have to download its call records into its computer to
look at them. The web server application allows end users to come
into the server and slice-and-dice their call records the way
they’d like to without the need of downloading their records. All
those graphs and reports are all available to the end user
without the need for the end user to have the data space to
support a large volume of records," Chamberlain says.

This feature also allows users to refresh their billing
information more frequently–rather than getting bill information
monthly, users now can receive information as often as daily or
weekly. There is no incremental cost of handling media. In
addition, it is a real cost-saver for billing companies looking
to cut back on their paper and postage costs while still
providing comprehensive billing information to their clients.
Rather than print out all the call records, the company can print
out invoices with a web address that its customers can visit to
view their specific calling records. Instead of a 10-page bill,
customers receive a one-page bill. It’s pretty easy to do the
math.

Sure, there are limitations to the software.
d.b.Express-A-Bill does not capture call data in real-time.
However, it doesn’t purport to. d.b.Express-A-Bill will tell you
how many minutes were spent on calls to Bangladesh during the
month, not how many calls telemarketer Steve has made in the past
hour. For detailed information based on specific data,
d.b.Express-A-Bill takes analysis and reporting to new levels.

For more information on the product, call Computer Concepts at
(516) 244-1500.

Editor’s Note: This is the first
installment of TechKnowledge, a monthly column that spotlights
the latest in telecommunications products and services.


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