An engineer's perspective on developing an effective Billing Operations system

Sharath Bantwal

Head of Engineering

Kalpesh Bhandari

Lead Product Developer

Sarthak Arora

Marketing Manager

Team interview series – edition 1

BillOps interview by Sharath Bantwal and Kalpesh Bhandari

Our marketing department had organized an interview for members of our engineering team. The interview was conducted for Sharath Bantwal and Kalpesh Bhandari who provided informative answers about Aquila Cloud’s BillOps system and what they feel about working on it as developers.

A little bit about our engineers, Sharath Bantwal heads engineering at Aquila Clouds. He is an innovative leader with a focus on delivering products that create huge value to customers and is passionate about practical application of automation and Machine Learning to drive value and efficiency. Kalpesh Bhandari is our project lead for BillOps. He is a very experienced full-stack developer and now leads the team to work on BillOps. He’s been with us since the very beginning.

Question: What is BillOps, its importance and why do customers like our BillOps offering?
Answer: (Sharath) Designed with an intent to specialize Cloud Billing Operations for Cloud resellers, our BillOps is a SaaS platform for customizable bill compilation and generation across multiple public clouds: AWS, MS Azure, GCP and Oracle Cloud. BillOps throws a spotlight on how billing operations can be improved in our customers’ organizations. Our automated capabilities help improve operator productivity whilst providing clear accountability on resource consumptions for all end customers. BillOps provides a perfect reflection of the health of the organization’s billing operations and helps the organization to focus on optimal efficiency.

Question: What pain points/problems are we solving for the market?
Answer: (Kalpesh) Cloud resellers are dealing with cloud services, which require complex and effective practices. But some of them are still using Excel sheets and manual operations for billing, which is very much prone to errors. BillOps provides the right amount of automation to billing operations. Also, a lot of times when piggybacking on the invoices generated by Cloud vendors, Cloud resellers miss out some details such as cost for each resource since they only see aggregated numbers. Hence with the use of BillOps, they can be more efficient with customized pricing and more accurate in creating charges to their end customers.

(Sharath) BillOps acts as an intelligence and an analytical tool for Cloud resellers in a way that it helps to identify if something is not being done the right way. For example, it can expose if different rates are charged to customers. Also, it provides the user with informative insights and analytics which can help them to identify more leads as well and help with up-selling.

Questions: Why do you think we have an edge over competitors?
Answer: (Sharath) Compared to other services, we operate on a model that is agent-less or non intrusive. There are organizations that have simple billing rules and do not support bundle offerings while our system helps to eliminate these problems as well by providing the right tools and features.

(Kalpesh) In regards to some of our competitors, they have some requirements such as a need to run PowerShell scripts and a VM that they need to run in order to provide their services while our system can run through Public API’s of subscription and bring the usage data.

Question: What do you enjoy working on BillOps?
Answer: (Kalpesh) It feels great to work on a tool that helps a user to increase productivity and reduce wastage of time and manual labour. For example, when generating a particular bill for the user, the amount of time was a lot, up-to one to two days just for one customer. But with our BillOps it reduces the time to minutes or hours. With our solution, we continuously update the bill with new data, hence when the billing cycle ends, the bills are ready for the customer. Also, as our tool provides a room for further customization and visuality of consumption data, users can do a lot of analyses as well. Knowing that our tools help the user to increase their business and profits by employing the right features brings joy to us as developers as well. All in all, development of BillOps was a nice experience and it also helped me look from the perspective of the end user and that was something very satisfying.

(Sharath) As I believe that our BillOps system helps to ease the operations and makes a difference in the lives of users, it brings a great feel of satisfaction on both personal as well as professional level.

Question: What do you not enjoy?
Answer: (Sharath) The initial tasks such as getting familiar with the industry requirements, standards and the practices were a little bit long winded to grasp and learn. And we started to appreciate why customers need our platform to solve their billing problems.

(Kalpesh) In the metric world, the error margin up to 10% is still acceptable, but for BillOps and the industry, we need to be very exact and careful hence it adds a good amount of stress on us as engineers running the software. Actually I am glad that the bar is raised so that we produce better quality products.

Question: Share any positive client experiences in regards to BillOps.
Answer: (Kalpesh and Sharath) The automation that our service has provided to our customers have helped them make their operations more effective and efficient. Also, the positive response and the comments from them about our tools makes us even more motivated.

Question: Who all can benefit from our BillOps system?
Answer: (Sharath) Organizations such as Cloud resellers, IT Consulting companies, Managed Service Providers and whoever manages cloud for their end customers can take advantage of BillOps.

Question: What do you think BillOps can evolve to in the future?
Answer: (Kalpesh and Sharath) In the near future, we would want to support all the major and popular clouds and on-prem as well as all the aspects of cloud expenses be managed and planned under the same system. We both are certain that Aquila Clouds’ BillOps is and will be a one-of-a-kind product, which has the potential to revolutionize this area of operations and we are glad to work on such a product.