Sun-Netscape Alliance makes online billing push

The Sun-Netscape Alliance is gathering round its software friends for a new push into the online bill presentment market.This morning, the Alliance -- which is really the old enterprise software business from Netscape Communications Corp.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance is gathering round its software friends for a new push into the online bill presentment market.

This morning, the Alliance -- which is really the old enterprise software business from Netscape Communications Corp. now under the direction of Sun Microsystems Inc. -- will announce integration of its iPlanet BillerXpert application with billing engines from Portal Software Inc. and Solect Inc. and customer-care applications from Vantive Corp.

Right now, it is a sales and marketing relationship between the companies. The companies are not reselling each other's products.

Alliance officials in Mountain View, Calif., knew they had to improve integration of their BillerXpert, which was first released more than a year ago, with back-end billing engines. The out-of-the-box integration with the Portal and Select billing engines is the result of that.

Cutting down on errors

In order for the billing data from back-end engines to become online bills, the biller usually has to parse the image data that is extracted from the billing engines. There are huge numbers of different images and formats, and any biller can have multiple types of bills.

"It's a very labor-intensive process, and one that can be very prone to error," said Daphne Carmeli, vice president of market development and strategic planning at the Alliance.

The Alliance is trying to go far enough into the back-end process, using XML, to export the billing data from the engines directly into BillerXpert. Hopefully, said Carmeli, that will reduce billing time as well as the odds of making a mistake. The integration is available immediately.

Vantive, on the other hand, makes enterprise-based customer-care applications. Some experts argue that 30 to 70 percent of customer-care inquiries are started from bill returns themselves. BillerXpert will be the gateway into the customer-care suite of Vantive so consumers can go through their online bill and try to resolve billing issues on their own.

The Alliance also announced a new integration relationship with SAIC to offer services, training and implementation for customers.

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