Ask-the-SAP-Expert – Neshet Lluka

Ask-the-SAP-Expert – Neshet Lluka

Eursap’s Ask-the-SAP-Expert article is a feature designed to give you up-to-date information on the latest SAP news, featuring key thought leaders in the SAP space, as well as regular interviews with the best SAP consultants in the business.

This month, we feature Neshet Lluka, an expert in the rapidly expanding business area of subscription and usage billing. Having worked in eastern and western Europe, Neshet is now based in Austria and is a guru in many of the newer SAP technologies such as SAP S/4HANA, SAP BRIM, SAP Subscription Billing and SAP CPQ.

Welcome Neshet! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Our readers may not know you, so can you start by telling us about yourself?

Greetings! First, many thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself and talk about SAP BRIM solution. I am Neshet Lluka, living in Austria, an Albanian professional with a strong foundation in telecommunication engineering educational background. I have a wealth of experience in SAP BRIM (Billing and Revenue Innovation Management) and SAP Subscription Billing solutions. My educational background has equipped me with a solid understanding of telecommunication systems, and over the years I have seamlessly integrated this knowledge with my expertise in SAP billing solutions and different industries.

What made you get into SAP as a career?

Indeed, my career and journey with SAP started in the telecommunication industry, working for one of the biggest mobile operators in Albania, always with a focus in billing solution. Back at that time I didn’t know much about SAP to be frank, but as I got to know SAP, it was like love at first sight love (professionally speaking!). In my overall journey I had a couple of years not working with SAP during my experience with Commerzbank and New York University of Tirana, where I graduated with a Masters. It was at that time I was really looking to come back to SAP and I did it. That’s why I say, once SAP always SAP 😊.

I expect many of our readers are unfamiliar with SAP BRIM (Billing and Revenue Innovation Management). Can you give us a quick overview of the solution?

Certainly! SAP BRIM, which stands for Billing and Revenue Innovation Management, is a comprehensive solution designed to handle various aspects of subscription and usage-based billing, revenue management, and monetisation for businesses. It is a modular solution which consists of five modules. It’s particularly useful for companies that offer complex and dynamic pricing models, such as those found in telecommunications, media, transportations, tolling, financial services, utilities, and other subscription-based industries. Here’s a quick overview of key components and functionalities within SAP BRIM:

  • Subscription Order Management: Manages the entire lifecycle of subscription-based services, from customer onboarding, order creation to activation and termination, including upgrades, downgrades, free units or allowances and add-ons. Supports various billing cycles and billing period configurations.
  • SAP Convergent Charging: This module enables flexible and real-time charging for a wide range of services. It supports complex pricing models, allowing businesses to adapt to dynamic market conditions and diverse customer needs.
  • SAP Convergent Invoicing: This provides a unified platform for creating invoices that consolidate charges from multiple services and systems. This streamlines the billing process, enhances transparency, and supports compliance with various billing standards.
  • SAP Convergent Mediation: This component collects, processes, and transforms large volumes of usage and event data from various sources, ensuring that data is accurate and ready for billing. It is especially important in industries with huge usage data.
  • SAP Contract Accounting: This facilitates the management of complex contracts, allowing businesses to handle diverse revenue-sharing arrangements, revenue recognition, and compliance with accounting standards. This module helps in managing customer financial processes, including credit management, collections, and dispute resolution. It ensures that businesses maintain healthy financial relationships with their customers.
  • SAP Subscription Billing (the cloud billing solution): This module focuses on managing subscription-based services. It supports the entire subscription lifecycle, from creation and pricing to billing and renewals. This is particularly valuable in industries where recurring revenue models are prevalent.

In summary, SAP BRIM provides a strong approach to billing and revenue management, enabling businesses to adapt to evolving market dynamics, support diverse business models, and enhance customer experiences. Its modular structure enables companies to choose the components that fit best to their needs, creating a flexible and scalable solution.

What kind of customers are using the BRIM solution in your experience?

In my experience, a diverse range of customers in various industries have embraced the BRIM (Billing and Revenue Innovation Management) solution. These industries often have complex billing and revenue management needs, making SAP BRIM a valuable solution. Here are some of the industries and types of business that commonly use SAP BRIM:

• Telecommunications
• Media and Entertainment
• Cloud and SaaS Providers
• Utilities and Energy Providers
• Automotive and Transportation
• Financial Services
• Retail and E-Commerce
• Travel and Hospitality
• Shipping

The adaptability of BRIM makes it a go-to solution-choice for organisations that look for a comprehensive solution to fit the nuances of modern billing and revenue management across different customer landscapes.

How can SAP BRIM help customers in monetising their customer base?

SAP BRIM provides a range of features and functionalities that enable businesses to effectively monetise their customer base. Here are some ways in which SAP BRIM can assist customers in this process:

  • Flexible Pricing Models: SAP BRIM supports a variety of pricing models, including subscription-based pricing, tiered pricing, usage-based billing, one-time charges, and more. This flexibility allows businesses to tailor their pricing strategies to meet the unique needs and preferences of their customer segments.
  • Dynamic Product Bundling: BRIM enables businesses to create and manage product bundles, allowing them to offer customised packages that align with specific customer segments. This can lead to increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.
  • Usage-Based Billing and Charging: With SAP BRIM, businesses can accurately track and bill customers based on their actual usage of services or resources. This is particularly valuable for industries like telecommunications and cloud services, where usage can vary widely.
  • Automated Invoice Generation: BRIM automates the process of generating invoices, ensuring accuracy and timeliness. This reduces the risk of billing errors and accelerates the revenue recognition process.
  • Discounts and Promotions Management: The system allows businesses to implement various discounting strategies and promotional offers to incentivise customer acquisition and retention. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and long-term revenue growth.
  • Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities: Via effective subscription and order management, SAP BRIM facilitates cross-selling and upselling initiatives.
  • Real-Time Revenue Tracking: BRIM provides real-time visibility into revenue streams, allowing businesses to monitor performance, identify trends, and make better decisions to optimise monetisation strategies.
  • Compliance with Revenue Recognition Standards: This ensures accurate financial reporting and compliance with industry-specific requirements.
  • Customer Self-Service Portals: BRIM includes customer self-service portals, where customers can view their account details, usage, and invoices. This transparency increases customer trust and satisfaction.

With these capabilities and more, SAP BRIM enables businesses to monetise their economy and bring value to end customers.

Do you see SAP BRIM as a catalyst for customers to move to S/4HANA because it comes with additional business value?

Nowadays the business model for almost every industry is, or is shifting from, product to subscriptions, towards the subscription economy. Establishing long-term and ongoing engagement with the end customer, SAP BRIM is the best solution to maximise the value for both business and end customer. I see SAP BRIM as a catalyst in shifting toward the subscription economy for any industry and any company.

I think moving to S/4HANA is more a policy connected with end of support of ECC by 2027 from SAP, and moreover S4/HANA has better functionalities and performance in high level than ECC. S4/HANA is the future, but at the same time the need for a platform like SAP BRIM is growing more and more nowadays and is kind of a catalyst that companies that implement SAP BRIM normally implement in S4/HANA and not ECC.

Can you give us a taste of the kind of projects you have been working on?

During my career I have been working in different projects and more importantly in different business uses cases. I have had different roles in these projects which also makes the journey more challenging and interesting at the same time. As the SAP BRIM solution is an industry independent solution and it can be implemented easily in any of them, and of course tailored according to the respective use cases. I am listing here some of the industries I have work with SAP BRIM:

• Telecommunication Industry
• Shipping Industry
• Manufacturing Industry
• Financial Services and Banking Industry
• Transportation Industry
• Tolling Industry

I think in all of them I have faced challenges, but the projects that I liked most are in the telecommunication industry.

You must have seen a few things in your time as an SAP consultant. Can you think of any anecdote which might lighten our day?

Certainly! During a particularly intense phase of an SAP implementation that we took over in the mid-implementation phase, we had to deliver the project in very short time as it was delayed for many months. We were there for two weeks and indeed understood that delivering the project in a very short time was almost impossible. Anyway, within our project governance team we decided that we will try our best and now we need to run in order to meet the deadlines. Here came out the phrase, “let’s run like SAP”. And this was our motto for that project. At the end, it was difficult – like all projects – but we managed to deliver on time and when people asked us how we managed, the answer was simple: We run like SAP!

You’ve been working for Vysion Consulting for a few years now, going back to pre-covid times. It must have been very difficult for you to join that company and then within a year, locking down and going through the pandemic. How did the shape of your working week change during that time?

Well, the pandemic was a hard time for all. I think it brought in a new reality and I believe no one was prepared for that. If you look back in time, it feels now as if it was a nightmare and not a reality that we dealt with. It was hard and challenging having to work from home and not meet and work closely with your colleagues, but I believe that every hard moment always brings a blessing. The blessing is that now we have the hybrid mode of work. Many companies are applying it. It serves best the Albanian phrase that ‘Time is Gold.’ We now save a lot of time and it has improved the work-life balance.

Let’s talk about SAP S/4HANA now. What are the other components of S/4HANA which you have had the opportunity to work on?

These days all companies are moving (or will be moving very soon) to S4/HANA. Working with the SAP BRIM solution, I have worked in the beginning in solutions consisting of ECC and CRM and now for many years with SAP BRIM in S4/HANA. So, in S4/HANA I have worked with modules of:

• SAP Convergent Invoicing
• SAP Contract Account FI-CA
• SAP Sales and Distribution
• SAP Subscription Order Management

I have also worked with other SAP modules or solutions such as SAP Event Mesh, SAP Subscription Billing and SAP Cloud Integration CPI.

What are your thoughts on the SAP job and project market now? Is the global economic slowdown affecting the number of projects coming up?

That is a tough question and complex to answer. I think that economic slowdown is affecting projects and companies’ investments in any sector or industry they operate in. At the same time, I think SAP projects will continue to thrive as many companies need to invest in their future business cases and needs in this rapidly changing economy. Bottom line, SAP projects will be impacted due to very careful investment but there will still be plenty of them.

Now let’s move on to your own professional career. You have a very large following on LinkedIn, a platform on which you share many blogs and articles about BRIM. How has your social media presence helped you?

Thank you for noticing that! Yes true, I like to be on social media with LinkedIn and part of the SAP Professionals community. I think in these times social awareness is very important and LinkedIn is the best tool for that. I think social media has helped me and can help others in the following ways:

  1. Networking: Building a large following allows professionals to connect with a diverse network of individuals, including peers, industry experts, and potential collaborators or employers.
  2. Knowledge Sharing: Sharing blogs and articles on BRIM demonstrates expertise and leadership. It can help professionals contribute to industry discussions, showcase their skills, and stay updated on emerging trends.
  3. Learning and Development: Social media platforms serve as continuous learning environments. Professionals can learn from others in the field, stay updated on industry news, and access a wealth of knowledge that contributes to their ongoing development.
  4. It’s important to say that a successful social media presence is often built on authenticity, consistent engagement, and a genuine passion for sharing valuable insights.

And finally, the question we always ask our experts: what advice would you have for new SAP consultants just starting out or established SAP consultants facing new challenges?

Certainly! Whether you’re a new SAP consultant just starting out or an established consultant facing new challenges, here are some pieces of advice to consider.

For New SAP Consultants:

  • Invest in training: Make sure you have a solid foundation by undergoing training in SAP modules relevant to the area you like most.
  • Stay curious and learn continuously: Invest time in continuous learning to keep up with the latest trends and best practices as SAP is very dynamic.
    Build strong technical and functional skills: Work hard to be proficient in both technical aspects (configuration, coding, etc.) and functional knowledge (understanding business processes and requirements).
  • Develop strong communication skills and network and collaborate. I believe in saying that when you open mouth to speak, you tell the world who you are.
  • Be patient and persistent: Building a career in SAP consulting takes time. Patience is a skill that we all must master.
  • Finally, my favourite one: Stay focused and one thing at a time. It is better to be the best in one area than average in many. You become best in one area then move on to the next.

For Established SAP Consultants Facing New Challenges:

  • Lifelong learning: No matter how experienced you are, there’s always something new to learn. Stay open to new technologies and methodologies that can enhance your skills and knowledge.
  • Look for Mentorship or Coaching: Connect with experienced SAP consultants who can provide guidance and insights, especially when facing complex or unfamiliar challenges.
  • Problem-solving mindset: Approach challenges with a problem-solving mindset. Break down complex issues into manageable parts and systematically work through them. Where there is a problem there are opportunities.
  • Share knowledge with others: Via mentoring, writing articles, or presenting at conferences, sharing your knowledge can not only benefit others but also deepen your own understanding.
  • Maintain a strong professional network: Stay connected with colleagues, clients, and industry peers – your network can be a valuable resource for information.
  • Stay calm under pressure, stay ethical and transparent.
  • Take care of your well-being: Don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental health. A healthy consultant is a more effective consultant.
  • Remember, every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow. Approach them with a positive attitude, and you’ll continue to thrive in your SAP consulting career.

Neshet Lluka talked to Jon Simmonds.