Tolling Back Office as SaaS? – Definitely!

By Steve Haddix

Software as a Service is the logical evolution of the Tolling Back Office

Toll roads may have been serving travelers since the Susa-Babylon highway in 7th century BC, but it was not until the 21st century that drivers escaped needing cash-in-hand to pay their toll. The adoption of transponder-based systems in the 1960s set the foundation for tolling as we know it today, allowing road-side technology and back-office accounting systems to work together to streamline the financial transaction and enabling a much more efficient flow of traffic.

Over the past 60 years, we have seen tremendous growth in the toll industry while organizations like IBTTA have helped tolling authorities, policymakers, vendors, and consultants establish a multitude of standards and best practices. In fact, the industry has matured to the point where interoperability through partnerships like the Interagency Group (IAG) or regional hubs like Central U.S. Interoperability Hub (CUSIOP) is becoming the norm. Surprisingly though, the one thing that has not changed significantly is that tolling authorities continue to invest as if the only way to meet their needs is through the cost and risk of custom back-office deployments.

It is time to reconsider that premise.

In 2019, Electronic Transaction Consultants (ETC) recognized that interoperability and common best practices are proof that there is a better way to give our customers the advanced tools needed to manage their modern operations – while at the same time avoiding the costs, risks, and schedule delays inherent in unnecessarily customized solution deployments. The groundwork for a service-based offering has been established through the many decades that agencies, consultants, and integrators have worked hand-in-hand to establish a mature tolling industry. Today there is sufficient commonality in best practices for customer service and financial management to enable the shift to the efficiencies of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based operational model that emphasizes quality of service, speed of deployment, reduced risk, and lower operational costs as primary considerations.

Appreciating the benefits beyond cost savings

Whether we recognize it or not, SaaS is already an integral part of our lives. Whether through consumer services like Netflix or Uber, or productivity services like Office365 or DropBox, most people already benefit personally from the convenience, consistency, and cost effectiveness that the SaaS model delivers. As existing markets mature and standardize, there is a natural opportunity for innovators to step in with nimble solutions that serve the overarching demands of the space at a fraction of the cost of legacy monolithic solutions.

Recognizing this opportunity, ETC has packaged the flexibility of our business-rules-based architecture with a modular workflow approach to create a BOS platform that can scale efficiently to serve the requirements of multiple customers, from small agencies to state-wide authorities alike. Beyond the efficiency that comes with standardized, repeatable technology, this approach also offers the economies of scale previously unachievable in tolling.

To ensure that long-term performance maintains the industry’s high standards, ETC partnered with leading technology vendors across our solution stack, keeping our systems current with the latest evolutions in technology. We then housed it all within the Oracle Cloud for exceptional availability, support, and security. ETC’s SaaS customers can slash their capital investments in both deploying and operating their stand-alone back-office solution, all while enjoying a dramatically reduced program risk and delivery timeframe.

Recognizing a different path to success

With ETC’s approach to SaaS, agencies can shift energy from the document-heavy waterfall approach to a lightweight, outcome-based methodology. Where traditional back office system (BOS) deployments may spend thousands of hours building and refining paper before coding begins, ETC’s SaaS approach eliminates the majority of that cost by starting with an already documented and fully operational solution ready to configure to our customer’s rules and workflows. From the first configuration workshop, customers make design decisions while walking through an interactive system. Workflow decisions and configuration choices can be understood and captured in the context of exactly how users will interact with the final solution. In near real time, customers can explore how their requirements can be met through existing capabilities and tailored workflows while still allowing for the rare feature extension that may be necessary to address unique needs not served out-of-the-box.

Leveraging proven code out of the gate means that our testing approach can focus on specific customer use cases and workflow scenarios. Similarly, our ability to leverage proven training materials and user guides streamlines deployments and allows our expert team to focus resources on any unique extensions to those standard materials necessary to train or support users on the customer’s specific deployment, saving unnecessary expense while ensuring consistency in the quality of materials.

How ETC can help

ETC encourages agencies that are interested in exploring the trade-offs between the traditional custom BOS deployment versus the newer SaaS approach to reach out for an open and transparent conversation. We recognize that not every agency will want to yield control over every element of their system for the benefits of lower risk, faster deployments, and a lower total cost of ownership, but for the majority of agencies whose business rules and workflows align with industry best practices, we are confident that you will find there is far more to be gained with SaaS over a traditional deployment project.

IBTTA – Tolling Points

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