When Chief Executive Officer Don Culeton first launched IDI Billing Solutions 25 years ago, he saw an opportunity to fill a major hole in the telecom industry that put the customer first. IDI’s entrepreneurial spirit and determination to provide the most innovative solutions have continually propelled the company forward, keeping our organization ahead of the technology curve and ensuring we always deliver the highest quality services and support to our customers.
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we look back on the road traveled so far, and how Don took his initial idea and turned it into a global business and industry-leading telecom billing & OSS solutions provider.
IDI takes telecom by storm
The telecom industry was a very different world in 1996 with now defunct major players like MCI, WorldCom and Global Crossing ruling the roost. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was one of the most significant pieces of regulatory legislation to come around in decades, paving the way for thousands of resellers to enter the market and sell long-distance minutes direct to consumers and businesses. Those new businesses needed an easy way to manage and bill their services, but existing solutions were designed with large carriers in mind. Batch-oriented systems that relied on computer mainframes were simply not practical for organizations of the era running relatively modest operations.
At the same time, Microsoft Windows 95 presented a new user-friendly approach to desktop software. Eyeing the telecom landscape, IDI recognized the opportunity to deliver the billing system these resellers needed and saw this technology as the perfect way to bring it to them.
Right away, IDI Billing Solutions was a huge hit. There were plenty of other vendors promising similar offerings, but few provided as powerful a rating engine as IDI, or the transparency to view and report on critical business issues. While other businesses handed out pamphlets at trade shows, the IDI team ran demos to give attendees a firsthand look at the platform and its capabilities.
“There were a lot of other players at the time saying they were going to do what IDI can do,” recalls Don. “But there’s a huge difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it. In the end, we were the only ones who were able to successfully execute and fulfill that promise. It gave us a clear edge in the marketplace right from the start.”
During these heydays of telecom, and prior to the rapid consolidation that followed, IDI became an undisputed leader in North America, with over 300 implementations at carriers like Qwest, Time Warner, SBC, CellularOne and Comcast. Meanwhile, our drive for innovation never wavered, solidifying IDI as the best-in-class for BSS/OSS solutions for two and half decades now. Our R&D investments allowed IDI to be the first to have an integrated tax engine, first to have tools for the agent reseller, first to have an enterprise ready parent/child invoice toggle for CLECs with commercial accounts. We were recognized by Microsoft to be the first BSS/OSS in operation on a .NET platform. In the rural mobile market, we were the first to provide a truly integrated Point-Of-Sale module for mobile retail and device activation, along with patents for Guided Assignment and Advance Pay. All along, it has been collaboration with our clients, many of whom have 15 to 20 year-long tenures with us, that helped cement our leadership position in many of the markets we compete.
The times are changing
Telecom is now much more complicated than delivering voice service. There has been a convergence of telecom and IT. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) need open solutions, allowing them to quickly respond to the ever-growing complexity of an on-demand world. IDI has continued to innovate and bring the latest technology and processes to address these needs. Today the IDI product is based on a cloud web services architecture exposed by RESTful APIs which allow CSPs to rapidly integrate what used to be disparate systems. Also, IDI has adopted agile processes, restructuring the company’s approach to product engineering to deliver software faster. “When I started IDI, I never dreamed we could deliver every month, high-quality software releases and turn around all bugs within 30 days!” says Don. “Our investments in agile, DevOPs and automated nightly regression testing is what has made this possible.”
Attracting the best people and empowering them to innovate has been critical to IDI’s continued success, as the organization can rapidly adapt to industry changes and customer needs. Maintaining that innovative approach is not always easy, but the entire IDI leadership team understands that pushing the envelope is necessary for long-term success.
“Listening to the customer is always important, but to continually push yourself forward, you really have to keep your eye on two things,” says Don. “Understanding what’s different about the new prospects you’re seeing — especially in the startup realm — and staying current on technology in general.”
The diversity of IDI’s current client base, spanning from MVNO to facilities based mobile operations, to leaders in UcaaS, MSP, Wholesale and Fiber not only speaks to the flexibility of our product line, but also the health of IDI as a business. In our quarter century of operation, through two major down-turns in the economy and now a pandemic, IDI has been a trusted and dependable business for our clients, our vendors, our employees and our community.
Crafting a winning company culture
From Day 1, Don recognized the importance of company culture when laying the foundation for IDI. Having spent years working on the technology side of telecom, he had plenty of firsthand experience in working in unbalanced business environments without alignment on a strategic plan.
“When I started the company, I asked myself, ‘What kind of environment do I like to work in?'” Don explains. “Given how much time you spend at your company, it really better be a place where you enjoy what you’re doing, you have opportunities for growth, you can be challenged and you like the people you work with. It should be a place where you can have fun. It should provide a supportive community and care for the community at large.”
From the beginning, the IDI leadership team has worked hard to create and foster those values at IDI. We are careful to hire employees who match that culture. We create numerous company events that encourage social bonding and provide opportunities to work together supporting our communities in which we work and live. A healthy work-life balance is important at IDI; a position we have won awards for. “If you’re going to ask employees to give their best, and at times put in the extra effort to accomplish projects on tight schedules, you need to provide them time to recharge and be there to support them and their families when they need you most,” says Don. Those principles were built into the initial company mission statement created 25 years ago and continues to perpetuate throughout the organization today.
Throughout the past 25 years, everyone at IDI has worked hard to foster a welcoming company culture that treats people like family. That sense of excellence permeates throughout everything IDI does, whether reworking internal processes to make life easier for employees, going the extra mile to solve a problem for a customer or providing ongoing support and training to help customers get more from CostGuard.
Continuing to make the IDI difference
Even after 25 years, IDI shows no signs of slowing down or settling into an assigned role within the industry. The entire organization is constantly looking for ways to expand services, reach new customers and deliver value in new and exciting ways.
“The needs of our customers might be different today and they might be more sophisticated than they were in the past, but at the end of the day, they’re still trying to deliver quality solutions to their users,” Don says. “Our entrepreneurial spirit, innovative achievements and collaborative culture has set the foundation for us to better serve our customers and quickly transform their ideas into growth.”
In recent years, Don appointed Patrick Talty as President to continue IDI’s efforts to expand our service capabilities and do what we do best — innovate and deliver. “Patrick’s ability to lead diverse business functions and his focus on delivering excellence to our customers make him ideally suited to lead the next phase of the company’s success,” says Don. “Patrick understands the importance culture has had on IDI’s success and he is an excellent torch bearer to carry that on into the future.”
It has been an incredible 25 years, and we can’t wait to see where the future takes our company next. Wherever we go, rest assured that we will continue to remain dedicated to providing innovative solutions and unparalleled service to our customers.