By Tanya Seda, Chief Strategy Officer
All enterprises today are looking for ways to manage expenses for their communications technology. Many utilize Technology Expense Management (TEM) to manage that spend, related inventories, and billing, but many more still rely on spreadsheets and databases. Frankly, that’s just crazy, especially given how the pandemic has changed—arguably for good—the way we work, and how we need to connect to conduct business.
With a new year comes a new opportunity to reimagine how you manage your enterprise communications and their ever-more-complex spend. Below are some steps we recommend taking to get to a more efficient, cost-effective place that gives your team more control, lowers their burden, and provides management greater visibility:
Start by organizing which invoices should be part of your communications technology budget. Believe it or not, different invoice types often are charged against different cost centers. Below are some examples of what our TEM team sees when we do our analysis and start a TEM implementation:
Communications service providers routinely create new accounts for you, which results in more bills to manage, analyze and pay. Unless every order for a new service includes a specific (i.e. existing) account number, your communications service provider will often create a new account, which generates a separate monthly bill. Unless these invoices are identified they can’t be tracked appropriately causing inaccurate inventories, unexpected expenses, or even penalties.
Adding to the confusion, all the mergers and acquisitions that have happened over the past decade have created a hodgepodge of billing platforms, some incompatible with others, and in the course of migrating your accounts from one to another, they may change every single account number in the process. It is important to identify both the old and new account numbers for each bill received to ensure accurate tracking and take the next actions on MACDs where necessary.
As it happens, many invoice types aren’t available on your vendor’s portal due to the incompatibilities I noted above. Services billed on the older platforms in particular will never be available on the service provider portal. If your team utilizes the vendor web portal to retrieve your bills, you need to develop an alternate means of receiving the monthly invoice and keeping track. This is where a TEM can help organize your inventory and billing. And if your vendor doesn’t yet provide electronic billing, you’ll need a process to receive and process the paper bill or a scanned version on a regular basis.
With a TEM partner, you’ll get help working with your communications service provider to organize your communications ecosystem from products and services to billing and contracts. Equally important, is making sure that your service provider’s account team addresses all your accounts with that provider. In today’s work world, most enterprises are in geographically dispersed locations with many remote workers. What tends to happen is that some locations may be overlooked and receive the same support as a small company rather than the larger companies to which they belong. In many cases, these smaller locations find they don’t even have an account representative. A TEM can help roll up all accounts into a larger portfolio so your enterprise can gain the contract discounts and pricing that were negotiated.
Managing expenses for communications technology and related services is never easy. Being able to stay on top of these issues through a TEM partner brings substantial benefits, both quantitative and qualitative—benefits that greatly and measurably outweigh the investment you make in that TEM service. It’s a new year: isn’t it time to dump those spreadsheets!?!