By Tanya Seda, Chief Strategy Officer
Not so long ago managing your communications environment and its associated costs was, if not exactly simple, at least more straightforward. It was never a fun chore, of course, between the lack of transparency of carrier and vendor contracts (and its multitude of “gotchas”) and the, sometimes mind-boggling, pile (or in some cases, literally pallets) of invoices, but with the right team, you could manage—sort of.
Or that’s what so many companies thought. As we have said for years, “you know you have a problem—you just don’t know where it is!” The fact is, with the rapid evolution of communications and network technology and the demands on those systems, the ability to understand what you’ve got, so to speak, and manage the costs associated with those systems goes beyond the ability of most companies to effectively handle the process.
This seismic shift in the supporting technologies for businesses and in the complexities of managing the assets and controlling their costs. The volume of WFH in the enterprise continues to grow, and data usage, as a result, is projected to aggressively increase as workloads have shifted off-premises. Left unmanaged, these services can lead to out-of-control spending and paying large sums to telecom vendors without knowing exactly why—or what those payments are for. That is why a Telecom Expense Management (TEM) provider is a critically needed solution to manage technologies in the enterprise.
But just saying “Let’s look for a TEM Vendor” is not enough. When making a selection it’s critically important to be aware of your business’s specific initiatives and needs relative to the solutions being offered to ensure that you receive services in line with your business model and network roadmap requirements. To help you think through your needs, we have identified four critical management services to review when selecting a TEM solution:
Consolidation and a detailed inventory, combined with visibility, are critical when it comes to cost management, cost allocation, and security of sensitive corporate data. Without total visibility, proper accountability is impossible. A comprehensive inventory will allow for monthly audit measures, complete optimization, and supports a detailed planning process to receive better-contracted Rates, Terms and Conditions, and Service Level Agreements. The keywords here are “detailed” and “comprehensive”! How many fields should a TEM solution have to properly build out robust and detailed reports – 30, 60, or more? Complex environments need granular data, and a shallow asset and services inventory will leave you exposed to errors, poor reporting, and difficult audit capabilities.
Contract management is essential for companies wishing to ensure that the hard work done in the planning and negotiation stage is properly accounted for when it comes to invoicing. Communications services contracts are complex, hard to understand, deliberately opaque, and to be blunt, your providers know how to “stack the deck” in a way that you will never find on your own.
Additionally, there are often regional and even local contracts that overlay the corporately known ones, and this can lead to overlapping services, out of line costs, and expensive errors. Centralization of all voice, data, and wireless contracts help ensure that those errors and redundancies are quickly identified, that commitment levels are tracked and met, and that service levels are being adhered to on a monthly basis. Savings are delivered more quickly, and the enterprise internal team expends fewer resources as the TEM provider manages the entire project from initial carrier analysis to legal review. The result is a holistic and optimized approach, which saves money, time and ensures improved levels of service.
Contracts aren’t the only things that are complicated. Carrier and vendor invoices can make so little sense that many companies pay on-trend. That is, as long as the amount of the invoices come in at (plus or minus some percentage against the previous billing) they get processed. What could go wrong with that? With a TEM solution in place, invoices are matched to inventory and checked against contracts to identify errors. Specific expense categories are validated (Monthly Access Fee, Port Fee, Equipment Charges, etc.), not just the total amount of the invoice. Additionally, since invoices can have hundreds or thousands of individual services billed within them, the devil is in the details of each service’s expense. TEM-driven invoice management optimizes the accounts payable process, automates the allocation of costs, and reduces manual intervention.
In the lifecycle of wireless expense management, in particular, collection, department allocation, and proper and timely payment of invoices on a monthly basis can become more and more challenging as inventories grow and become more complex. A comprehensive and automated approach prevents service disruptions, eliminates late payment fees, and reduces error rates. TEM providers that offer bill pay services can help leverage the most efficient payment methods, closing the loop on invoice processing from invoice receipt to payment remittance.
Effective WFH cost management includes continuous rate plan optimization and audits. By keeping up with current market rates, discounts, and contractual structures helps enterprises gain a competitive edge over the carriers with actionable data. This is particularly important given the increasing mixed environment of personal and company-owned equipment and services being provided to support the WFH employee.
Regardless of an enterprise’s size or utilization of technology, there are numerous and tangible benefits to be derived from utilizing a TEM provider to manage telecom assets and financials. Now more than ever, the benefit of the streamlining of organizational, logistical, and business processes allow any enterprise to focus on its own core competencies while remaining confident that their telecom assets are managed effectively and that costs are being maintained at their lowest possible level, consistent with the network performance that’s needed to run the business efficiently.