That 1960's spy TV hyper-focus black and white style look was on my face. My eyes swirled and focused in on a corner of my mobile phone screen and what appeared to be a missing icon.
During a recent business trip, checking email, reviewing a few documents, investigating webinars of the competition, and learning a bit about Chess on YouTube, I was sure I had connected to Wi-Fi. To my surprise text messages started coming in from AT&T explaining how I had exceeded my data plan.
It seems my hotel only provided Wi-Fi for the door half of the room, not the window half.
At that point just-in-time telecom expense management was being trumped by back-in-time telecom expense management. And I was paying the bill.
Business Telecommunications Usage Growth
Of course I should have increased my data plan before traveling, but I didn't. My bill eventually came in with the additional fees, but at least they were small dollars.
My point? Businesses with scale face much larger unknowns and uncertainties.
Year-over-year spending on mobile devices, SaaS, IaaS and security has hit an all-time high according to the new enterprise survey by Strategy Analytics which polled companies in the US, UK, Germany and France. Why all the hassle? Look at key indicators.
- According to IBM, mobile technology leaders are 2x more likely to experience revenue growth.
- Email data has outpaced voice for business mobile usage.
- Nearly 30% of all employees are considered a mobile workforce.
Although these types of expenses are typically an IT, sales and customer service budget line item, other line-of business management teams are driving key decisions to support their strategies. If you are experiencing similar budgetary and strategy realities, it could be time to review your policies, contracts and telecommunications management processes.
Just in time (JIT)
JIT emerged in the 1950's in Japan to improve returns on investment (ROI) from costs associated with carrying inventory. In a telecommunications network an inventory exists in the form of circuits, routers, cell phones and more, but there are other associated assets and costs from leasing bandwidth and networks to cost of quality to risks of security breaches. In all likelyhood they may not be driving business value as effectively or efficiently as they could.
Just in time telecom provisioning, change control and deactivation of connectivity, services and infrastructure is a way to tighten up and reduce costs by paying only when necessary. Eliminating excess capacity and waste does require other supporting improvements in balancing demand and supply both internally and with service providers.
You could initiate a deep analysis into the potential returns of implementing better telecom expense management processes and tools, but there are few areas that usually see immediate and sometimes impactful improvement. Some good questions to ask:
- Do you turn hardware and services off?
- Does the bill pricing from your provider match your contract and your usage?
- Do processes that cross to external providers flow seamlessly?
- Do you understand the total cost of operating and/or using the network?
Turn it off!
I have seen more than a few IT operations rooms that have the big screen of metrics and hold great pride, as they should, over green lights flashing, responding to tickets, answering calls, solving problems and generally ensuring the flow information of a company. But those are the visible requested activities. There is often waste in the spend that may have once been asked for but now just is.
From my personal example of increasing my data plan for a business trip, when I finally get home and start working on Wi-Fi, have I remembered to reduce the plan again? JIT expense management needs to be considered in more detail, but it's difficult since there are a lack of clear examples for monitoring ongoing spend for current needs.
Telecommunication providers have plenty of challenges in building networks, upgrading technology, addressing the need for speed, dealing with customer churn and attempting to launch services. We are pretty much convinced that, with all of the changes in offering, marketing campaigns, and appeals to different types of customers, telecoms billing systems can't always handle the diversity and complexities of their plans.
So, as much as you can expect from a vendor, it is likely they are not going to balance your check book for you. Are you being billed for what you expected from your service contract? If not, maybe you need to look at JIT expense management.
If you have processes that require both internal activity and action from an external vendor, are there any surprises?
Many service provisioning processes use a workflow that requires manual activity on both sides of the relationship. There could be a potential for misfires, mistakes and delays. Defects in service delivery could happen anywhere in the process, but the baton pass, by it's nature, is a good place to look for opportunities for improvement. If that is the case, you may want to look at JIT expense management.
Total cost visibility
When a VP of R&D handed out iPads to top performers and expensed them under employee engagement, or when the GM of the Milwaukee distribution center grabbed a real cost-saving contract locally, or when you are not sure if those servers are media backups or database backups, you may not have a good view of total costs.
In these cases, budgetary discovery may need to be considered. Data is only as good as it is categorized. But, telecom expense management may help...
Telecommunications is a complex part of business and only growing in it's returns, costs and diversity. The best way to evaluate the effectiveness is to look for clues in the outcomes. Are the outcomes what you want, planned for or expected? Do the outcomes reflect efficiency? At least you can then decide if you want to evaluate further and may give you a starting point for any type of evaluation.