Telecoms Management: Before Control Comes Visibility

I have an acquaintance who took her work dongle with her when she left her previous job. She continues to use it a year later and her old employer is none the wiser. As a result, her former company is still paying the monthly charges on the device.

This is far from being a rare or unusual occurrence and highlights a common problem facing enterprise businesses today, as they struggle to manage an often nightmarishly complex corporate communications landscape. Research firm The Aberdeen Group estimates that organisations are paying way over the odds, in some cases as much as 20%, for unnecessary services such as unused equipment or for staff who have since moved on.

What is clear is that the key to gaining more control over telecoms expenditure is having clear visibility over the whole business. It is vital to know what devices an organisation has as part of its estate and precisely what costs are being incurred to ensure the most efficient use of its telecoms budget. Indeed, for many businesses, achieving this is perceived as a key priority that remains frustratingly out of reach. However, with the availability of today’s telephony management solutions, this is not only attainable but is the first step towards building a truly unified communications environment which becomes an important enabler for the broader business.

Adrift in an Ocean of Devices

In a typical global organisation, the chief information officer (CIO) will have responsibility for a workplace in which thousands of employees across multiple geographies will be using innumerable mobile voice and data devices, supplied by a variety of different providers. In order to manage such a diverse portfolio, a number of critical questions must be addressed such as:

  • What devices are being used across the organisation?
  • Do staff have the right devices to undertake their jobs efficiently and cost-effectively?
  • Are we in fact getting what we pay for?

A recent survey on corporate ‘pain points’, commissioned by Vodafone Global Enterprise, highlighted that global businesses are not yet achieving the transparency required as the essential first step to securing more centralised control.

However, managed service solutions that can provide a comprehensive audit of devices throughout the estate, across all countries, users and suppliers are readily available. For it is only when armed with precise details of the fixed and mobile fleet that the enterprise can develop and implement fully-effective usage policies. Regular audits must also be repeated in order to ensure the ongoing visibility of telephony assets as, with staff moving in, out and around the organisation, such information is soon out-of-date.

Effective Spend Analysis

Another perennial concern is that of billing accuracy. Recent studies have shown that up to 10% of bills may be inaccurate, which is not an altogether unsurprising outcome as mistakes will inevitably occur given the continued use of manual processes to input and check key data in an increasingly complex telephony environment.

Software-based expense management systems can help significantly in addressing such problems. However, they are not by themselves able to address all the issues involved in managing a multinational fixed and mobile fleet.

A managed service solution, by contrast, can take this a step further by providing a more comprehensive response. Here, an initial audit will accurately determine the existing asset and a fully-managed approach will provide the transparency required to undertake effective spend analysis.

Not only will this deliver the confidence that the company is only paying for what it has used, but comprehensive reporting by call and user type will also optimise spend by helping identify whether staff have the right devices or are on the most appropriate tariffs.

The result is that the line manager has the tools to manage his operational expenditure effectively and the business makes the best use of its strategically important communications assets.

A Best Practice Response

A strategic approach to communications demands an informed view of every aspect of telecoms activity, from device ordering and billing information through to mobile monitoring.

For it is only with this detailed level of intelligence that it becomes possible to cut costs and improve the ability of communications to support an organisation’s broader objectives. In short, this requires a 360 degree view of all communications activity, ideally supported by working with a ‘one contract, one global service’ solution provider.

Adopting such an approach immediately removes the cost and complexity associated with multiple vendors and contracts. The hurdles to achieving essential visibility and control can be overcome by existing, proven communications tools. A best practice response should incorporate the following attributes:

  • The ability to provide truly global coverage, encompassing all the geographies of an individual multi-national business.
  • Fixed and mobile converged solutions, allowing consolidated telecommunications management.
  • A single central service level agreement (SLA).

It is only in this way that the CIO and his team will be able to ensure that all communications costs are transparent and visible in real time. Not only will this provide the necessary support to enable the implementation of such initiatives as workforce mobility increases, but critically will also allow the business to gain more predictability over a key area of corporate expenditure.

Managing Costs – Endgame or Starting Point?

In considering the effective management of their communications, for many the goal is simply to seize back control by improving visibility as the key to driving down costs. This might be essential in driving change, yet is only the beginning of what is possible and is not, in itself, the endgame.

For more ambitious businesses, the next step is to adopt the right software in order to streamline and make best use of the organisation’s communications assets, so ensuring staff have the right device, the right applications and are on the right tariff.

Yet even this is only the springboard for a more fundamental re-engineering of the business, which moves towards the increasingly achievable goal of fixed/mobile convergence and unified communications. As the most forward-looking businesses recognise, the result is that communications become a true enabler for the broader business rather than a barrier to progress and greater competitiveness.

This is not just an issue of technology. In the past, many organisations have been disappointed with their purchase as, by itself, the software has had limited impact. The real value comes from the involvement of highly skilled people who can effectively input the data into the software, glean the appropriate insights and, armed with this analysis, take the right action in response.

In order to make this a reality, not only is each step essential, but the adoption of a ‘managed service’ approach is also critical if a solid foundation is to be built which ensures that existing enterprise communications operate efficiently.

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