Call Accounting Featured Article

The 8 Most Common Mistakes in Telecom Expense Management

November 09, 2015
By Special Guest
Josh Bouk, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Expense Management Division, Cass Information Systems,

When implemented correctly, telecom expense management (TEM) programs can be a boon to the enterprise. However, can be is not the same thing as will be. In order for businesses to realize (and maximize) the benefits that TEM can provide, the following common mistakes should be avoided.

Equating Software to a Solution

Many of today’s TEM vendors originated as licensed software companies or software as a service (SaaS (News - Alert)) providers. Over time, these vendors have tried to meet market demand by adding invoice processing services along with ad hoc “processional services” such as audit or data entry.

Organizations should look for a provider that offers a complete, managed-service solution, including demonstrated competencies in rapid implementation, audit analysis, dispute resolution, automated general ledger accounting, optimization, and payment for both fixed and wireless.  Vendors that offer end-to-end processes with sufficient experience to provide process control will soon be the leaders within the industry (if they aren’t already).

Underestimating the Impact of Client Service

When selecting a provider, ask detailed questions about how your account will be staffed. Who will manage pending credits and refunds? What happens if a carrier misapplies payments and your account charged late fees? The account team handling these and other issues should be staffed by people who know your name, understand your infrastructure and know that they are accountable to you.

Organizations such as AOTMP publish information on vendors based on their independent surveys of client organizations. Reviewing the results of their research can help in making vendor selections. But, perhaps more importantly, ask to speak with a vendor’s current clients. That’s where you’ll find the best insight.

Omitting the Payment Process

If you manage the TEM process internally, your staff may not be operating as efficiently as it could be. For instance, if payment history isn’t readily accessible, it’s difficult to manage disputes to reconcile misapplied payments. In the event the information is needed, your Accounts Payable team ends up doing a lot of research. And all the time that your internal staff spends resolving billing issues is time that could otherwise be devoted to higher-value tasks.

With this in mind, more and more organizations are opting to outsource the payment process as a component of overall telecom expense management. This minimizes workload for both the IT and Accounts Payable organizations. And it allows the controller to hold the managed services provider accountable for managing on-time payments and minimizing late fees. It’s a win-win.

Adopting a Silo Mentality

Not long ago, everything from data networks and wireline voice services to payment and contracts were handled by different teams within an organization. Today, however, with increasingly mobile workforces, the convergence of voice and data, and the consumerization of IT, managing telecom must be viewed from a holistic communications lifecycle management perspective.

IT, Cost Accounting, Sourcing and HR must work together—and they should all be supported with a best-in-class, communications lifecycle management (CLM) platform that enables visibility, workflow and collaboration. Best-in-class CLM enables cross-functional areas to manage employee-owned and corporate-owned mobile devices in one central place. For example, a company’s HR information systems (HRIS) can be integrated with its CLM platform so that it sends timely, accurate information about employees, devices and, in the case of BYOD, reimbursements.

Underestimating Your Potential to Achieve Savings

It is wrong to assume that most of the savings achieved through a TEM program will come through headcount reduction. And it’s wrong to assume the majority of savings will be derived from consolidating services or through contract negotiation. It’s certainly wrong to assume that your own internally developed, automated processes are optimized.

The truth is companies that leverage best-in-class end to end CLM services achieve savings at many stages of the lifecycle—through better sourcing, deeper audits, more consistent procurement, more consistently applied payments and improved dispute resolution. Unless your current process is built around an intelligent platform that accounts for savings throughout the entire lifecycle, you’re probably missing out on savings somewhere.

Devaluing a Centralized View of Telecom Assets and Spend

If your focus doesn’t include a centralized inventory of assets, services, billing and spend across both fixed and mobile communications, you’ll miss the big picture. And you can’t manage what you can’t see. Rich usage data, with an up-to-date, centralized inventory, provides the business intelligence needed for mission critical planning and decision making.

Be sure to understand the amount of visibility you will gain once the solution has been implemented. You’ll also want to understand what reports will be available (and you should ask how the provider’s other clients use this data to drive further cost reduction).

Managing Wireless and Fixed Communications Separately

Some of the solutions available today are little more than a pairing of two disparate systems: one for fixed communications and a second one for wireless mobile communications. While some traditional TEM providers have partnered with mobility lifecycle management providers to offer what is positioned as a complete package, enterprises are still stuck with two separate platforms.

Without one reliable “global view” of your telecom expense data, you’ll likely have to navigate two portals for reporting. Unless you want twice the work in supplier management, make sure you partner with an established service provider that offers an end-to-end communications lifecycle management solution integrated across both fixed and wireless expenses.

Not Asking the Tough Questions

How automated is your current process? Are you receiving more paper invoices than electronic? Do you have enough data to conduct rigorous, automated audits at the charge level of detail? What if the software doesn’t solve all your problems? How much visibility into fixed and wireless expenses do you have? Will your service team meet with you regularly to review the status of your program? As you evaluate your current process and investigate potential solutions, these questions will give you a framework to conduct a much more critical and thorough evaluation. And in today’s economy, there’s no time like the present to find savings.

As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Expense Management Division of Cass Information Systems (News - Alert), Josh leads the global growth strategy of the managed services provider, which includes responsibility for all channel and direct sales, marketing and strategic partnerships. Prior to joining Cass in early 2014, he served as Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategic Services for telecom expense management provider Calero (formerly Veramark Technologies (News - Alert)) for six years. With nearly 20 years of strategy and management experience building services companies in sectors including telecom, energy and high tech, Josh leverages a broad background to help Cass expand its leadership as the only holistic solution for BYOD, enterprise mobility and fixed communications management.

Josh serves as an advisor to Exium Partners, a private equity firm in Atlanta and New York, and is a member of the Atlanta Technology Angels.  He also works closely with several non-profits in the Atlanta area that focus on combating poverty and human trafficking. Josh is a graduate of State University of New York at Brockport, where he received two Bachelor of Science degrees (Computer Science and Mathematics).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi