Monthly Archives: October 2010
When conducting a telecommunications audit for a business, one of the first things to be removed for cost savings are the Inside Wire Maintenance features (sometimes called Linebacker) from your business lines. The probability of a break occurring within a building wall is very low (on average, once every 14 years). The cost of paying a technician to service a break, if it were not covered by your equipment vendor’s maintenance contract, would be less expensive than paying a monthly maintenance fee indefinitely.
Many companies have already removed these features as the lack of value on these plans has been quite public. There have been lawsuits settled as a result of false information as to what is covered with these plans to the end user. So we’ve seen less and less of these features over time. However, we still see them too often, especially when order processes aren’t standardized internally, or you have employees expensing their home office locations. Often, there can be a lack of knowledge when ordering, and the phone company will always promote that feature.
So review your telecommunications invoice and stop paying monthly for those Wire Maintenance features.
Who would have thought a flashlight could be so cool?
Well, as long as it is an app that runs on a smart phone, the flashlight all of a sudden becomes current again. This seems to be the case with so many smart phone apps, that when looked at carefully, really just accomplish some traditional function using your phone.
This phenomenon also presents challenges for companies trying to control their users’ wireless expenses. Until recently, people responsible for telecommunications expense management in an organization didn’t have to worry about their users being seduced by apps that do everything from turn your phone into a flashlight, to a construction level.
But at the end of the day, that guy in sales probably doesn’t need, nor ever will need, his smart phone to double as a flashlight – unless he works in a cave. But this doesn’t’ mean he won’t download – and potentially pay – for the app anyway.
One of the common functions we perform at Valicom as part of a comprehensive TEM project, is to help our clients manage these errant app purchases. We can provide the monitoring so that the problem users are identified more quickly, before they get out of hand. And when possible, we can make sure that the appropriate controls are in place to prevent the purchasing of these apps in the first place.
So while it may make sense for a sales person to purchase an app that helps him track new leads, it probably doesn’t make sense for him to purchase an app that can tell him if the note he is humming is in tune or not.
When processing large and complex telecommunications invoices, there are often account level charges such as taxes and other fees that don’t relate to individual service items. Often organizations lump these charges into a special accounting bucket for lack of a better approach.
The simplest alternative, is to simply spread the charges evenly over all of the line items on the bill. This however, isn’t usually the best approach. After all, the various line items and pieces of service on the invoice aren’t necessarily equal – both from a dollar standpoint, or from a GL system standpoint.
The better approach, is to spread the account level charges intelligently. This means allocating portions to different invoice line items based on some kind of logic. An example could be based simply on the overall proportion of the invoice a line item makes up – this would then dictate the portion of the account level charges the line item takes.
It can be even more complex though. It might make sense to your business to allocate account level taxes to just voice circuits, and other fees to just data circuits. At this point, you’re probably thinking that sounds like too much work.
That’s where hiring an experienced TEM company comes in. With years of experience and proven processes, a TEM partner can handle the heavy lifting of making the kinds of granular cost allocations and spreads easy. This enables your organization to enjoy the benefits of specific cost allocation and cost ownership, without incurring the costs and burden of implementation.
A win-win for all involved.
A simple, yet important part of any good TEM project, is to maintain detailed instructions and documentation to go with your telecom invoice processing efforts. Some invoices are more complex than others, and will require significant documentation, while some or so simple that they won’t require any documentation at all.
At the foundation of telecommunications expense management lies consistent and accurate processing of invoices. And as different people come and go from an organization, maintaining this approach is only possible with good documentation.
Ideally, the information necessary for a person to understand exactly how to process a particular invoice should be easily accessible, and linked in some way to the invoice in question. Having a dedicated TEM system with a supporting database can make this much easier.
At Valicom, we use Clearview, a proprietary TEM software that provides the full gamut of functionality for a TEM project. Clearview can be used by your too. Valicom provides a web-based SaaS version of Clearview that can be subscribed to on a monthly basis.
Adding Clearview to your existing TEM tools, will instantly give you a centralized storage location for invoice processing instructions and documentation, putting you in a great position for maintaining consistent and accurate invoice processing going forward.
In these modern days of telecommuting, employees are increasingly performing business tasks remotely from their homes. Some of the activities can be significantly impeded by the lack of adequate upload speed.
In the telecommunications world, residential Internet service has traditionally offered faster and faster download speeds, while only slightly increasing the upload speeds. Business-class Internet on the other hand, typically offers much more impressive upload speeds, at very similar prices.
A great example of the importance of upload speeds is hosting a webinar or web conference. The experience of your participants can be very poor if you are attempting to broadcast your presentation or shared desktop over a residential Internet connection.
In the telecom expense mangement world, we often help clients determine how to best assess and implement the various telecommunications technologies, and more and more we are helping to outfit home offices. While it can be tempting to allow an employee to simply use their existing residential Internet, it is also a risk.
You are better off making sure that the employee has a business class Internet connection that provides adequate download and upload speeds. This will ensure that the employee is able to do their job effectively, and consistently.
Here’s a prime example of when having a good telecom expense management plan in place can save you a headache later…
It’s been announced recently, that Verizon Wireless could pay out up to $90 million in refunds to cell phone customers who were improperly charged for inadvertent Web access or data usage over the past several years.
The Federal Communications Commission had asked Verizon Wireless last year about $1.99-a-megabyte data access fees that appeared on the bills of customers who didn’t have data plans but who accidentally initiated data or Web access by pressing a button on their phones. In a statement on its website Sunday, Verizon Wireless said most of the 15 million customers affected will receive credits of $2 to $6 on their October or November bills. Some will receive larger sums. Customers no longer with the New York-based carrier will get refund checks.
“We’re gratified to see Verizon agree to finally repay its customers,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a statement. “But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner.”
Now the topic of unauthorized access charges on cell phones has been bounced around for quite awhile. David Pogue, the New York Times tech writer, wrote about it long ago, so it’s not like it was an unknown issue. The problem is, did YOU know about it, and did YOUR phones get overcharged? And more importantly, who is going to keep track of whether you actually get the credit you are due?
Small mistakes like this, which seem minor, can explode into a big problem when you have lots of employees, lots of phones, lots of telecom invoices and no good way to track what is going on.
If you can’t SEE what you’re paying, you don’t KNOW if it’s right. The solution to making sure you never get overcharged, and thus don’t have to mess around with tracking credits you may or may not need (over several years in this example), is to implement a good telecommunication expense tracking system. Either outsource it to a firm like Valicom, and let our telecom audit teams deal with it, or utilize a web-based telecom cost and inventory management platform like Clearview. Then you’ll know what you have, what you should be paying, and you won’t be in line with thousands of others hoping – when it comes to Verizon refunds – that “the check is in the mail”.
Good Planning Now Leads to Lower Telecom Costs Later
I know this sounds like something your mother would tell you, but looking ahead and making good decisions in the present can lead to good things in the future. As 2010 starts to wind down in its fourth quarter, firms are making decisions about what to spend, and what NOT to spend, in 2011. Essentially, it’s budgeting time for many departments, and with IT costs set to rise with Windows 7 deployment, increasing security issues, and higher demands for wireless devices and data plans, finding ways to save money before you spend it is not a bad idea.
Top areas where your IT department could cut telecom costs next year.
- Get a handle on your telecom inventory – Make sure what you have is what you are paying for
- Perform a complete telecom invoice audit – Make sure that you’re paying what your contract says you should pay
- Streamline the paying of your telecom invoices by going “green”. Get invoices electronically on the front end from your vendors and pay them electronically on the back end when you can. Save paper, save checks, save time, save money.
- Reduce your wireless expenses by standardizing on phones and plans, and verifying that usage is withing company policy
- Plan to renegotiate your telecom contracts when they come due. Better yet, get some benchmarking data from a telecom expense management firm so you know exactly what you COULD be paying.
And the easiest decision that can help you cut telecommunication costs for next year is to contract with a firm like Valicom, as we can do all this for you.
On the heels of the announcement that the SBA is doing more to encourage federal agencies to contract with woman-owned businessses (WBEs), Valicom is also eager to work with state and local governments, and private firms looking to meet their supplier diversity goals.
As a certified WBE in the telecom auditing, telecom invoice processing & payment and telecom cost and inventory tracking software arena, Valicom can offer unique value to their clients. We have no only been in business for twenty years, but we offer the minority business status that many supplier diversity and sourcing departments seek when looking for partners.
The Heart of Illinois Supplier Diversity Business Symposium is specifically designed to put businesses like Valicom in the same room with firms that want to do business with WBEs. So our staff will be attending the business expo to network, meet with buyers, and meet with other woman-owned and minority-owned busineses from around the Midwest.
If you happen to be going, be sure to look us up. The Expo is in Peoria, Illinois on Tuesday October 12th.
There have been several interesting articles in the past year about the influence of video game design on business software design. The influence is primarily seen in the user interface and in how the software presents the required tasks to the end-user.
In the telecommunications expense management world, new approaches like this are becoming increasingly important. As TEM becomes more common place and the user-base of TEM software users becomes more broad, there will continually be more and more people using TEM software for the first time.
With this growing crowd of inexperienced TEM practitioners, it is more important than ever to consider how easy to understand and learn a TEM system is. Video games are a great place to start. After all, most video games are designed for a wide range of age levels and degrees of technology sophistication. Additionally, they are designed to be as intuitive as possible and easy to learn. This important for video game producers because it would be very hard to sell a video game that took too long to learn.
TEM software is no different, really. Most of the newest users in the TEM software market want to be up and running, saving money, as soon as possible. Look for more and more game inspired features to pop up in TEM software over the coming years.
In addition to being a leader in telecom expense management, Valicom is also proud to be a 100% woman owned, women’s business enterprise (WBE), certified by WBENC through the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) of Chicago, and by NWBOC.
Thus it is with great pleasure that we see the Women’s Procurement Program of the SBA will finally be fully implemented. As this press release from WIPP covers, it means that woman owned businesses in the US will be given the higher representation they deserve. Valicom is ready and waiting to serve local, state and federal government agency’s supplier diversity needs. Send us those RFPs!
Victory – SBA Announces Full Implementation of Women’s Procurement Program
Washington, D.C. – October 5, 2010 – Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) applauds the release of the final rule which will implement the Women’s Procurement Program, enacted into law in the year 2000. When enacted, contracting officers will have the ability to restrict competition to women-owned small businesses if the procurement falls within one of the eighty-three (83) North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes.
"For eleven long years, we have anxiously awaited final implementation of the Women’s Procurement Program. Thanks to Administrator Karen Mills and her team, the program is finally underway,” said Barbara Kasoff, President of WIPP. "WIPP’s efforts led the way to ensure that women contractors have the opportunity to receive their fair share of contracting dollars. We believe that increased federal contracting opportunities will give women business owners a chance at growing their business,” added Kasoff.
Since 2008, our Give Me 5 Program (www.GiveMe5.com) has helped increase the number of women-owned businesses registered on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) by over 30%. The CCR is the government database that was used to determine the number of eligible industries in the new program. Along with advocacy for passage and implementation of the Program, WIPP’s educational initiatives have worked to build the pool of women-owned businesses ready to bid on federal contracts.
Important to the program’s success is a change made in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 which restored "parity” among all of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) small business contracting programs. The program will be considered equal to any other small business contracting program. This issue is highlighted in WIPP’s Economic Blueprint: The Women Business Owners’ Platform for Growth, unveiled during the WIPP 2010 Annual Leadership Conference. The Blueprint serves as WIPP’s voice regarding challenges unique to small businesses that require action by our elected officials.
To read the final rule, click here. (PDF document)