Monthly Archives: January 2012
AT&T recently announced, and put into play this past weekend, new higher prices for all their data plans. Granted, users will also get more data for the additional fee, and if you are currently contracted with AT&T, you do NOT have to upgrade to the new fees – unless you want to. But you better watch your bills, as those costs will hit you at some point.
The new pricing brings AT&T more in line with what arch-rival Verizon is charging, and it points out what everyone already knows – users are utilizing more and more data. “Mobile broadband has become part of our daily lives,” wrote Mark Collins, AT&T Mobility’s senior vice president of data and voice products, in a blog post announcing the new plans, “and data usage has skyrocketed.” AT&T expects that trend to continue as it deploys its higher speed 4G LTE network across the U.S.
If you are a corporate Telecom Manager, this is a trend you need to watch. Users may or may not be using more data but pretty soon – either way – YOU will be paying more for their monthly plans. This highlights the advantages gained by wireless pooling.
Pooling plans are simple to understand. Multiple wireless users are lumped together under one account and share a “pool” of allotted minutes and/or data. This means that if User A is a major data hog, and User B barely uses their phone, they both sip from the same bucket, at a lower overall cost per minute/MB than if they were on separate plans.
Carriers have caught onto this idea, and most of them offer various pooling plans. The trick is figuring out which one works best for you. Wireless optimization, RFP creation and analysis of the responses takes time. Its worth it, as you can save a ton in your overall telecom budget, but it helps to have a partner or a good tool to get you through it.
Our Clearview software offers some wireless optimization tools, and our Telecom Audit teams have years of experience dealing with wireless expense management, RFPs and carriers. When in doubt, get some help, but whether you use an outside firm to help you or not, look into your options next time your contracts come due. Don’t let the ever-increasing prices of data plans take you by surprise.
Building a business from the ground up is hard work. Keeping it standing can be even harder. With the diverse economic pressures coming to bear on modern business owners, it is often hard to stay on top of best practices in managing your expenses. Payroll, insurance, shipping, training, bathroom tissue, paper clips…. the bill seems to get bigger every day.
Add to that the complexities of running a business in today’s technology-saturated marketplace, and the impact to the bottom line grows yet again. To compete effectively, you have to have the right tools. This means telephones, smart phones, pagers, expensive high-speed internet connections, laptops with wireless capabilities, the list goes on and on. And, over time, the list not only gets longer as new gadgets hit the market, but the number of people within your organization who needs these things goes up.
And while most firms see the value in upgrading their technology infrastructure, they often don’t realize how ripe with opportunity this sector of their spending might be. Opportunity for savings.
Complexity and Costs
Savings from where? Well, the avalanche of circuits, phones and data plans your firm is managing creates complexity, and complexity causes problems. First and foremost, it can lead to errors.
Forrester Research1 estimates that “billing errors average 5% to 12% of ongoing telecom services budgets”. Nancy Peckham, CEO and founder of Valicom, a woman-owned telecom expense management firm in Madison, Wisconsin, concurs with that. “In our 20+ years of doing telecom audits, we’ve found that over 35% of invoices have some type of error. And if you’re not watching for them, you don’t see them. In just one example, a health care facility client made their way to us after this incident. They had torn down a building. Later, they were reviewing some telecom invoices, and determined that they had been getting billed, and had been paying for, fifty landline telephones in a ghost building that was now a parking lot! For twelve years!”
Now that is a huge error, and you think you’d find it yourself – but guess what? With complexity also comes workload. Your telecom landscape may include tens, hundreds or thousands of monthly invoices, circuits or devices. And the latest trend, to hand telecom management to an already overworked IT staff that often isn’t familiar with telecom services and thus doesn’t know what to look for, isn’t helping.
There can be outside market pressures at work too. Things are constantly getting more heavily regulated and more expensive. According to AberdeenGroup Research, firms are also dealing with “financial regulations like Sarbanes Oxley compliance, implementation of new technology, globalization, carrier consolidation and increasing security concerns, like wireless e-mail/PDAs with sensitive data that is not centrally managed.”
Getting a Grip
All of this points to a need for strong oversight and control. That is where telecom expense management comes in. “Telecom Expense Management” has been around for decades. Essentially, it’s an all-encompassing term that refers to the monitoring and handling of the wireless, voice, and data assets of your company, for the purpose of exposing and correcting overexpenditures, errors and misuse of resources. This can be done via various homegrown internal processes, through a third party software solution or by hiring a partner firm to do it for you. Whoever does it, in plain language, it means gathering all of your telecom bills and looking for overcharges and mistakes through a telecom audit, finding ways to save money, searching for contract violations, and negotiating directly with your telecom vendors to get a better deal.
That sounds like it wouldn’t be so hard, but it’s an area where small to mid-sized businesses do very poorly compared to larger firms. AberdeenGroup2 has done extensive research on this topic. Taking advantage of their recent study analyzing the differences between “best in class” firms, laggards who are doing little with regard to telecom expense management, and the industry averages, Aberdeen was able to show where small to mid-sized businesses are doing well in controlling telecom and wireless costs, and where they are not. It also discusses how on-demand, web-based tools can help smaller firms manage their telecom expenses. This data was showcased in a recent webinar with Valicom. The webinar stream can be accessed at www.valicomcorp.com/knowledge/webinars.aspx
According to Hyoun Park3, the Research Analyst for Telecom Lifecycle Management at Aberdeen, and a presenter in the webinar “Aberdeen Group research shows a large need with middle market organizations for on-demand telecom expense management (TEM) solutions. This TEM technology brings the control and cost efficiencies of large enterprise expense management to mid-market corporations who have historically lacked the internal resources and expense volume to realize benefits.”
This information is critical to your business. As stated by the AOTMP4 report The Value of TEM to SMB (small-to-mid-sized-business), “SMBs with a TEM program save 22% more than companies who do not.” The majority of these companies spend anywhere from $150k to $5M in annual telecom expenses. 22% savings on these expenses would equate to $33,000 – $1,100,000 in annual savings! In a down economy, a savings like that could be the difference between making it or not. It allows you to keep staff in place, and increase efficiencies in your IT department.
Steps Towards Savings
So what should you be doing to access these savings? Here is a short list of “must do’s” in TEM.
- Get all your data in one place – Whether you use a simple spreadsheet, or a streamlined web-based telecom expense management software, you want to put all your info where you can see it. Invoices, order changes, cancellations, additions, inventory, etc. You need visibility to generate good management. (Curious? Get a short live demo to see how it works)
- Keep track of your telecom inventory – This means everything – telephones on desks, data circuits, pagers, mobile phones, smart phones, etc.
- Audit your invoices – Review your monthly bills closely for things like overcharges, incorrect setup fees, slamming & cramming, proper application of credits and service additions & cancellations.
- Identify zero or low use users - All wireless vendors offer basic billing summary reports that you can use to identify users who are using their device very little, or not at all. Spread your view over a three-month period, to adjust for usage fluctuation. Once identified, those services can be adjusted, or eliminated.
- Implement a wireless policy – Smart phones and data plans can kill you. An AOTMP report “The Importance of Effective Wireless Policy” found that 69 percent of large firms have a formal wireless mobility policy in place. And that those firms with wireless mobility governance polices spent 40 percent less per user on mobile voice services. So implement a wireless policy, and standardize the equipment and plans available. That can take you a long way. (Need a place to start? We offer a Wireless Policy Template free for download)
- Negotiate with your vendors – Before renewal time arrives, do some homework on what you’re paying for now, what competitors are offering services for, and what current marketing specials your vendor is offering. Maybe get some benchmarking data from a TEM firm, so you know what you should be paying. Then take that information to the bargaining table, or put out a new RFP. Never shy away from asking for a better deal – you won’t get anything if you don’t ask.
These few tasks are just the beginning of a path to strong telecom expense management. But even baby steps can offer savings, that over time can grow. Historically, when implementing a TEM plan with a client, according to Nancy Peckham of Valicom “…we’ve found that companies save an average of 30.4% on their annual telecom spend.” As the title said, you may find that “The best money you never spent.”
Want more information:
As telecom complexity grows, having the proper tools to manage your inventory, invoices, contracts and other relevant data becomes critical. Find out web-based SaaS software can give you deeper visibility and allow you to make more intelligent business decisions to control your telecom costs.
Madison, WI (January 16, 2012) – Effective immediately, telecom expense management firm Valicom is pleased to announce the promotion of Jeff Poirior to President and COO. Under Jeff’s leadership over the past 5 years, Valicom has achieved many major goals and milestones and anticipates further growth and expansion in 2012.
Under Mr. Poirior, Valicom has successfully:
- Seen significant and consistent improvement in client satisfaction scores with a record 3.89 on a 4.0 scale in Q4 2011;
- Hired and maintained top talent and built a stable, highly productive, world-class sales, marketing, operations and development team;
- Leveraged a major increase in the number of leads generated and converted them to closed sales;
- Developed a leading-edge telecom expense management software technology on the forefront of SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions and is forging the way to gaining significant market share for Valicom in underserved markets.
Nancy Peckham, Valicom’s founder and past President says “I look forward to many more years of growth and success at Valicom under Jeff’s leadership!” Ms Peckham will continue to serve as Valicom’s CEO.
For more information, please contact Lacinda Athen, Marketing Manager, at (800) 467-7226 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, we’re never ones to discourage positive thinking. So to give you a kick start, we’ve cooked up five “resolutions” to get you on the right track to reducing your telecom and wireless expenses in 2012.
1. Do a simple inventory of your telecom assets.
What do you have? Who has it? Are you using all of it? Do you NEED all of it? This is a good way to identify zero or no use users and devices, so you can cancel them.
2. Do a cursory audit of your main telecom bills.
Now that you have that inventory, are you paying for what you’re supposed to be paying for? Are you getting hit with any taxes, fees, setup charges or 3rd party bills you didn’t know about? Did you cancel anything that didn’t get cancelled? Do they owe you any credits?
3. Check your contracts.
When I say check contracts, I mean two things. One – are you getting billed at the rate you agreed to pay in the original contract? And secondly – when does that contract come due for renewal? That last one is important, since you can’t renegotiate from a strong position if you wait til three days before it expires.
4. Optimize your wireless environment.
With “all you can eat” data plans going the way of the dodo, user usage is going to become a bigger pain in your neck this year. Find out who is using wireless devices (smart phones, blackberries, tablets) and what they use them for. Do they need it? Can you pool plans together to minimize costs? Can you ratchet down some user’s plans while ramping up others based on need?
5. Get Organized.
With the wave of new web-based, low cost subscription softwares to track telecom assets and expenses, there is no excuse not to use good management tools. The money you save will more than offset the subscription fees, and it will save you a lot of time and effort. And who doesn’t need more Money and Time!
Want to learn even more?
- Download the white paper “7 Strong Tactics to Control Telecom Costs“.
- Get a short live demo of Clearview telecom expense management software to see how it can streamline your operation