Plans with No System Access Fee – Good thing or Bad thing?

Plans With No System Access Fee Under Fire

The debate over the system access fee being a government fee that was simply passed through to the government or another channel for the carrier to simply increase their revenue is as old as cell phones. However, the powers that be (you and me) have finally won the battle with many carriers in having plans that no longer encompass a system access fee, or have we?

At first glance that may be the way that it looks, but as many things go when it comes to telecom expense management, not everything is as it seems or for that matter is so cut and dry. Carol from our Analysis team explains; Clients would have to change to one of the new plans in order to see this charge dropped from billing. In most cases, a comparable new plan is only slightly more expensive (less than the former encompassing the SAF charge), but has increased OOB (out of bucket) and LD (long distance) charges.

 

 

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Status Quo Kills Small Business Communication Management

TEM – Management and Reporting Saving Small Business?

Management and Reporting as part of a telecom expense management solution is one of the most critical components to successful management. The reasons are simple and obvious for larger business; however, small business often feels it is outside of their realm of needs. This is a critical mistake! Lets discuss why management and reporting can curb the biggest killer of this expense…"Status Quo".

 

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the benefit of telecom expense management for small businesses. Click the previous video on how a cost audit benefits small business to see part 1.

Does your business suffer from "status quo" – its not broken don’t fix it syndrome? We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

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22 percent of enterprise employees currently fall into the category of “mobile information workers”

Mobile Management

In the past few years there has been a sharp rise in the number of remote or "on the go" workers. As a result, more and more iPhones, blackberry, androids and now the new iPads, and other mobile assets are finding their way into corporate technology environments. Mobile assets have become crucial in the productivity enhancement of an organization. 

Mobile management of smart phonesA recent survey conducted by Forrester Research shows that about 22 percent of enterprise employees currently fall into the category of "mobile information workers", using a variety of handheld devices to support their day to day activities. Additionally, Forrester estimates that approximately 6 percent of the US workforce uses their own personal mobile devices for work related activities, and that number is expected to grow to 25 percent by 2012.

As mobile communications are becoming necessary and a growing number of enterprises are purchasing new phones and service plans for their workforce, it is becoming more confusing to manage and optimize these expenses for the benefit of the business. One of the most effective ways to cut costs is by evaluating your wireless expenditures.

Do you have someone in your organization that handles the day to day tasks of Mobile – is it YOU? Are you handling tasks such as updating your mobile inventory, purchasing hardware for new employees, cancelling or transferring devices of retiring or leaving employees, upgrading devices due to loss or breakage and fighting billing errors, escalating costs & unknown charges? 

Of course, you would have realized that managing the day to day mobile services can be a challenging endeavor for any organization. Determining the best optimal voice/data plans, and figuring out which devices & features suits the needs of individual employees and the organization takes too much of your valuable time.

Here’s where outsourcing mobile expense management plays a vital role. A lot of your precious time is saved when you outsource mobile device management. Mobile management is more than just picking the lowest prices or the best handsets. It simplifies and streamlines the management of mobiles within your organization.

Mobile management companies provide unbiased mobile device management and single point of contact wireless help services. They manage procurement of your mobile devices, monitor service plans and respond to calls and emails from your end users. They maintain, track and replace hardware while maintaining confidentiality and compliance with your wireless policies, procedures and purchasing authorizations.

 

As more companies are adopting Smart Phones/PDAs, it is imperative to have a mobile procurement and usage policy at the organization. There needs to be the right mix of productivity, security and cost in devising the mobile policy. Are you still thinking about developing a mobile management plan for your company?

Wireless Communication Management Rhyme – “Scrooge is in the house”

So another year has passed and a new one just begun filled with new opportunities, but survival is the one we focus on. We must justify our roles and the easy target is our communications – for with no communications – there is no business. Present day communications management has become far more complex, the costs have escalated, and day to day management is potentially the most painful part of all. As we sit around the data room, we wonder if there will be a day again where we can be the heroes we once were – in charge of all that RAM, Routers, and terminals. Enjoying our superiority of technology; however, before we get too lost in all our memory bliss, tonight is a special night– a new decade and a new fiscal year is upon us. Budgets, efficiencies, new technology, and growth all in front of us but unlike other decades past we wonder exactly what the future holds. Fear not for tonight is a special night; tonight your IT Departments will be visited by three ghosts. The first, the ghost of technology past, followed by the ghost of financial reality preparing us for the ghost of leadership tomorrow.

GhostThe First Ghost

At the stroke of midnight Johnny Menclub our old IT Manager clatters through the walls with chains dangling.

[Johnny] “Hello gentleman – and gentle ladies, it’s been a long time. I miss those old days of camaraderie and cheer. You know the ones where all the technology was so complex it took engineers to keep us on track.”

[IT Department] “Yeah Johnny, you were the best. We had awesome jobs. We baffle everyone with gigabytes, and microwave transmissions. We were gods. We could do no wrong. “

[Johnny] “Yeah boys, those were the good days – ‘they’ needed us. We were indispensible. But I’m here to warn you, be careful gentleman – the times have changed and its rough out there – I don’t want you to end up like me – you need to re-invent your place…..”

Johnny is sucked back from the matrix he came from.

[IT Department] That was creepy – poor Johnny he was a good lad. But he’s right. Technology has changed. User friendly applications are standard and that damn mouse can help solve anything.

The Second Ghost

With little time to recover Stacy Query appears our current CFO as if in a bad dream. She is the one who changed everything – now all we hear is how we must drive costs down, yet management keeps adding feature rich functionality and data costs are climbing. Somehow Stacy thinks it our fault!

[Stacy] “I can hear you, she bellows. Of course it’s your fault, you’re responsible for technology and wireless cost management is technology. You should be keeping costs in check”

[IT Department] “Our fault?!?!? How can it be our fault? We’re not accountants. We keep the technology of this company advancing giving us cutting edge solutions and keeping us ahead of the competition. How were we suppose to know your sales and marketing team would start utilizing data and cellular devices to drive growth in the company”

[Stacy] “Well if you were giving me the data I needed to know where costs were increasing, what was valid and what was abuseareas, we could curb costs while keeping your gadgets running – then I could use that information to empower our organization for growth”

[IT Department] “Wait a second since when is it our job to fill out spreadsheets – and who has the time – we’re busy supporting all the users who can’t seem to read manuals. If we had implemented some Cellular Procurement Policies in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

[Stacy] “Well all I know is I’m not taking the blame for these rising costs. The carrier’s will just have to help us.”

Stacy melts in a pool of red ink.

[IT Department] “Anyone know why the carrier would help us reduce costs and in turn their revenue, huh! So now we’re suppose to implement new hardware, manage costs, negotiate contracts, complete spreadsheets, discover abandoned assets…..who’s getting dinner”

The Third Ghost

With a ray of light and warmth filling the room – Dave Ceokata appears…

[Dave] “Fear not my team there is a better way, a way accounting can get their wish of tighter costs, Operations getting improved efficiencies, and IT smoother day to day operations allowing for the time needed to ensure our company stays on the technology cutting edge.”

[IT Department] “But how is this possible Dave? We have tried to manage but things are changing so fast, carrier plans seem to change every month, user device application and adoption is growing weekly, hardware is getting more costly and gosh dangit – Communications is the lifeline.”

[Dave] “Your right team, communications is the lifeline, and it’s why we have to ensure our team is over seeing it. But not buried by it. We need to find the professionals who can produce monthly wireless cost audits keeping the cost under control and are independent from our carriers – thus who will work for our benefit – I know there is savings to be had! We need a support team, who can handle the day to day user queries, and get you guys off hold with the carriers. Finally we need communication management software that can provide us the Intel, to ensure corporate compliance to policies, eliminate defunct units, and produce quality feedback helping us grow maximizing our communications as the tools they were meant to be.

[IT Department] Does this dream exist?

[Dave] Ah yes the dream exists team. In fact in less than 30 days we could be saving money, have superior visibility, and user bliss with single point of contact support and procurement. Go now team, implement the solution, over see it and create bliss through our organization. Be the heroes I know you can be!

How to decide between a new Blackberry and the iPhone for your Business

This is a great question, especially with the growing popularity of the iPhone (even among enterprise) and the current market captured by the Blackberry. There are a couple of things to consider when making this important decision, whether you’re jumping ship or a newbie to the smart phone arena. I’ve divided the comparison into two categories, first functionality,
and second cost, certainly not in any order of importance as there is weight for both. But before we look at these two comparisons, why is it such an important decision? Well simply put, your phone has become a critical part of how you do business. With the added capabilities and features coming into play it is becoming even more important all the time.

Functionality:

So with functionality becoming increasingly important, this is where BlackBerry tends to be playing catch-up. Try a Google search on the two devices searching for applications and you quickly see a major short fall on BlackBerry. I find as a BlackBerry user myself looking to the iPhone or an Android as a potential solution to maximizing efficiency. That after all is what the functionality is for. To make my life more efficient, provide better service and give me more time to focus on other things. So as I dive into the applications on the BlackBerry to increase efficiency I am continuously

apple-iphone

running into brick walls. For example through my Google account I want to be able to access and sync my Gmail account. At best the Google application has many limitations. First syncing is not a true sync, such as draft emails don’t appear on my desktop until sent. The calendar function on the device is rudimentary at best. The ability to add a simple appointment for a specific time with details is impossible to date. Other functionalities such as Twitter applications put the device into cardiac arrest. Now with all this being said I am not looking for a device to tell me what tip I should leave, this I can handle. I’m speaking of everyday functions that keep me connected with my team, my customers, and on task. Unless I stay focused in my exchange environment (which is losing its attraction all the time) BlackBerry is losing its appeal.

Cost:

Once we get by the sticker shock of the hardware pricing – realizing these devices are so much more than just a phone – these devices are going to give me back time and efficiency, then we have the cost of operation to consider. This is where we see a big difference through our telecom cost audit and mobile management services on Tele-Watch. There is no doubt that these same wonderful applications that are increasing efficiencies are also driving up data costs to the carrier and soon if not already to the end clients. The iPhone in techy terms – is a pig – that’s a technical term. Now with talk of carriers taking away unlimited data in the US, and none really available (when you read the fine print) in Canada, this is a major concern. With BlackBerry costs fairly fixed and their data usage light, I at least know my costs and they are consistent.

With BlackBerry racing to catch up on applications, I will hold temporarily and see if the applications I need to be more efficient evolve soon. I hope this is not a wish unanswered.

Where do you stand on the iPhone and BlackBerry battle and has it worked out for you?

Four Ways to Save on iPhone Bills Now

With its carrier-exclusive plans and heavy data usage, Apple’s iPhone represents a special challenge for telecom expense management. If you’re looking at it from the a global point of view as part of a wireless fleet there are a number of tactics professional auditors can use to make sure the iPhone has the smallest possible impact on fleet billing. Individual users may seem to have fewer options, but in their case it all comes down to using the iPhone intelligently. Let’s look at four ways to keep your costs to a minimum.

Choose Low-Minute Plans: Carriers are usually generous with plan minutes because voice is one of the most economical services for them to deliver, and in many cases people use far fewer minutes than they’re entitled to. AT&T’s plans feature unlimited mobile to mobile at all levels, so think about who you’ll be calling as well, and whether they’re likely to be on a landline. If you’re a Canadian Rogers customer, pick your My5 (your five unlimited local numbers) carefully.

Save it for WiFi: Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, data is far and away the biggest cost pitfall on an iPhone. Even if you are on unlimited data there’s some cause for concern. If you’re a Rogers customer in Canada you may hit the ceiling of even their high capacity plans, and US AT&T customers may hit cost sinks while roaming. Take advantage of the iPhone’s WiFi capabilities whenever possible to avoid excessive data charges. While automatic WiFi detection does drain your battery faster, it drains your wallet less – make sure to keep it turned on.

Fring and Skype: These Apps are powerful cost savings tools whenever you’re in WiFi range (EDIT: and now with AT&T, even within its 3G network). Fring is an application that lets you talk through a variety of applications including MSN and Skype, bypassing standard long distance voice charges. There’s also a dedicated Skype application. Any billable usage is part of your data or Skype charges, (for paid features) making this especially useful for long distance calls.

Watch for Errors: iPhone bills are famous for their complexity; at one point, some heavy users received bills consisting of 50 or more pages. Like most carriers, iPhone plan providers do not have a flawless billing regimen and may make mistakes that add to your bill, such as charging for individual text messages even when you have an unlimited texting plan. Inspect your bill for inconsistencies and don’t be afraid to call your carrier with questions.

Of course, these tips don’t just apply to the iPhone, but many new smartphones. If your mobile unit has WiFi capability and the ability to download VoIP applications take these tips to heart and they’ll save you money. For a business-oriented solution you need to go beyond personal use tips, however, particularly when it comes to monitoring your bills for errors and inefficiencies. You need a cellular expense management plan. Contact us to get started.

The Canadian iPhone Monopoly Ends – but Don’t Expect Better Pricing

The big news in Canadian mobile telecom this week is the end of Rogers’ monopoly over the iPhone. In about a month all three major Canadian providers (Bell and Telus join Rogers) will offer it, begging the question: Is it going to get any less expensive?

Good question. In a sane wireless industry competition over such a popular product would rapidly drive costs down, but the reality might be disappointing. Telus, Bell and Rogers have a history of “competing without competing” – that is, rearranging their mobile contracts to give the appearance of serious competition without actually providing a clear advantage one way or the other. Remember, this is an industry where all three big providers decided to charge you for incoming text messages despite the excellent margins they already enjoy, even though one of them refusing to do so would have given it a significant boost in popularity.

So to be brutally honest, don’t expect to be able to shop around for a better iPhone deal – but you might be able to find a better deal for you. Instead of significant savings, iPhone users will probably win more freedom to purchase plans that suit them better. Shop around for plan features like voice and data that suit your needs, but expect to pay comparable prices no matter the carrier. Rogers’ data plans are so infamously expensive that you may get a bargain there, but carriers are probably taking a very close look at AT&T’s problems dealing with high iPhone data usage on its own networks.

Ultimately, finding the best iPhone deal will require you to monitor your own usage carefully. If you’re using one as part of a business fleet we have the tools to track your voice, data and other service usage with remarkable precision – and if the new carriers inspire you to upgrade to an iPhone, we can get you the hardware the tech support to do it smoothly. Contact us to start the process.

Who Matters More: Customer or Contract?

As app-centered wireless heats up it’s time for regulators to decide whose rights take priority.

This past July and August the FCC began investigating AT&T and Apple’s practices in earnest, especially after Apple allegedly rejected a Google Voice application (or according to Apple, “continues to study it”) intended for its highly profitable iPhone App Store. This is cause for concern because Google Voice gives users access to a number of features that serve as alternatives to core iPhone features – including the ability to make long distance phone calls for free. From a cellular expense management perspective Google Voice is a tremendous boon: a money-saving utility that can reduce the costs attached to any applicable cell phone plan.

Apple claimed that Google Voice would “alter the iPhone user experience,” something which it works very hard to protect even if it is notoriously vague about what exactly that means. The Google Voice App might have gone too far by offering an alternative UI and by harvesting user data in a fashion Apple considers to be a security risk.

On the other hand, if Google Voice were allowed iPhone users would still be able to send standard text messages and pay for long distance through AT&T’s network if they wanted to. They would simply have an alternative – and of course, that alternative is in many ways far, far more appealing than what AT&T and Apple are willing to offer. The App would have offered more choice – that’s competition at work.

This is an important issue for telecom expense management because it gets best results from a truly open market, where consumers and analysts alike can hunt down the best offers from a broad playing field. If individual smartphone brands are allowed to keep users from taking advantage of apps that provide superior service, it becomes harder to optimize smartphone costs. And if the FCC allows this kind of anticompetitive lock-in to proceed, competitors will be tempted to follow suit, leading to a smartphone market that cripples possibilities for its users.

Handsfree Calling and Email from Bell

With the new “no cell phone while driving” law soon rapidly approaching in Ontario, Bell Mobility is now offering a cool feature that will help drivers avoid falling to hands-on cell use temptation — a good thing, since breaking the law nets you a $500 fine (and it makes you drive badly, too!).

Bell Voice Net service allows users to listen to emails and offers handsfree dialing.You are able to import up to 1000 contacts from Microsoft Outlook and  calls them by name or the number.  The feature also allows you to listen to your Pop 3 emails and also reply by voice.

The feature is currently $5.00 per month. If you need to answer email as soon as possible and/or spend a lot of time about using it, it might be worth the money. Just make sure your bill is error-free and on the best package for your needs (the way we can as part of our cellular expense management efforts) and you’ll keep your total bill down to a minimum, giving you room for this addition.

Four Reasons Why your Mobile Phones Leak Money

As your mobile phone bills pile up, ask yourself this: “Why are they so expensive?” The answer probably is not because this is simply how much your cell phone fleet costs. Understanding your cell phone plans is the first step to cost reduction. Over the years we’ve seen common problems crop up again and again. Here are four of them to consider the next time your bills arrive.

Billing Errors: Everybody makes mistakes, including major carriers like Bell Canada, Rogers, AT&T and Sprint. Some experts have found error rates as high as 30%. Carriers forget to include discounts, or charge you for pay per minute/unit services you never used. This is why a cellular expense management audit is such an important step in finding you savings.

Extra Units: When your employees leave or switch roles, what happens to their cell phones? In a surprising number of cases the answer is “nothing.” The phone still appears on your statement and still costs you money. In some cases, employees end up with two or even three units associated with them as they change roles, get new phones, and never get the new ones transferred or deactivated.

Inefficient Use: Some of your plans for the mobile fleet may not survive actual use. You imagine salespeople who constantly use voice and email to keep in touch with the head office, but it turns out that it’s more effective for them to compile all of their reports and send them from a computer. Some employees with company phones never even use them, and of course, there are always issues with employees misusing their phones. You can avoid this all with a regular usage breakdown by employee. Our telecom expense management software Tele-Watch does just that.

Unnecessary Services: Unnecessary services are a form of inefficient use. In these cases your staff uses company phones all the time – but they don’t take advantage of all of the features you’ve paid for. They don’t send email, or leave hundreds of unused minutes behind at the end of every month. Pooled minutes, customized plans and bundling can all help, as long as you know your options.

While you can combat many of these problems on your own, some of them require professional help. That’s why we’re here. Contact us for an initial telecom audit and we’ll show you how to plug up the “money leaks” in your current billing.