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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Mobile Expense Management – Keeping Up with your Wireless Fleet!

Mobile has become a critical element in productivity enhancements for Businesses. This has also lead to mobile charges becoming one of the top components of operating expenses for organizations. As more companies are adopting Blackberry/Smart Phones and other PDAs, it is becoming more imperative to stay on top of Mobile Management and Usage Policies.

What are your organization’s main Mobile-Wireless priorities?

  • Total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • International roaming costs /voice & data roaming
  • Procurement of hardware, contracts & plans for all mobile/wireless services
  • Customer support
  • Billing & Analysis tools
  • Management of devices on multiple mobile network operators
  • Remote access for staff working off site
  • Security
  • Device management
  • Exploiting unified communications & collaboration potential
  • Mobilizing data applications
  • On-site mobility
 

There is a true value in mobile expense management, along with the added support received in maintaining this complexity. Time and sanity are also saved when mobile device management is implemented into an organization.

 

Do you have someone in your organization that handles the day to day tasks of Mobile – is it YOU?

  • 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
  • Swapping ESN’s / IMEI’s & SIM Cards
  • Keeping up with the latest accessories
  • Optimizing wireless plans
  • Auditing international roaming costs
  • Allocating expenses
  • Troubleshooting glitches and outages
  • Resetting voicemail
  • Adding new features
  • Fighting billing errors, escalating costs & unknown charges. 
Are you having FUN yet?
 

As you have guessed it or are already experiencing; 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 are just the beginning of the managing process .

Don’t despair – it can be simplified, and streamlined.  Start with a plan of what you want to know. 

  • Start with reviewing your mobile bills for number of units being billed & used – remember some units may be expensed
  • Create a spreadsheet to track Mobile handsets, Blackberry devices, PDAs and other wireless devices currently in use by your organization as noted on your Wireless bills
  • Include in your spreadsheet, cell phone numbers, user name, type of handset, plans/features & of course costs
  • Determine Ownership of Inventory – some devices may be Company owned and others Expensed
  • Establish a Company Wireless Policy based on how you want to move forward with your Mobile Expense Management
  • If this is not your area of expertise, you may want to Consult an Expert on Mobile Expense Management
 

Cloud based Mobile Expense Management solutions give your organization the information it needs to promote cost savings with accountabilityvisibility and simplicity.

 

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!

Why Offer a Communication Management Free Trial?

Why has a communications management firm that has offered telecom solutions for a decade decided to offer its proprietary management software on a free trial? It’s hard for me to write the answer without sounding like an advertisement, especially since as I write the reasons, it sounds like an ad to me – but that’s not the case. It all has to do with the evolving business climate in the US and Canada. We’ve adapted to it and want to help other firms do the same.

North American business has changed over the last year. At GILL Technologies, we’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal client base. Over the years, we’ve changed to respond to its requests for additional features and services and to keep GILL Technologies focused on best practices. In fact, what began as a cost audit company some 10 years ago has developed into much more. For example,  ClientCare (a component of our service) has become one of our most sought after services. Today, it’s one of the pillars of our business even though it really has little to do with the concept of cost auditing. By listening to our clients we discovered the value in being able to be their single point of contact for a technical support and services.

Tele-Watch evolved in much the same way. Companies need better control over their communications, period; most businesses will openly admit this. One crucial step to improve control is by acquiring timely, superior access to usage and spending information. This visibility gets crucial data to the right people in a timely fashion (not six months later). It drives accountability through the organization, because they know the nature of on what may be the largest business expense they face, as communications is quickly becoming one of the largest expenses possible for any company.

GILL Technologies responded with Tele-Watch: a proprietary software application hosted on the cloud and available from any web enabled device on a secure platform. Tele-Watch is absolutely amazing in how it presents important communications information. We developed it to let clients view their communications usage, expenses and services just the way they need to. Again, we improved a component of the service that really had little to do with the cost audit concept,  but again through our clients’ guidance we developed reporting tools that change the way a company manages communications.

So now, our challenge is to utilize what we created to grow our business. Bear in mind that our primary focus is to save companies money, however. We never want to lose sight of that mission. Tele-Watch is a software solution, but rather than take the typical approach of, “Let’s sell our software,” we made what I consider the bold statement of saying: “Lets give Tele-Watch to our prospective clients, let them feel the difference in single point of contact with ClientCare, and while this is occurring, show them how we can save them money. It’s a Win-Win-Win!”

OK, now I really sound like an advertisement! But when you think about our philosophy, it really makes sense beyond its raw promotional value. We save companies money. It’s our core mission. That’s why clients establish a relationship with us. Tele-Watch and ClientCare build relationships that last for years, if not indefinitely. So why not introduce people to the whole concept while we evaluate the benefit of the relationship in hard numbers?

That’s why we offer a Communication Management Free Trial, giving you the chance to sample our range of services as a prelude to securing long term savings and excellent service. I hope you can see beyond the sales pitch and appreciate the concept. I don’t know – did I fluff it up too much?

Like I said, North American business has changed, and you need the chance to make informed decisions, and today’s technology should allow it. Shouldn’t you able to test drive a service even at the enterprise level? What do you think?

Organizing Your Telecom Expenses

To manage your telecom expenses you need to understand them. To understand them, you need to define and classify them. For many businesses, doing this internally entails a great deal of data entry and specialized spreadsheet use. That’s why our communications management software specializes in helping management perform these tasks through an intuitive web interface. The following categories are useful to help any business understand its telecom expenses.

Hardware/Infrastructure Telecom Services: These are services that are categorized by the equipment needed for them to exist. From this approach, the fundamental services are landline Voice, Cellular and Internet, but this is evolving along with the technology. Smartphones currently represent a point of transition, creating a Cellular data category, but this is rapidly vanishing into core cellular service. Similarly, roaming wireless Internet seems to be a category in transition, attached to either static Internet Service or Cellular service depending on the carrier.

Vendor Defined Telecom Services: These services are at heart, line items on your bill. These are often sub-divisions of hardware-defined services. Cellular services include voice, texting and data. Landline services include local and long distance. Expect these to transform over time as the plasticity of data allows services to be divided in any number of ways.

Telecom Service Bundles: One vital part of telecom expense management is the ability to compare service bundles by individual service, so that we can migrate or modify agreements to produce savings. All-in-one bundles may be the right choice for consumers who want to avoid billing hassles, but companies need a more sophisticated approach to improve the bottom line.

Telecom Usage: Finally, to manage your bill you need to find out how the money’s being used. That means identifying patterns in your company’s telecom usage. You can do this by location to compare multiple sites, by department or even by individual, over monthly, quarterly, annual and even lifetime usage. You can’t intelligently save money until you know what you’re already spending it on.

As we said in the beginning, general applications like spreadsheets can help smaller businesses track all of these factors, but enterprise level companies, as well as companies with complex telecommunications needs regardless of size, should consider a professional telecom expense management solution that can define and sort information in these categories, so as to keep billing error-free and optimized for savings in all necessary services.

Uh Oh — Bell and Telus to charge for incoming text messages

Canadians are due for some unhappy developments. Bell and Telus will charge for incoming text messages starting in August (8th for Bell, 24th for Telus). Getting a text message will cost 15 cents a pop unless you have an unlimited texting plan.

How will they keep people from being charged for text spam? Blogger Mark Goldberg also raises the specter of text cyber-bullying — mean kids with plans spamming kids without them. It seems that both companies have placed the burden for recovering charges for unwanted messages on the consumer. The other option: Block messages completely. The move seems designed to discourage occasional texters — and grab wads of cash from less attentive customers. It has aroused such ire that Canada’s Industry Minister has asked Bell and Telus executives to explain themselves.

Things like this underscore the need for cost reduction and cellular expense management services. So far, it looks like if you get unwanted messages, you’ll have to fight the telecom companies to get them taken off your bill. If you need texting for business, it’s time to find a cost-effective plan. Our communications management software can help clients keep their texting under control, and customer service means that you don’t have to fight over unwanted text messages — we’ll do it for you.

More Telecom Expense Management Lingo

Last time around I told you about a bunch of common cell phone plan-related slang and abbreviations. This time around, let’s look at some other terms in general (mobile and landline) telecom expense management. We use some of them as tracking codes for our Management and Reporting Software.

Here goes:

2G: Second generation mobile device that uses digital signals instead of analog signals of earlier, first generation phones.

2.5G: A 2G phone with additional data transfer capabilities like true (instead of mobile format) internet. The first Apple iPhone is an example of a 2.5G phone — the second claims full 3G status.

3G: Third generation mobile devices. These can handle true broadband-rate data transfer, allowing services such as video calling.

ACO: Additional call offering. An ISDN feature that allows calls to one number to be routed to multiple phones. Used to handle incoming calls in an office.

BVM: Basic Voicemail

CDR: Call Detail Recording – an automated database element used to generate billing. CDR errors or CRD interpretation errors will cause billing errors.CID: Caller ID

EVM or AVM: Enhanced Voicemail

EW or E&W: Evenings and Weekends, in the context of long distance or cellular services.

ISDN: Integrated Digital Service Network. A network capable of providing multiple telecom transmission services (including voice, video and internet) simultaneously.

TEXT, TXT: Text messaging.

Mob, Mobi, WWW: Mobile Internet. 2G Internet was limited to specially configured mobile-friendly sites due to screen and bandwidth limitations, but newer phones display Internet content in the same way as standard computers.

DB: Detailed Billing. This is often available on request and is a prerequisite for competent telecom auditing.

EMSG: Email Messaging.

FIM or FIMF: First Incoming Minute Free.

LDS: Long distance savings/saver.

M2M: Free calling between members (of a company/organization) – M2MLD includes free long distance between members.

POTS: Plain Old Telephone Service. Basic phone services.

TV: Television streaming.

VOICENET: Voice to Email.

Telecom Auditing and the Spreadsheet of Doom

Our Communications Management Software is one of the core tools we offer to telecom expense management clients. Let me tell you how we brought a professional cost management tool to the public and why.

We track everything that can be tracked, down to individual cell phones. That means we’ve always needed a way to organize very large amounts of data dynamically. By 2006, commercial tools weren’t cutting it. Excel disintegrated beneath the sheer number of, well, numbers we use. I wasn’t about to solve this problem by skimping on detail.

We’d experimented with in-house reporting software as far back as 2003, before “telecom expense management software” became a well-known category. We revived the idea to supplement our increasingly unwieldy spreadsheets. We just wanted a way to organize all the data we need to provide the best telecom expense management solutions — and to have the best, you need to see as much of the big picture as possible.

We had that up and running in 2007. It worked well — well enough to expand it into an analysis tool, too. The results were so powerful that we decided to share it with out clients. I think this is what really makes our service stand out from other TEM applications. We designed this for professional telecom expense management. Now that it helps us track cellular and telecom figures, I can do a few clicks and tell you this:

  • We’ve proposed approximately 13 million dollars in cost audit savings over the past four years.
  • We’ve managed 19 million cell phone plan minutes this year.
  • Our clients use an average of 230 minutes per phone, per month.

It only took me a few seconds to figure this out. If you sign on with us, you’ll have access to the same tools. Our Telecom Management Software runs on a web interface, so you don’t have to install anything. Anyone can use the easy, single-click interface — and it sure beats a clunky spreadsheet.

About the Author: John Parks is Expense Management Operations Manager for GILL Technologies.