Where did TEM come from and who needs it? Long gone are the days of carrier account teams dedicated to maintaining a long term relationship with their customers. Over the last 15 years the price of long distance calling has dropped from approximately .25 cpm to less than .03 cpm. One casualty of plunging price points were those experienced account teams that served as a single point of contact and knew your account. As a result, many businesses found themselves with a revolving door of new, inexperienced and sales oriented representatives that were more concerned with pushing new services or extending contracts rather than helping to solve problems or provide information.
The lack of carrier support isn’t the only challenge faced by telecom managers over the last 10 -15 years. Increased complexity of telecom services has played a major role in creating confusion and a need for tools to manage the issues. The evolution and requirement for complex data services from Private Line to Frame Relay to the current rage, MPLS, have put a bigger burden on infrastructure and transition management than ever before.
Many businesses as a result of the current commercial landscape are reducing the size of support staff. So while the carriers are providing less support, and the networks are becoming larger and more complex, management is reducing headcount and placing more responsibility on managers. That is how we got where we are, but what do you do about it?
Out of this confusion a new industry was born, Telecommunications Expense Management or TEM is a combination of technology and professional services designed to support telecommunications managers.
What are the benefits of TEM? TEM software is designed to augment the Telecom Managers knowledge and understanding of the products, services and costs in the corporate telecom footprint. TEM software will offer answers to questions well beyond the basics, such as what do I have and how much does it cost? Those questions can be answered by spreadsheets. The question then becomes; what should TEM offer me that is a true benefit?
A solid TEM platform should provide a centralized, web-based solution for procurement and inventory control, invoice processing, cost allocation, budget and spend tracking as well as contract compliance. Exceptional systems will be proactive in nature and allow the users to establish policies and workflow management within the application. A system that can provide the user proactive alerts and notifications as well as policy breach or exceptions is a great benefit to organizations of all sizes.
A TEM solution is not just for Fortune 500 organizations with big, complex networks; although they certainly are prime candidates for this technology. TEM makes a lot of sense for mid-sized organizations that need a system to organize and monitor the transactions within the telecom environment. Most mid-sized organizations don’t invest heavily in telecom expertise. Typically they give the telecom responsibility to an IT person or office manager. The benefit of a TEM solution in these types of organizations are centered on efficiencies and labor savings through automation. Using an application to reconcile invoices with inventory and proactively report on variances and savings opportunities allows time to be spent on issue resolution, not detection. A TEM solution reduces the effort in the accounting department as well. Automated cost allocation, variance and trend reports in addition to proactive alerts makes for a streamlined invoice process.
A TEM solution should benefit both the telecom and finance organizations by providing a common platform for both groups to monitor, control and report on all aspects of the organizations telecommunications.
What to Look for in a Provider
Key Area 1 – Establish the groups that will benefit by implementing a TEM solution. IT and Finance certainly come to mind but how about Procurement or Help Desk organizations. How do these groups interact? What are the current processes and where could TEM augment or improve upon current practices? Knowing the needs of the business units and how they communicate with each other will provide a baseline service requirement. Ultimately the first question is: Does the TEM solution support all my business units?
Key Area 2 – What job functions are done manually and completed off-line? Completing jobs off-line equates to not having a centralized tracking or reporting mechanism. Each organization working in silos, emailing data or requests for information is typically inefficient, labor intensive and costly. Part of this issue becomes: Which business processes are important for the TEM solution to automate?
Key Area 3 – What business processes do you want to outsource? How do you want to partner with your vendor? Do you want to purchase software and run it yourself? Do you want to outsource all aspects of your telecom management or do you want a hybrid of the two? The TEM solution providers should offer the level of service that matches your desired labor effort. Ask your team: Does the TEM solution provider offer the variety of professional services that meets our desired labor efforts?
Build a Plan First
Start by creating a planning team. This team should include a member from each workgroup that contributes to the telecom management. Typically a representative from Procurement, IT, Finance and Operations will be present. The group should review key considerations prior to selecting a TEM solution.
Five Key Elements for Consideration
- Review – Each aspect of involvement with the current telecom management environment. Examples include; procurement practices or policies, system or integration requirements, current payment processes, and any existing inventory or technology issues.
- Scope – What is the expected scope of the engagement with the TEM vendor? What are the minimum requirements and the wish list items? Goals and expectations are clearly defined and need to be communicated to the vendor. With clear requirements, you will have a better ability to compare vendors.
- Risk – How much risk are you willing to accept as an organization? With any change there is risk, understand each risk level.
- Low – Continue your efforts but obtain a new system.
- Medium Low – Outsource various efforts or renegotiate your contract.
- Medium High – Carrier change or implementing new contracts.
- Highest – Technology change or complete vendor replacement.
- Participation – Data gathering, defining workflow processes and business rules are key factors that consume a significant portion of a project plan. When an organization is willing and able to offer time and input to these vital components, the implementation is expedited and more accurate.
- Scheduling – Select a planned launch date and work with the vendor to define milestones. It may not be possible to complete all of the objectives in the time allotted, so a phased implementation may be a better option in some cases. Be sure to schedule training in to your plan prior to the launch date.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.