Cost Control: Managing Your Telecom Expenses

At a time of increasing cost pressures, corporations in Asia Pacific – and indeed globally – are looking for more control, visibility and predictability in their communications expenses to help them forecast and plan their budgets. This time, it is not just the usual ‘cut costs’ mandate, but also the need for a long-term fix to the perennial corporate ailment of managing telecom charges. Telecom expenses can be amongst the most opaque corporate expense today.

 
The concept of Telecom Expense Management (TEM) has been around for many years in more mature markets, such as North America and Europe. Today, we are seeing an increased appetite for TEM in regional markets such as Australia and also with Asian business hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong.
 
The TEM application sector is predicted to grow into a US$1.7 billion market by 2010, according to industry analyst Gartner. That said, TEM is still a relatively new and emerging business in Asia Pacific, so there are a number of factors to consider when contemplating this service.  
 
What is TEM?
Telecom Expense Management (TEM) provides the capability for organisations to manage their voice, data and wireless expenses in their entirety. Beyond being just a new enterprise software, TEM is the amalgam of people, process and tools that allows the IT, procurement and finance departments within organisations to work efficiently together to better manage their resources and optimise expenses. 
 
In the current economic environment and as most organisations strive to reduce and optimise operational expenditure, this challenge is being exacerbated by businesses regional and global expansion, an ever increasing trend by consumers and businesses to move into the digital space, and the usage of mobile devices issued to employees and the richer content and application requirements being received and used on these devices.
 
TEM helps organisations take control of their business and provides a clear view of ICT costs, expenses, services and assets.  It not only makes sure all telecom billings are accurate, but that they also comply with contract rates and terms. This may be done in-house by company employees as part of financial management, or by managed services or outsourcing companies.
 
Organisations considering embarking on a TEM selection and deployment have to recognise that it is more than being “just about the software”. Experienced TEM service providers offer a strategic approach that delivers a wide range of additional tools and services such as a personalised dashboard for clear visible tracking and analysis, the processing and payment of telecom invoices, reconciliation of telecom-related orders and sourcing, and the negotiation of telecom contracts using professional services and industry knowledge. 
 
The value-add is in the ability to deliver a fully managed service, which removes the often unforeseen risks of deploying the software and the lack of internal resource to run, manage and derive the benefits of the investment.
  

What TEM Can Do For You

Globally, TEM solutions by dedicated service providers are becoming an integral part of the enterprise telecommunications strategy for their ability to easily retrieve, monitor, manage and analyse complex billing data from suppliers, provide valuable end-customer information and reduce operating and capital expenses.
 
The key operational benefits that TEM delivered by service providers include:
 
  • Better control and visibility of expenses across all ICT services and assets. TEM offers a clear view of costs, expenses, services and assets through a customised dashboard that offers easy retrieval of multi-vendor invoices filtered to your search needs. Any ICT service/asset with an invoice can be in-scope.
  • Low resource requirements. Fast implementation and an end-to-end managed service means all the hard work is done for you. A dedicated business analyst and service manager is also assigned to help you achieve those monthly cost efficiencies.
  • Increased organisational efficiencies. Business processes are unified and simplified to improve your inventory and asset utilisation and time spent verifying, validating and disputing ICT invoices is reduced.
  • Compelling cost savings. The total savings in telecom expenses with a TEM solution, according to Gartner, are upwards of 15 to 20% for wireless services in North America. In Asia Pacific, where processing an invoice can cost as much as US$75 due to the sheer number of countries and languages (compared with US$7–$13 in North America), the potential savings are even far greater to the organisation.

 

Clearly, there are some very real and significant benefits to looking at TEM – and that’s the reason why the solution has caught on so well in Western markets. However, Asia Pacific is complex due to challenges of multiple languages, currencies and regulatory environment – a different invoice altogether!
 

Choosing a TEM Provider in Asia

In North America, the market place is very crowded with 100 providers or more in the industry, mainly supporting a single language, single jurisdiction country. In Asia Pacific, the situation is widely different. Most large corporations operate across 16 or more countries in the region – many of which have different languages and currencies. The challenges in gaining control of telecom invoices are clear.
 
As companies grow across the Asia-Pacific region, build their workforce and provide their staff with mobile communication tools, there is an increasing need to manage the related expenses. But early adopter corporations who are keen to look at TEM solutions in Asia Pacific have been thwarted by the complexity of not only managing billings in multiple languages and currencies, but also by the exchange rate variations, paper invoices and the myriad country-specific regulations they face across the region.
  
So how do you go about choosing a TEM provider in Asia Pacific? There is no easy answer, but there are some innovative options you could consider.
 
Ideally, look for a provider that can offer a bespoke dashboard that gives you a clear view of all your ICT assets and services. The dashboard should have the ability to filter and sort information quickly for you and as you need it. The monitoring and reporting ability coupled with the personalised services of a business analyst and service manager will help you maximise the benefits that TEM’s can offer by fully utilising the dashboard capabilities and offerings.
 
Over and above this basic utility, any worthwhile comprehensive TEM service provider will also proactively identify service optimisations, including identifying and initiating a pre-emptive invoice dispute process, which translates into less time and less wasted resources in settling claims. And that’s beginning of the real beauty of TEM — its flexibility, automation of processes and ongoing cost optimisation.
 
The ideal TEM solution provider should be able to offer customers the complete range of TEM solutions and services, delivered in a customised manner (per the customers legal, regulatory, finance and IT parameters), across the entire region. They should also be able to offer a modular, ‘life-cycle’ solution that allows customer organisations to start off as basic users, and then grow the scope and scale of services as they start realising gains from the solution.  
 
A TEM solution offers real tangible benefits and is undoubtedly an integral part of the enterprise telecommunications strategy both now and in the future.
 
About the Author
Mike Powell is Vice President – Service Delivery, Global Markets, at Cable&Wireless Worldwide. Based in Singapore, he is responsible for ensuring that consistent quality is being delivered to all Cable&Wireless’ customers in Africa, Asia, Continental Europe, Ireland and the U.S. Before joining C&W, he was Senior Director, Business Services Optimisation division, at CA (formerly Computer Associates).

 

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