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How to cut mobile telecom costs

Wireless devices create complex billing and security issues; telecom expense management tools can help

By Brad Reed, Network World
March 27, 2008 02:20 PM ET

Network World - With wireless usage exploding, corporate telecom managers are faced with the specter of untold numbers of wireless devices chewing up voice and data services, not to mention creating major risks for corporate security.


10 ways to cut wireless telecom costs.


The spread of BlackBerries, cell phones, smart phones and iPhones across the enterprise provides significant advantages for businesses that want to use wireless voice, data and SMS to easily maintain contact with employees who are working from home, from remote locations or who are traveling abroad.

But as with any new technology, the widespread adoption of wireless devices will require corporate IT departments to make adjustments in how they manage telecom expense and security issues.

Larry Van Etten, senior manager at Ikon's telecommunications service center in Buffalo, says his company used to have an ad hoc approach to managing wireless telecom expenses that relied on several carriers and had no centralized management plan.

"When I first got involved at the start of a [telecom expense management] group for Ikon, we did not have a standard contract, we had 300-plus offices doing their own thing, we had a gamut of plans, of minutes, of everything," he says. "It was really important for us to get control of what we were paying for."

Step 1: Get a handle

The first step of any plan to gain control of expenses says Van Etten, is to understand what wireless telecom services your company actually needs. While this may sound obvious, it's actually one of the largest challenges facing companies trying to manage their telecom expenses, says Joe Basili, the vice president of research for AOTMP, an organization that provides research, certification programs, skills assessments, advisory services for enterprise telecom expense management.

Many businesses are simply unaware of how many devices and services are being billed to their accounts, he says, because they haven't come up with a clearly defined policy on what services they will or will not pay for.

"A lot of companies end up with a patchwork system where some expenses are billed directly to the enterprise, while in other cases employees already have devices, and their manager tells them that they can expense it to the company," he says. "This happens because they haven't told their employees what the standardization policy is. It's very difficult to enforce something hasn't been communicated."

In order to assess company needs, Basili says, companies need to look at each individual employee's consumption rate to identify potential areas for savings. For instance, many companies are investing in wireless telecom plans that pool minutes together for individual departments.

Thus, if a particular group of employees doesn't typically use a lot of minutes, it might make sense to give them a pool of shared minutes to use over the course of a month. Conversely, employees who are heavy talkers might be better fits for flat-rate monthly wireless plans.

Mike Jude, an analyst at Nemertes Research, says once companies figure out their own wireless telecom needs, they need to take time to educate carriers on their needs. Whenever companies start working with new carriers, or whenever they shift more of their services over to a carrier they're already working with, Jude says carriers can be somewhat confused on how to meet their wireless needs.

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