Getting a firm grip on wireless expenses involves more than just implementing software. Many organisations have failed to make significant inroads into their wireless costs through buying a software tool but then failing to implement it correctly with experienced employees, or more often than not relied on the network operator online tools. These give a much improved picture of the monthly bill, can be split across business units, and do give access to a greater audience of cost controllers. However, as with much data management, rubbish in gets rubbish out!
If you are thinking seriously about addressing the costs of your wireless communications there are other issues which cannot be ignored and must form part of your strategy. There are organizational and cultural changes to manage, asset selections to be made, network requirements, such as data speeds and coverage, security issues, as well as thorough process assessments and reviews to be completed.
A good Wireless Expense Management Program which will stand every chance of delivering up to 30% cost reduction to the enterprise will need a dedicated team, some external expertise, and a timeframe of up to 90 days to implement.
Whilst this list is neither extensive nor exclusive it’s important to keep several things in mind when embarking on a project to manage wireless devices and expenses:
Involve senior stakeholders from the start.
While the IT department might take the lead in implementing wireless expense management solutions, other divisions, such as finance, purchasing, hr and operations, are all affected by processes and policies, and should have a say in the project.
Whilst the level of wireless spend is not always up for review at the Board level of most UK plc, a deployment of a worthwhile wireless expense program will have impact on all employees and it will involve change, therefore needing in most cases very senior approval and sign off. Whilst most WEM solutions will show a very quick ROI there is also a need for an initial budget for whatever solution or resources are utilised.
You need that top-down commitment as implementing a worthwhile wireless expense management strategy is a pretty big process change.
In this authors experience the chief financial and information officers are often the most senior employees involved with the new wireless expense management initiatives.
Establish Goals and a measurement system.
The only way to know if your program is working is by setting targets for key metrics, such as average cost per device and maximum spending per division.
If organisations have decided to recover personal use costs from employees, then targets should be set for the initial implementation and then onwards.
Set goals that can be achieved at certain milestones, such as user take up in the first 3-6 months, then monitor these in a governance forum.
Most importantly, if you are using external suppliers, ensure that built into their delivery model is at the very least a bi-annual review of goals and achievements, along with any SLA’s which were deemed crucial and built into the contract.
Reputable WEM providers should have no issue demonstrating the value of any solution on an annual basis. Do not forget to include end user satisfaction surveys in the governance process. As you have changed their working process in some way you need to monitor their satisfaction levels with any solution to make sure it has had a positive impact on moral and satisfaction.
Create an internal communications program.
Any new wireless management initiative needs to include appraising employees of the new wireless purchasing, ownership and usage policies, and how they will be impacted moving forwards.
It is of paramount importance that individual employees and management understand what can and cannot be done with company assets. Consider deploying a system which includes forced policy acceptance before initial use, and maintaining communications of any policy in a place where it can be easily accessed, the intranet or better still built into any online solution you deploy for user cost management.
This may be a cultural shift for employees. In the past, employees may have selected their own devices and tariffs with a manager’s consent. Some may have family plans and other benefits that were offered historically, others simply may not like having a limited selection of devices, or may feel that they have gotten away with a nice little perk for far too long. This is a change process which cannot be underestimated and needs focus and resolve, and of course senior support.
To overcome the cultural hurdles and inform the workforce about the new expense process and wireless policies, the communications department should deliver an internal communications campaign, to educate employees and win them over to the new system.
Most employees, especially in more austere times will accept, eventually, that any business deploying well documented and proven processes to control wastage and costs is a business they would like to work for in the long run. This will help balance any short term feelings they may hold regarding the previous management process, or lack of.
The campaign must include a consistent logo, e-mails explaining how the new system would save the company money. A Web portal ideally on the company’s intranet, or an external provider’s online solution should be used to provide information about the new system and other changes required to deploy any new program.
Improve negotiation skills with wireless providers.
Deploying a long term WEM solution allows organisations to take back control of the procurement process.
Information will be more available for trending and analysis, meaning, for possibly the first time, the organisation will know more about its requirements than their incumbent airtime provider.
Understanding exactly what assets are currently being used, and more importantly minimising the number of un used devices before entering into any new contract is paramount to achieving an optimal contract going forwards.
Understanding calling patterns and tariff plans which are most used in the organisation will allow procurement to focus on the really important tariffs maximising savings where it matters most.
Call on outside experts.
Having an independent trusted adviser who is wholly focussed on your company goals will be a massive help in implementing and running any WEM solution. When considering any type of WEM solutions there are only really three options;
Use internal resources and network billing tools
The key here will be making sure the internal resources have the required experience and tools to maintain user, asset, and cost centre databases which will allow them to make best use of network tools for viewing online bills. Most operators, at time of writing, have limited ability however to split the bill between business and personal usage which often leaves employees trawling through paper bills in order to re – compensate use or claim the business calls.
Use internal resource and SaaS tools
Whilst WEM is a relatively new concept in the UK and Europe, TEM is a much more developed market with many providers, often US based, offering solutions for optimisation and control of fixed telecommunications costs. They have entered the WEM market with similar tools developed for mobile.
Other providers have launched new wireless focussed tools which provide massively improved visuals of the business bill, again relying on internal departments to make sure the information going into the system is correct.
Outsource to a mobile management company
This solution provides both typical WEM/TEM tools and service to take away the burden of running any WEM program from the organisation. Online tools will be provided for billing management, bills will be verified and corrected for errors, and users and queries will be managed via a helpdesk.
Whichever route is most suitable for your organisation each will still require an element of expertise which does not usually reside in the IT department.
Understand your growth.
Understanding how your organisation may grow, or how it may adopt new mobile technologies will be an important part of any WEM strategy, as part of your wider mobile management strategy.
Any solution needs to be future proofed for these new technologies and how they may be adopted in the future. Mobile policies must be made current enough with change procedures included to capture any developments in technology or internal business processes.
Security issues must also be considered and included in a wider strategy as organisations adopt more and more data centric devices and smart phones which replace standard voice terminals at an increasing and alarming rate.
Keep an eye on business needs.
Limiting the number of available devices and standardising them is a good approach, but the worst position for a company to be in is to have saved money on telecommunications, only to end up with a major business gap.
From a financial perspective, for example, Blackberry’s might be impractical; they cost more to purchase and support than mobile phones. However these devices have become critical business tools for many of today’s enterprise mobile workforces.
Having a complete mobile management strategy is not just about containing costs. You want to be able to do it all, meeting the needs of the business, containing costs and providing the best services. It’s a balancing act.
A good wireless expense management solution will analyse the entire telecom services infrastructure of the enterprise as well as conduct detailed analysis for top ROI.
There are a number of solutions to implementing wireless expense management, however often the right people with relevant wireless experience do not exist in the enterprise.
Proper wireless expense management processes and services can make sure your organization is not throwing away profits on a regular basis on hidden billing errors and limited management process for managing users and assets.