Knowledge is power. While the originator of this phrase may be often disputed, it’s one that certainly captures the essence of telecom inventory management. This activity can be defined as the tracking and coordination of physical assets and service agreements to better manage telecoms infrastructure and control costs. And the more you know about what you have and how to manage it, the better you can make the most of it and cut costs.
In a recent post, we mentioned that the link between telecom inventory management and vitality can be somewhat blunt. There, we reflected that telecom availability can, quite literally, mean the difference between life and death, as the consequences of downtime in healthcare organizations can be catastrophic.
But, drama aside, how does telecom inventory management fit into enterprises more generally, and what is it that makes it so vital to them?
Telecom Inventory Management Activities
At an enterprise-level, the average service agreement is as dense as an asset list is long – here are just some of the assets Telecom Expense Management (TEM) providers typically track for their clients:
- Air cards
- Conferencing services and equipment
- Data communications lines
- Lease and maintenance agreements
- Local exchange services
- Long distance services including dedicated, private line and virtual services
- Mobile devices
- Network equipment
- PBX and key systems
- Software Licenses
- Voicemail systems
- VOIP equipment and services
When a TEM provider engages with a new customer, one of the first activities on the agenda is to build a working telecom asset inventory. Data is captured immediately and compared to carrier billing records. Usually, this method lets the provider account for 80 to 95 percent of a client’s inventory within the first few weeks of the new relationship. And, during the deployment phase, a communication process is often agreed to track changes.
Whether the vendor performs the ordering and provisioning for the customer or not, they should track all MACD (Move, Add, Change, Disconnect) activity in order to keep the telecom inventory up to date.
The key isn't just in knowing what services the customer has. An inventory isn't complete unless it's also tracking:
- Where services are assigned and to who
- When they were installed
- When their contract is up for renewal
- What they are used for
- Whether they're being used at all
Importance of Telecom Inventory Management
Good telecom inventory management is crucial to enterprise, three key reasons are:
- It safeguards against paying for unused or unneeded services.
- The number of telecom assets is growing all the time, making them ever more difficult to manage. This continuous growth means it's imperative the enterprise establishes a systematic approach to avoid expense leakage and resource drains.
- It standardizes processes across an enterprise. In a typical enterprise, assets and services are constantly changing, and often telecom inventory management is not approached in a unified way.
1. Avoid Paying for Unused or Unneeded Services
One of the main benefits TEM brings to a business is cost-reduction, which it does in several ways. Perhaps one of the most clear-cut , and valuable, ways is by eliminating paying for unused and unneeded services. A simple principle to understand but much more difficult to actually pull off.
Before an enterprise starts working with a TEM vendor, it’s not uncommon for there to be redundant assets sitting idle because of doubt about who they belong to or what purpose they serve. What's more, telecom inventories are often inaccurate and unoptimized, and a thorough comprehension of the overall telecoms environment is frequently missing. An asset, such as a mobile device or POTS line may no longer be deployed, but so long as the carrier records the line item as active, the company will continue to pay for it.
By making sure an inventory is accurate and well-maintained, a TEM vendor gives enterprises the insight they need to compare invoices with services and ensures they only pay for the services they actually use and need.
2. Avoid expense leaks and resource drains
Today’s organizations need to handle ever-increasing numbers of mobile devices, fixed telecoms, service agreements, and IT infrastructure. One key reason for this is the rise of BYOD, whose adoption has increased steadily over the last decade. This trend is only set to continue – valued at $35.10 billion in 2016, the BYOD and enterprise mobility market is expected to reach $73.30 billion by 2021. So, as more and more telecom assets continue to spread throughout enterprises, a systematic approach becomes ever more important if they are to be kept under control. This is crucial in avoiding expense leaks and resource drains.
Telecom expense can be split into many categories. One study to do just that revealed in the inventory management category alone, a TEM program can cut expenses by 15%.
What's more, telecom inventory management services lighten the burden on IT staff. When a TEM vendor is engaged, more time is freed up to focus on core business activities.
3. Standardizes processes across an enterprise
Assets and Services are Constantly Changing
In larger businesses, the technology deployed and the inventory of services change frequently, with new lines and circuits added all the time. In MACD terms, wireless services can move daily, fixed lines are added as new branches emerge, changes take place when scaling up and down resources, and disconnects happen when a branch closes. Throw in the frequent connection and disconnection of corporate devices, as employees join or leave the enterprise, and you have an inventory that’s in a constant state of flux.
This is where telecoms inventory management really comes into its own. While many enterprises don’t have the tools, time or knowledge to maintain database integrity, a TEM provider does – it’s why they exist.
Enterprises Often Don’t Work in a Unified Way
Not only are today’s businesses often dispersed geographically, activities such as inventory management, provisioning, and TEM often occur in silos. Proper telecom inventory management means adopting software that can track, manage, and report on all mobile and fixed telecoms assets. But good TEM software and service can do so much more than that.
By just integrating inventory records with telecom provisioning and full-service TEM, the accuracy of billing goes up and the amount spent on overcharges drastically down.
When telecom inventory management is part of a whole lifecycle approach, the reduction of telecoms spend and risk starts to work as a truly well-oiled machine. An entire enterprise need only look to a single source to understand their inventory and its corresponding invoices. And telecom inventory procurement procedures will have been uniformly set up as part of a wider TEM program.
Time is of the essence in telecom inventory management. Not only are customers frequently amazed at the substantial savings and efficiencies that are unlocked very early on, it's an activity that gets harder and harder the longer it's left. And so long as services and assets go unchecked, so too do any overcharges that are being paid.
In fact, "It can wait – it’s important but not urgent" is one of the five great myths we discuss in our latest guide: Telecom Inventory Management: The Five Great Myths. At Cass, we've discovered it's amazing what you can see when you delve a little deeper – download our guide today.