Telecom Expense Management: Ain’t Life Fun?

On the one hand, the massive mergers of voice and data carriers (traditional telecom providers) and wireless providers over the past five years have been a boon to overstressed IT managers trying to make sense of ever increasing service offerings from suppliers.

On the other, the demand for more and better, faster and cheaper never lets up so telecom expense managers (usually some poor guy down in IT with too few staff and too many performance expectations) means telecom is becoming ever more pervasive throughout businesses of all sizes.

Who could imagine trying to run a company today with email, a cell phone, and a land line? Those would be the basics. Add to that smart phone data-crunching capabilities, WiFi enabled laptops, Blackberries, pagers (yes, they still exist); how about video conferencing, teleconferencing services, etc., etc. and suddenly the list of services to manage and pay for gets pretty overwhelming.

Don’t forget routers and switches on the network, data pipes, WANs, LANs—they are all part of telecom, too.

M&A in the telecom space has made life easier for many. You can now buy bundled services at flat rates for many of the services you used to pay for by line item. But that is just in the U.S. Add the international component many companies great and small have to deal with and all your carefully negotiated contracts go out the window—unless you can get similar deals overseas.

“It used to be when people paid for every call … it was a material cost to the corporation,” said Craig Haught, VP and CIO of Cymer, a mid-sized supplier of lithograph machines to the semiconductor industry. “Now that the cost of even long distance is almost free or mobile-to-mobile with the same carrier is virtually unlimited for a fixed cost … all of these cost get a lot easier to manage from a budgeting point of view.”

For Haught, convergence is also serving to lessen the load. Since voice and data lines are now synonymous, it easier to gain transparency into your telecom spend and find savings—if you want to put in the effort. For Cymer’s 1,000 employees, 40% of whom work overseas, it is worth the effort but Haught still employs a telecom expense management company called Avotus to make his life easier.

By using Avotus’ tools he can negotiate better deals, have them deal with inaccuracies in billing (up to 14% by some estimates) and track his assets.

But, when your company has 10s-of-1,000s of employees in over 50 countries consuming over $100M in telecom services per year, the case is not so cut and dried.

That’s what Peter Tarhanidis’s job is. Tarhanidis is the telecom manager for a large Fortune 50 company. For the most part, he has visibility and control over about 70% of the company’s telecom spend: voice and data services, switches and routers, access points, WiFi, etc.