Among institutions of higher learning – as in commercial enterprises – the telecom budget is often one of the top five expenses. Network performance and security are high priorities in both realms. When you offer educational services, a fast and responsive network is a must. Universities have many of the same security concerns as Fortune 500 companies and health care providers, given the amount of personal financial data required for financial aid applications and payment processing. This leaves your school facing the struggle of offering enterprise-level service on a minimal budget. By following these seven industry best practices for telecom expense management (TEM), it is possible to find the right combination of services, performance, security, and cost.
What’s your budget? If you can’t afford a comprehensive, fixed and wireless communications lifecycle management solution, start with invoice management. Research shows that telecom invoices have errors (including “slamming & cramming,” overcharges, unwarranted penalties, incorrect taxes, and other errors) up to 10 percent of the time, so be wary of summary invoicing, which may mask charges for services you don’t receive. Automating payments through the use of automated payment software helps streamline billing, but to meet industry best practice standards, the bill needs review and reconciliation every month.
As part of your telecom expense management plan, you need to consider what your goals are. Visibility, or cost reduction? Security? Reporting? Process automation? Are you looking to outsource? Questions like these will help you decide on an immediate focus and lay out some of the points of negotiation.
As part of your expense management responsibilities, negotiation plays an important role. There is no such thing as blanket-pricing in the telecom space, although many companies may offer one-size-fits-all models. The reality is that your university is unique, and its needs are specific. Before committing to any contracted service plan, you should negotiate pricing, service levels, payment terms and other factors that may have an impact on your final price. Be sure to look at the contract term, which is ideally a three-year term with a mid-contract exit or extension option. This allows you to take advantage of falling prices without being forced into annual, lengthy negotiations.
Working with multiple vendors adds hidden, internal costs that involve managing those expenses. And there are costs that can’t be hidden, such as the pain of database consolidation and integrated reporting. By finding a single vendor that offers complete communications management, you will greatly simplify your life and the management process. Be sure to look for a partner that can scale with you and offer solutions for the complete lifecycle of your communications management. If you want to expand your mobile assets, find out about a partner’s ability to work in that space. The more your partner scales with you, the more purchasing power you can leverage with that vendor.
Do your homework and make sure the solution is properly designed. It will be worth it in the long run. Identify the types of data to be transmitted, transmission volume throughout the day/week/month, the cost of potential delays in data transmission and the level of risk you are willing to face from those delays. This information will determine the type and scope of your telecom needs and play a crucial role in the design phase. Get a complete design in place before moving to the deployment stage.
Inventory management is a key component of any communications management system. Tracking thousands of services and pieces of equipment using spreadsheets or manual filing systems is time-consuming, error-prone, and makes it difficult to validate invoices against inventory. Make sure your solution includes an initial inventory build as well as ongoing management automation to keep it up to date. Choose a system that tracks on-going service contracts, warranty info, ownership, location, etc. A system that alerts you to replacement dates, contract expiration, or other exceptions, will help you manage by exception and save valuable time.
A big part of managing budget expenses related to telecom services comes down to usage. Employees must utilize technology in line with oversight policies. After negotiating contracts and determining service levels, it is important to explain usage levels and availability to employees. Clear and concise policies can help minimize unnecessary data usage. In areas where students have access to communication networks, thoughtful use of firewalls can minimize the risk of cyber attacks and help keep data usage at reasonable rates. Video streaming is the fastest growing sector of data usage, so it is important to apply policies that free up bandwidth without becoming restrictive in a way that stifles creativity and access to information.
Once the budget is determined, costs are assessed, inventory tracking protocols are in place, the network has been deployed and policies disseminated, your telecom budget should be transparent and relatively easy to manage. By doing the due diligence up front, you save yourself from unexpected expenses. When they do crop up, you can pivot an expense into a new point for contract negotiation, putting lessons learned into immediate use.
See how a large university has benefited from Telecom Management