Nobody ever wants to change providers, simply because making such a change is by no means a trivial process. Especially when it comes to those who provide critical services like telecom expense management (TEM) or managed mobility services (MMS).
But, as telecom, mobile and datacom services become more critical to your business you need to focus on the consequences of not changing – if change is necessary! It is more important than ever to make sure these vital services continue operating without interruption, and the right TEM/MMS partner not only assures that, but also assures that you’re maintaining that performance as cost-effectively as possible.
The most important thing to do first is to establish a clear understanding of why you want to make such a change. Ask yourself a few questions:
Every organization wants to save money. In fact, that’s part of what drove you to engage a provider in the first place. You wanted to save money by having them catch billing and operational errors that were costing you unnecessarily. Step back from thinking about price and carefully consider the total cost of changing. A truly effective TEM/MMS provider generates significant savings for you that far exceed the rate you’re paying. And those savings go right to your bottom line.
If the answer is extremely negative, you are simply waiting until you can no longer tolerate it. Given the amount of time it takes to prepare a new provider, you may suffer by waiting. Are there specific service deficiencies that never seem to be adequately corrected?
Perhaps you’ve heard from colleagues that their provider has significantly superior automation that you strongly feel would benefit your organization, too. Perhaps you’ve noticed your provider making more errors in their manual processes. Perhaps you’ve become impatient with delays in receiving software updates. It may be that you don’t see your provider even moving in the direction of more automation. With all the automation innovations being introduced, this is a strong indication that it may make sense to go through a change.
It may simply be that your organization is expanding into other geographic regions that your current TEM/MMS provider has no presence in. It’s unreasonable to think that a smaller operation can or will expand for you. You may not have a choice but to change if you have in-region needs.
This is a most important investigation for you to conduct. What are the current problems and deficiencies actually costing you? Does that cost justify the expense and effort required to make a change? Are there other ways of correcting those conditions? What happens if you just tolerate the current situation and keep trying to make incremental improvements when you can? Will it cause you to miss financial goals or shareholder expectations?
Once you’ve deliberated and determined that your reasons are sufficiently compelling, it’s time to prepare to find your next provider.
Start by defining what you’re buying. What your provider does for you today may and evolved and changed significantly since they first started serving you. Create a thorough inventory of everything your provider does and doesn’t do that you very much need from a provider.
Especially with the convergence of data and voice technologies, your needs may have expanded significantly. It’s important to reach out to any executives, directors, line-of-business or other stakeholders who may be using technologies that would be best served by TEM/MMS. The more thorough you are in collecting these, the fewer headaches you’ll have when the process is completed.
Remember that communications technology is not just an operational need, it can also be a powerful enabler of new competitive advantage. Listen to your organization’s ambitions as well.
The answer usually depends upon your own internal policy. Find out what conditions require an RFP in your organization.
If you are required to conduct an RFP process, before you write word one, search for an already existing RFP or RFP form to start from. Perhaps the one that brought you your current provider could be updated and improved. Many analyst firms such as Gartner, or even providers such as Calero-MDSL, have RFP libraries you can explore to provide you with a foundation so you’re not starting from square one.
The best advice here is to “not boil the ocean.” The more providers you invite to the bidding process, the more complex your decision-making will become, and usually unnecessarily. Two, perhaps three highly regarded providers should be sufficient.
Ask colleagues. Other people in similar positions to your own. Ask which TEM/MMS provider they’re using, and how they’re enjoying the quality of service. You may find a pattern emerging with specific providers mentioned by many of them. These will be your likeliest candidates.
If you’re proceeding without an RFP, come to each conversation armed with your statement of why you’ve decided to make a change. You’ll need to define the “table stakes” required for entry, at the very least the equivalent of what you’re receiving now. It becomes easier to eliminate candidates when you can begin by measuring them against a well-defined minimum requirement.
Once you’ve established baseline capability that exceeds your “table stakes” you’ll need to develop a set of quantitative, qualitative, objective, and subjective criteria to measure your candidates by.
What are their average performance metrics? What service levels will they agree to? What has their error rate been over time?
Will they provide a trial proof-of-concept exercise so you can see them in action? A demo of their system you can evaluate? Do they provide all the reports you require, and do they recommend others you haven’t yet thought of?
Ask them to discuss their best practices and methodologies with you. Are they well defined and aligned with your expectations?
Will they fit? This is an important though subjective decision. You’ll be working closely with these people, and they’ll be handling your funds. How well will you get along with them? How productive will the working relationship be. The last thing you want is to go through all that effort and expense only to discover you can’t stand the people you’re now working with. Remember, you’re looking for more than a vendor. You’re seeking a partner.
Before you make the decision to even begin this search, ask yourself if you have enough runway to land this successfully.
It will take a few months to conduct your search. Once you’ve made a decision, it will take several more months to onboard the new provider, and a few more to test for assurance.
During that entire time, you will want to have no lapse in service, meaning you must remain under contract with your current provider. How close are you to the end of their current contract? Work with your new provider to set out a firm strategy that will provide continuous service through the entire process. They’ve been down this road before and can best guide your transition.