First, a disclaimer: This InformationWeek piece is about consumers, not businesses.
That doesn't make its lesson any less valuable. Indeed, in a strange way it makes it more of a call for businesses to pay attention to telecom expense management (TEM). The story focuses on a Federal Communications Commission survey that suggests that about 30 million Americans experience "bill shock," which is defined as a surprising increase in billing not connected to a change in plan. One subscriber in Massachusetts got a Verizon Wireless bill for $18,000, which was voided, no doubt at the behest of the carrier's PR department. The story says that more than one-third of respondents experienced increases of $50 and 23 percent of $100 or more.
The thing that all of these folks have in common is that they lost track, at least to some extent, of the amount they pay their carrier. This could range, presumably, to a complete disconnect-kids downloading all forms of content that only kids know about-to changes in the fine print on taxes and ancillary charges.
The tie-in with businesses-especially small and medium-size businesses-is that a consumer is less likely to be in the dark than an organization. To an extent it is comparing apples to oranges, of course. But the reasoning is that a consumer generally has only a few services and contracts to follow, and has a pretty good idea of what is being spent. An organization, however, can have dozens of contracts with a variety of service providers in multiple regions.
Supposedly, the organization has a person or people in charge of making sure that everything is done as efficiently as possible. In real life, the effectiveness of this person and the budget systems used varies greatly among organizations.
The InformationWeek story, though it focuses on consumers, is an advertisement for telecom expense management (TEM). The rationale for TEM is simple: So many facets of telecommunications are complex that systematically and proactively managing things almost certainly will lead to enormous savings and better services.
This is a helpful article from Telecom Reseller. The main takeaway is that TEM is a complex area, and organizations should think through precisely what they want to achieve. The writer says there are a tremendous number of TEM service providers and they vary in effectiveness. The story provides some good do's and don'ts, such as finding suppliers that specialize in the size and scope of the project at hand and the importance of service level agreements (SLAs). The same points and others are made in much greater depth in this white paper from the Telecom Expense Management Industry Association.
Companies seem to be listening. TMCnet reports on Gartner's take, which is that TEM is a competitive marketplace and that good tools and services are available. Essentially, TEM can do things for an organization that it has trouble doing for itself. Writes the author:
Telecom expense management continues to be a key focus for these organizations in lieu of self-management tools or simple managed services. As TEM business process outsourcing services providers deliver measurable value to the enterprise, growth in TEM is surpassing predicted levels.
Europe is starting to catch up, which is helping North American TEM vendors. The bottom line is that use of some form of TEM is almost a slam dunk. Indeed, it may be a good idea for the Verizon subscriber in Massachusetts to look into TEM. The carrier is unlikely to be as forgiving the next time around.