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Why Your TEM Solution is Failing You

Over the last 15 years I’ve been entrenched in the world of Telecom Expense Management - Every aspect of every role, in every size organization. (On the off chance that you’re enthralled by this concept you’re welcome to read more about it here:

Throughout this time I’ve seen customers make the same critical mistake over and over again - finding and executing a TEM solution without the assistance of an independent adviser. This oversight is costing organizations millions of dollars and a lifetime of frustrations.

Consider how these points match up to your biggest TEM concerns and failures, then give me a call to discuss a plan to get your solution back on track.

Pick a solution first, then a provider

Submitting an RFP should be one of the final steps in finding a TEM solution for your organization, but so often it’s one of the first.

It’s critical to understand your business needs, capabilities, and restrictions thoroughly before anything else. Once you fully understand these components you’re ready to find the type of solution that will best fit your organization. Typical solutions include Software as a Service (SaaS), host & load, audit, procurement, full management, or a hybrid of these services.

If a business is moving from an internal solution to a 3rd party TEM provider, they may want to retain their telecom SMEs but reduce the overhead associated with normalizing and loading vendor data. On the other hand, a business that effectively consolidates their telecom vendors but works through a lot of mergers and acquisitions, or site changes, may benefit more from an audit and procurement or fully managed solution.

Identifying the best solution for your business is most effective when performed between key internal stakeholders, and an independent advisor who understands all of the solutions available to your organization. This will enable you to build a custom RFP – specific to the solution that you previously identified.

Not all TEM providers are equal

Now that you’ve identified your business needs, and the solution that best meets them – it’s time to find the right provider(s). Some businesses do a relatively good job of vetting TEM providers via customer references, public research, & and industry analysts – but the fact of the matter is that independent advisors have the most up to date knowledge of the industry, and it’s providers.

Each TEM company is in a different phase of their organization’s life-cycle and has their own objectives, priorities, and strengths. Knowledge of this information will dramatically reduce the RFP process, and prevent you from falling victim to organizations with strong sales & marketing teams and weak operational ones.

Utilize this knowledge to limit your RFP respondents and/or rank potential providers so you can map their strengths and weaknesses to your needs, and to the cost of the proposed solution. You may be surprised at the difference in cost of comparable solutions where one vendor has significantly higher capex.

Setting Expectations

Expectation management is the most critical component of a successful TEM solution. This shows itself primarily during the contract negotiation phase, but needs to be revisited during implementation and at checkpoints throughout the agreement term.

A diligent business will include specific deliverables with SLAs to protect themselves from an under-performing vendor, but there is an epidemic of ambiguity in TEM agreements right now, and here more than any other phase you need a TEM expert on your side to identify these issues and add relevant substance to set your expectations properly.

It’s not enough to include monthly monitoring of your invoices or quarterly mobile optimizations. You need to specify what monthly checks are performed and set the guidelines for acceptable variances. You need to specify which optimizations specifically will be performed, and include verbiage to add additional ones as they become relevant to your business.

The same issues exist for how the successes of these deliverables are being measured. Including SLAs like – “10 days to process an invoice after data load” and “inventory built within 30 days of turning up” leave a lot of room for interpretation.

How frequently is the portal checked for data? What constitutes an exception which would exclude an invoice from this calculation, and what is the secondary SLA?

What level of inventory is being built within 30 days? Circuit level? Component level? A simple billing inventory?

Instead define the SLA calculations specifically: the following inventory related fields will be built out within 30 days of any new order:

Circuit, Speed, loc A, loc Z, etc.

Work with an independent adviser to help your organization create a thorough agreement that targets the common weaknesses and ambiguity that you find in this industry, and create the foundation of a successful TEM solution.

Service Reviews

“You can make data say anything you want it to say” has become somewhat of a mantra for me.

This statistic could say that you’ve saved 10% of your total mobile telecom spend this year, totaling $52,800 annually.

Inversely it could say that your cost per device went up 10% from $44 to $48.40.

The point of this silly chart and breakdown is to remind you the next time you’re entering a quarterly business review with your TEM provider, or are getting ready to discuss the terms of a new MSA, you need to bring your own numbers.

You’re TEM provider is going to come to the table with the most positive news they can possibly deliver, and it’s your responsibility to know whether or not they are portraying the situation accurately. Are you prepared, equipped, and capable of doing this on your own? The answer is likely no. Understanding the importance of different metrics, and being able to produce this information quickly and accurately is critical in these situations, and can lead to huge saving in renegotiations or penalties for missed SLAs. Get an independent TEM adviser to help lead these reviews and negotiations in a way that helps your business and your TEM solution.

The point that I’ve beaten to death mercilessly over the last 3 pages is that while you might have extensive knowledge of the telecom industry, and your telecom landscape (or you might not) - There are likely gaps in your current TEM solution that an expert can help you close. Whether you bring someone in regularly for each phase of your relationship with your vendor(s) or just pull them in for critical projects and discussions, makes sure you have someone on hand that can help you build your best practices solution.

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