Many Devices - One Cost Management Strategy

By Jeff Muscarella, EVP of IT, NPI — December 05, 2011

It seems like ages ago that smartphones were reserved for the tech-savvy, fast-paced business executive. Now, everyone who’s anyone in the enterprise has one. Today, tablet devices are on the same trajectory. For some businesses, they have become a critical piece of sales, support and communication processes. Can we go so far as to say doctors are saving lives with their iPads? Maybe so.

None of this is news. But it wasn’t that long ago when Blackberry and iPhone devices were the exception – not the rule. It is also worth remembring that while technology may evolve at a rapid pace, financial systems and expense management practices within the enterprise do not. Effectively controlling the costs associated with mobile devices will challenge the telecom expense management status quo.
There is no stopping the mobile device proliferation train. Enterprise adoption is growing exponentially, but very few companies are managing costs well. 
The enterprises that are doing the best job of mobile device cost management today are the ones that are taking a simple – but consistent and aggressive – approach. Instead of trying to do it all, they’re combining a few targeted tactics that will deliver the highest ROI with the least amount of effort.
For those enterprises with less than 2,000 devices or those with decentralized operating units and budgets, which often prevents the pooling of devices, the cost and work required to select and implement a traditional TEM platform (or SaaS solution) can often exceed the benefits. Many of these companies are better off implementing a reasonable amount of bill auditing combined with bi-annual sourcing events. This includes establishing processes and simple reporting directly from the carriers’ websites, then tasking an in-house person to review charges and usage on a monthly basis for regular cost optimization.
A stipend approach is also very effective for the less-than-2,000 device category. In this scenario, the company does not provision the devices or the voice and data services; rather, employees provision for themselves and receive stipends towards the purchase of devices and the monthly usage costs associated with them. This eliminates the need to turn on/turn off services as headcount comes and goes, and holds employees accountable for managing their own costs.
For companies with more than 2,000 devices and a centralized sourcing and finance function, deploying a full-fledged TEM solution (software and services) can yield significant savings. These solutions are very robust and can easily pay for themselves – but it’s imperative that they be used to tackle large volumes of devices while being managed by an already centralized group of sourcing and telecom experts.
Simplifying Mobile Device Cost Management - No Matter the Strategy
Whether you choose to purchase and implement a TEM solution, or take a less formal approach, there are certain things that every successful mobile device cost management process and strategy has in common:
  • Defined Policies (for everything). When it comes to policy, more is less (less cost, at least). Defined policies should be in place for personal versus business use of devices, upgrades and replacements. Even if you can’t fully audit a policy, there’s nothing wrong with setting expectations with users regarding personal and business usage of the device. For example, it’s not okay to use your company hotspot in place of home internet service for the family
  • Consistent Management Reviews.  Management of mobile device costs needs to become a common component of the CFO’s overall spending dashboard.  Many companies look at these costs sporadically as opposed to being part of a regular quarterly review
  • Dedicated Personnel. Most companies don’t need a department’s worth of bill auditors to keep their mobile device costs in line – but they do need someone who has the focus, time and expertise to audit regularly and thoroughly. That means employing full or part-time resources that are dedicated to reviewing all billing data and reports provided by carriers’ online portals on a regular basis
  • Collaboration between Finance and IT. Effective mobile device management doesn’t happen in a vacuum. IT departments should collaborate with finance and sourcing to review costs
  • External Benchmarking and Rate Reviews.  Understanding what constitutes fair market value for pricing, discounts and terms associated with your mobile device and carrier contracts is a challenge. Most internal telecom experts only see a handful of these types of deals every few years. Enlisting outside pricing expertise to confirm fair market pricing and terms will help you identify areas of overspending and immediately reduce wireless costs


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