Preliminary Information Gathering

After developing a vision or goal for telecom expense management, the next step is to gather organization-specific information. With this order-of-magnitude data, decisions can be made about project development, outsourcing, auditing, and other possible actions.

The first, although not easiest, step is to develop an approximate annual spend for telecommunications in major categories. If only 1 percent of the spend is in long-distance charges and 35 percent is in cellular, the conclusion is obvious: use project time to reduce cellular expenses.

Exhibit 1 shows the expenditures of a small, California-based energy firm.

Exhibit 2: Annual Telecom Spend for a Small Energy Firm

Note that the expenditures for this firm are unusual because local expenses are larger than long-distance expenses. In addition, cellular usage is high, suggesting that a judicious renegotiation/rationalization would likely pay big dividends.

Before plunging into the numbers, it is useful to gather as much strategic material as possible. By recording the following information, even if it is done at a cursory level, subsequent cost management projects will be more focused and efficient.

  • Organization

  • Contact information: key employees, contractors and suppliers; e-mail IDs, Web sites, etc.

  • Structure (voice, data, centralized, decentralized, etc.), organization chart

  • Functional responsibility for project management. How is it structured?

  • Staffing

  • Security awareness (who is responsible; organizational perspective)

  • Strategy

  • Technology strategy

  • Customer strategy versus employee/internal requirements

  • Growth/trends

  • Buildout plans

  • Geographic issues

  • Business alignment (network and infrastructure with business needs)

  • Outsourcing plans or opportunities

  • Specific (already developed) business plans and requirements

  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

  • Characterize the customer (profile)

  • What architecture supports CRM now (call centers, hardware, software, network)

  • Volumes of usage (now versus historical)

  • The general process (customer calls or e-mails; asks for x, then y happens, etc.). How disputes/complaints are resolved (e.g., trouble management system)

  • Describe elasticity of demand (will customer buy more product or services if service is outstanding?)

  • What are the trends for CRM (volumes, changes in entry point such as Web versus phone, changing nature of customers, etc.)

  • Process

  • Ordering and provisioning (external and internal includes moves, adds, changes)

  • Bill payment

  • Maintenance of equipment and software

  • Project management for large communications projects

  • Policies and procedures

  • Escalation process

  • Asset management

  • Vendor management

  • Risk management

  • Cost management

  • Budget

  • Contracts and terms (carriers, equipment vendors, telecom software vendors)

  • General ledger (G/L) and accounts payable (A/P) information

  • Capital and expense management

  • Circuit/equipment inventory

  • Carrier reports

  • Analysis of billing (tariff compliance, exception reports)

  • Traffic/call accounting

  • Chargeback

  • Performance and optimization

  • Network management tools

  • Traffic analysis/measurement tools

  • PBX/VM configurations

  • Network topology and diagrams

  • Voice and data services, including IVR/CTI

  • The topics are relatively high level and may or may not be directly pertinent or quantifiable as to cost-saving opportunities. However, many qualitative improvements have financially positive results, which can be measured later. Organizations with existing documentation on the above topics are often at a significant advantage and can move toward greater efficiency more quickly than many others.