How to Shave 25% Off Wireless Costs | Page 2

But this type of outsourcing accomplishes a second goal -- that of simplifying a mobile manager's job during a time in which the industry is becoming increasingly complex.

"The job used to be relatively simple when wireless telecom was voice-centric," Oliveira points out. "The equipment was free, and you just had to put minutes in a pool and divide them up. But with BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile devices (and new Palm and Android handsets along with the iPhone) there is now a cost, there's a significant cost involved in managing security, and there are compliance issues involved in moving corporate and customer data using wireless devices. Outsourcing a component of the work can make things considerably easier," he said.

The first part of the outsourcing process is to draw up a wireless policy - something many companies have yet to officially adopt, said Oliveira. This defines users profiles, the types of devices that are permitted - perhaps only BlackBerrys -- which job functions are allowed to have voice and data devices and which should have voice-only handsets, and even could outline preferred carriers.

"Without a policy, costs in an organization can run crazy," Oliveira said. "You can save thousands of dollars simply by having a policy, and we become the sheriff that ensures the rules are followed and enforced. If an organization relies on managers to approve a device for a subordinate, I can tell you that 99 percent of the time they will approve it as they are not paying for it."

Companies that offer these managed services also manage the relationship with carriers, which includes everything from writing RFPs, analyzing the responses and negotiating tariffs. Managing the monthly invoices to check for mistakes or unexpected monthly charges is also usually part of the service.

They also take care of managing the voice minute pool -- usually on a daily basis -- to try to ensure that what companies pay for matches what it needs as closely as possible.

Carriers make money by charging high overage rates on excess minutes used or the reverse: selling companies more minutes than they ever use. "Typically, a company will get charged high overages one month, and they find that so costly that they bump up their monthly minute pool to more than they will ever need. Consequently they end up with a 70 or 80 percent pool utilization. That's obviously wasteful, and when we manage the pool we would aim to get about 93 percent utilization which is far more efficient," said Oliveira.

Wireless Analytics can also allocate mobile costs by department or cost center, and for example, identify the top 10 consumers of minutes in each cost center. This is practically impossible to do manually when multiple carriers are involved, according to Oliveira. Individuals can also be e-mailed their wireless bills each month. "This can be helpful because when employees see their bills, they can see, for example, what multiple calls made overseas are costing the company. When this visibility is provided they can more easily be encouraged to adjust their behavior."

Wireless Analytics specializes in wireless management, but this is only an important subset of more general Telecom Expense Management (TEM)solutions, that include fixed line expenses as well as wireless costs. Solutions range from TEM applications that are run in-house, to managed application services that offer hosted applications managed by a vendor but used by the customer, with some additional services provided by the vendor. Other managed service providers offer business process outsourcing.

Research firm Gartner believes that it is this last group that is likely to be the most successful. "Each year, users have embraced broader TEM business process outsourcing (BPO) services rather than provisioning self-management tools or simple managed services," was a conclusion of Gartner's MarketScope for Telecom Expense Management report published earlier this year.

Gartner identifies several component service disciplines within TEM solutions: sourcing management; ordering and provisioning; inventory and asset management; invoice management; usage management; dispute management; and reporting and business intelligence.

Companies active in this space include market leader Tangoe, based in Orange, CT, Manassas, VA-based Invoice Insight, Fairfax, VA-based Rivermine, and the Dallas, TX-based TEM division of Symphony Services.

Oliveira estimates that less than 15 percent of businesses in the United States currently use managed services of any kind, but Gartner predicts that this number will increase substantially over the coming year. If "easy" savings of around 25 percent of current wireless bills are really achievable, it's not hard to understand why.

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