A Definitive Guide to TEM Services
Technology expense management (TEM) is an ever-evolving service engineered to bring a company control, clarity, and confidence when it comes to managing the expenses of large-scale corporate communications and their associated IT services. Their expertise gives enterprises a cost-effective way to manage the complexity of both day-to-day operations as well as tools to manage long-term tasks such as maintaining inventories and service catalogs, supporting end-users, and providing advanced business intelligence through accurate reporting.
With the trend of the workforce leaning increasingly more on video usage, cloud-based services, mobile assets, and the use of IoT services, enterprises are relying increasingly more on TEM companies that can handle this broader set of expectations.
The services that TEM can provide has grown to include the following:
Ordering and Procurement
Beginning with the initial planning and ordering of new technology assets, an ordering and procurement service aids in identifying specific needs within a company and creates an itemized list of goods and services, drawing information from service catalogs, that will effectively handle each of those needs. This package will include provisioning activities such as moving, adding, changing, or disconnecting assets to optimize an enterprise’s technology usage. Throughout the process, they monitor the status of the order and manage issues that arise.
To aid with order placement and logistics support, process services can include help desk services to assist with these deployments, replacements, or repairs.
With ordering and procurement being handled by a TEM provider, a company has access to both expertise and experience when it comes to ensuring the best-negotiated rates, contracts, and pricing for the deployment of telecom/network services and mobile assets. With this expertise, they can be confident they are choosing the right products to address their needs.
As a company’s technology assets grow into an increasingly complicated net of services and products, so does the need to accurately account for each asset and its associated processes and contracts. These assets include wireline (voice and data) and mobile services, mobile devices, tablets, connected IoT services, IoT devices, cloud consumption-based services, and all related infrastructure. The inventory management process starts with asset discovery to locate and identify the entire ensemble of a company’s technological assets as well as all associated services. This information is collected into a database that forms a company’s asset portfolio.
Once all assets are identified, inventory management then maintains this database by tracking purchases, leases, contracts, cloud licenses, IoT, and related expenses. Should an asset be retired from the company, it is removed from the inventory.
The goal of inventory management is to ensure that a company has the right assets, being used at an expected rate, in the right hands, and purchased at the agreed price. With this information, a company can create a baseline that allows for accurate invoice validation as well as auditing.
Bill Pay Services
Possibly one of the most frustrating and tedious parts of maintaining technology assets is the managing and monitoring of invoices. Forrester Research is quoted as saying, “billing errors average 5% – 12% of ongoing telecom services budgets.” Missed or incorrect payments result in late fees, or worse, service shutoffs. With TEM bill pay services, managing and paying invoices in a timely and efficient way is faster, more accurate, and takes the pressure off of the workforce.
Bill pay services streamline this process is by automating recurring tasks. Monthly payments that have already been verified and approved can be offloaded into the system and be handled automatically. Alerts can be set to flag any expense that falls outside the expected ranges so that those invoices can be reviewed. For invoices that require approval, secure emails can be sent to the appropriate people through the TEM platform.
Shifting manual invoice processing over to automated bill pay services brings benefits. First, it saves a company money by detecting incorrect payments and preventing late fees. Second, it saves hours by automating recurring processes, thus freeing up the team so they can focus on important matters. And finally, it provides custom reporting so trends can be spotted.
In all lines of business, it is required to periodically audit contracts to confirm that terms and conditions are being met. This is especially true with technology assets where each connected device is associated with a provider contract. Considering the full range of a company’s technological estate, there might be hundreds if not thousands of contracts with various providers that must be periodically audited to ensure a company is getting the best rates for their needs.
A traditional in-house contract audit requires hundreds of manhours as a team manually reviews each contract and compares the information against negotiated rates as well as deciding if there is potential for optimization. The process requires precise attention to detail as well as expertise.
With contract audits being handled by a TEM provider, audits are performed according to the time frame requested by the company, generally once a quarter. Using a largely automated process, each contract is validated, comparing the information with current invoicing, to confirm that the pricing is correct. Then, using usage data, plans are analyzed against competitive rates and then optimized to the best choice. Using an automated process means that contract information is processed by an algorithm that eliminates clerical errors and can systematically check dozens of data fields against each other in a fraction of the time.
Provisioning and provider fulfillment are tied closely to both the ordering and procurement service and inventory management, using data created from those services to ensure that a business supplies its employees with assets they need in a cost-efficient and timely manner. This service involves the creation of a dependable supply chain that is responsible for the assembly and installation of requested applications.
To create an efficient and productive fulfillment and provisioning system, several elements must be in place. The first of these is data transparency. With provisioning/provider fulfillment being done by a TEM provider, the data from ordering, procurement, and inventory management is organized and made available to enable provisioning and fulfillment to assess the needs across the enterprise. This allows the service to ensure that supply will meet demand and also forecast future demand.
The next element is automation which allows for the completion of more processes faster for better business performance. The final element is the continual verification of each stage of the process starting from the ordering party. This ensures that the correct device or service is delivered to the right person, outfitted with the correct applications and software, delivered in a timely way, that the order is approved, and the funding within the limits of what has been allocated.
Dispute Lifecycle Management
Because of the possibility of a significant percentage of telecom invoicing containing billing errors, there is a constant need to correct billing disputes with vendors. These errors are identified during contract audits. Individual invoices that fall outside of the expected rate are flagged for expert analysts to review. Should the invoice contain an error, it is brought to the attention of the appropriate carrier.
Each one of these errors signifies that a company might be paying too much, which they would then need to recover later, or too little that results in fines. In each of these instances, a dispute with the contracted provider or company must be filed to resolve the problem and then tracked through the monitoring of future invoices to verify that the problem has been resolved.
When a TEM provider takes responsibility for dispute lifecycle management, they put powerful tools to work starting with identification and following through to resolution. By working with a TEM services company, you can be assured that much of this process is automated which means faster recovery of lost cash. Each billing error instance is entered into the system where it can be managed and tracked. Once the dispute is resolved, it is then reconciled in the system. Also, the service can generate dispute reports to improve business intelligence.
Often paired with the contract auditing service, contract optimization ensures that a company is getting the best rates for the variety of devices and services that make up their technological estate. The process begins with the creation of a complete inventory and the associated contracts, including quotes, pricing agreements, and service offerings. Each contract is then weighed against industry standards. Should more favorable contract terms be available, the contract is then renegotiated with the carrier or provider.
When considering the sheer number of contracts held within a company, the potential of finding significant savings through contract optimization can’t be ignored. Not only does it reduce inefficiencies, but it also maximizes future scalability.
With more vendors offering their services in the global market, it has become that much more important for a company to be proactive in how they go about selecting the best vendor to fit their needs. Request for proposals (RFP) are becoming increasingly commonplace to formalize this selection process. These requests contain detailed requirements that cover terms and conditions, SLAs, and pricing. This provides interested vendors with the essential information they need to make an appropriate bid.
RFP management tracks the terms presented by the company and also the bids collected from interested vendors. When the most suitable vendor is chosen, the service then engages in contract negotiations and creates an agreement that ensures maximum financial and operational performance.
In-house handling of invoice processing can often mean a tedious and largely manual activity. Ideally, each invoice should be verified against its contract, approved, funds drawn from the correct department or entity, and then finally paid. With hundreds of invoices that must be paid regularly, there are too many ways to cut corners which can lead to costly mistakes in terms of billing errors.
Allowing a TEM provider to handle invoice processing not only frees up members of the workforce to do more important work, but it also uses powerful tools and automation to eliminate cut corners and ensure accuracy. When an invoice is received, it is entered into the system. Once in the system, it can be tracked through each phase. The system analyzes the invoice and compares it against contracted rates as well as predetermined cost allocations which ensure budget compliance of departments and individuals. Should it meet requirements, the invoice is then is paid automatically. If there are issues, the invoice is flagged to be reviewed.
Using TEM services tools, invoice processing is both faster and more accurate which in turn equals savings and greater efficiency for a company.
Hotline/Help Desk Support
Problems happen even in the most efficient company equipped with the best tools. Every minute service is down, or a member of the workforce can’t do their job due to a technical difficulty, the company suffers a loss of productivity. With a TEM provider, many self-service tools can be set in place to allow individuals to solve their own problems, such as recovering a password.
Should these tools not be sufficient, the next level of support is through the use of a live help desk or hotline where professionals are available to solve more complex issues, often at any hour of the day. A company can choose from a variety of hotline support options to fit their specific needs and schedules. These hotlines are available in most languages as well.
The sooner issues can be resolved, the sooner productivity can be restored. For a large enterprise, support is a daunting challenge to handle in-house. With a helpdesk service, the stress and pressure on in-house IT caused by solving these issues are relieved and the workforce still has access to the support they need, often much faster than through traditional IT.
Mobile infrastructure is fast becoming a central component of many business systems. Ensuring that all mobile devices in the hands of the workforce are fully functional and the data secure, is a top priority. UEM software is the first step in confirming a company’s day-to-day mobile usage is within established parameters and applications are successfully used.
Even with excellent UEM platforms use, the data flowing in from mobile usage must still be monitored and issues resolved. As a company’s mobile assets grow, this infrastructure support grows increasingly more complex requiring more resources from the IT team to manage.
By outsourcing this administration to a TEM provider, this complexity is handled by a team of experts who remotely monitor a company’s servers, monitor security risks, install operating system updates, and implement policies.
Among today’s modern companies there is a plethora of business communication technology. These systems, such as PBX, iPBX, IP telephony, VoIP, and wireless devices are now being joined by collaboration tools that enable video chat and screen sharing. Each of these systems generates its own stream of usage data, which when monitored carefully allows for valuable insights into not only how the systems can be better optimized, but also allows proper chargeback to the correct business unit.
When call accounting is handled by a TEM provider, it takes over management of service billing, provisioning, chargeback, and cost automation, as well as collecting granular details specific to calls to better support TEM programs. Some of the benefits of shifting call accounting to a TEM service can include increased awareness and compliance, fraud prevention, the discovery of zero-usage accounts, increased business intelligence, cost recovery, and a boost in productivity.
When it comes to making essential decisions, it pays to enlist the advice of an expert. TEM management is no different. A TEM consultant is a subject matter expert dedicated to the optimization of local, LD, network, mobile, and cloud solutions. The process starts with an in-depth review of invoices and contracts to find ways to maximize both value and savings. Focus areas include pinpointing billing errors, seeking ways to optimize rates and services, enhancing savings through automation, and providing greater visibility through monitoring and reporting.
As a company expands its technological estate it will also increase the number of monthly bills coming due. Using accrual reporting, these expenses are recognized when they are incurred, rather than when they are paid. To be able to do this effectively requires more complicated and flexible accounting that notes the specific detail of each expense. By doing so, a company maintains a much clearer and more accurate financial picture than cash accounting alone.
By definition, accrual accounting is both far more complex and difficult to maintain and understand than cash accounting. It requires detailed reporting and tracking of expenses, revenue streams, investments, and interest all while accurately representing liabilities and non-cash-based assets.
Through a TEM provider, a company has access to efficient and powerful tools to better organize all the entities tracked in accrual accounting. Accurate and helpful reporting assists with not only creating departmental budgets and cost allocations, but it also allows for far more accurate forecasting of a company’s upcoming expenses as compared to revenue.
In any company, there are dozens of factors that influence costs, especially when it comes to telecom and IT expenses. Cost allocation links a cost, or group of costs, to specific departments or divisions, or a good/service produced. Monitoring the cash flow in this way allows an organization to not only track money spent, but also allocate these costs to the right individual, department, or business unit.
At the outset, it might seem like cost allocation is a straightforward and simple process. But, when each individual or business unit is using dozens of devices, assets, and services, including both tangible and in the cloud, this process quickly becomes unmanageable. Add to that how multiple services and resources are used by entire groups or departments, and no spreadsheet can keep up.
One of the larger reasons that companies turn to a TEM provider is to pinpoint areas of unnecessary spending that can often go undetected through traditional systems and then take steps to resolve it. TEM tools and services give a company greater insight into IT costs and usage, including allocating costs by individual and department. Information regarding changes in asset usage, such as when an employee joins or leaves the company, is automatically relayed into the TEM software to ensure the costs and tracking associated with that change are successfully processed in the system.
TEM Services, An Integrated Approach
Just like a jigsaw puzzle, TEM services are engineered and intended to be used as a holistic and integrated approach to managing technology expenses. Starting from the ordering phase, TEM has tools and services to ensure a company gets the right asset at the right price with the right contract.
Proceeding through to procurement, TEM maintains an inventory of all assets in service and creates a catalog. When assets are in use, TEM monitors usage to ensure both functionality and compliance, as well as the security of a company’s data. Throughout the process, TEM keeps attention to the bottom line by verifying the accuracy of invoices, performing audits, optimizing contracted rates, and protecting the future through accrual accounting. At the end of an asset’s lifecycle, TEM services ensure that the proper steps are taken to transfer ownership appropriately.
With support like this, a company can operate with the confidence that they are making the most of their technological estate.