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Mobile telecom expense management (TEM): Where to cut BYOD costs

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) enterprise environments complicate mobile telecom expense management. Learn to analyze the costs of the global workforce.

Telecom expense management (TEM) is nothing like it used to be because mobile communication is so much more complex than wireline. However, enabling remote and mobile workers isn't just a convenience; it's a productivity decision. Continue reading below the table of contents to learn where you can cut costs in mobile telecom expense management and improve BYOD success rates, or view other articles in this tip series:

Table of contents:
Part 1: Mobility complicates telecom expense management (TEM)
Part 2: Mobile telecom expense management: Where to cut costs
Part 3: How to measure mobile expenses

Every employee with a mobile device whose cost is paid or shared by the company presumably has a company mission that justifies that cost. That mission also has an associated set of communications demands, and each of these could be met in one or more ways. In order to thwart telecom overspending, the basis for the company's cost analysis must be how individual workers are applying their mobile resources to improve their own productivity and fulfill their job requirements. It's not always a matter of spending more or spending less, or even of picking the "cheapest" plan for a given situation. It's a matter of managing the return on investment (ROI) for the company's investment in mobile-worker empowerment.

One of the first and most critical points in this ROI management challenge is to understand just what productivity factors generate the "return." This is one reason why mobile telecom expense management is increasingly seen as a distributed activity rather than a centralized one. Any given worker shouldn't be judged only by mobile cost, but by cost versus company mission. Knowing what a given set of mobile workers are supposed to be doing and what services their jobs are likely to consume isn't easily centralized information. Mobile workers' expenses have to be judged in the context of the return the company gets for paying their mobile charges, which is a part of every mobile telecom expense management analysis.

Understanding the factors that play into mobile TEM

Generally, mobile telecom expense management (mobile TEM) involves the analysis of each of the three primary forms of mobile service: voice calls, SMS and data connectivity. Additional services like ringtones are also important, and with the advent of digital wallet services, it may be possible in some service areas to charge other purchases to the device.

In mobile telecom expense management, businesses typically look for things like "unusually high" charges, but recent CIMI Corp. surveys suggest that this may lead to simply sorting bills from the highest to lowest and looking primarily at the group with the highest charges. The same surveys show that the majority of heavy users are, in fact, justified in their usage. Therefore, the "middle-ground" users usually present the greatest opportunity for savings.

About a third of savings from mobile TEM come from matching usage with the optimal plan, because most mobile plans charge considerably more for usage overruns.

Tom Nolle, CIMI Corporation President

Enterprise surveys show that the largest sources of savings typically are found in mismatches between the service plan and service usage. For example, as many as a third of mobile users in a company might actually be best served with a prepaid plan, because they are provided phones primarily for emergency purposes. The most common problem, however, is the selection of a plan in which the included usage (calls, SMS, or data) is too low. About a third of total savings secured in mobile TEM come from matching usage with the optimal plan, because most mobile plans charge considerably more for usage overruns.

Data usage has proven a particularly difficult expense element to optimize. Part of the problem is the "anonymous" nature of data usage. It's difficult to know whether the employee is accessing information for company or personal purposes. Determining the validity of data charges is best handled by comparing an employee to others in the same general class of job, to look for excessive use. It also may be valuable to look for the opposite condition -- employees who have far less data consumption than average may not be utilizing their mobile resources effectively. This problem has long been noted with voice calls, where many users have service plans that allow for far more voice minutes than they actually need.

Roaming charges are another major potential source of savings, accounting for nearly 25% of total dollars saved, according to businesses surveyed by CIMI Corp. High roaming charges may reflect using the mobile device outside the employee's work zone, which could suggest excess personal use. However, it may also indicate that the job is requiring the worker to visit areas that the selected mobile operator serves poorly, which means it would be prudent to look at a different operator to serve that user.

This raises the final point about understanding mobile telecom expense management -- the need to weigh and manage the value of a company discount against the value of customizing wireless services for employees with unusual usage expectations. While discounts for company use can be as high as 10%, companies report that total savings from optimizing the carrier choice by classifying an employee's mobility needs can nearly double that amount. This demonstrates that mobile telecom expense management requires more insight to apply -- which, in turn, suggests every company should have a specific policy to guide how it is done. Creating such a policy is the last step in making mobile telecom expense management work for you.

Continue reading part three of this tip series: How to measure mobile expenses.

This was last published in April 2012

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