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Telecom Expense Management

By: Richard "Zippy" Grigonis

Conducing business today involves a huge menagerie of devices and networks relating to voice, data and wireless services. What was once a simple phone bill has become a complex, ever-changing maze of costs. Add to that the increasingly mobile and decentralized evolution of both business and telecom, and one can see how businesses can become worried over telecom-related expenses. Even back in the heyday of the PSTN, businesses were already aware that the all-knowing phone company could make billing errors, which led to the first generation of Telecom Expense Management (TEM) experts and their solutions.

Even today, research firms such as Aberdeen (News - Alert) estimate that from 2 to 14 percent of telecom invoices are incorrect, and modern-day TEMs claim that a typical organization can realize savings of at least 10 percent of its annual telecom expenditure. TEM expanded a bit to become a business process called upon to order and procure telecom service; to process payment of those services at the proper rates; and to provide the expense and data analytics to manage and control ongoing telecom expense. We soon began to see the first glimmerings of Total Telecom (News - Alert) Cost Management (TTCM).




With the rise of IP, wireless and a more complex communications infrastructure, not to mention government deregulation that has enabled complicated contracts and pricing programs to flourish (but also government regulation mandating that certain types of records be kept for certain types of businesses), TEM has had to become more complex and versatile too. Telecom management platforms now go far beyond invoice management and actually assist companies, enterprises and government organizations to manage their communications resources (e.g. inventory) and related business processes more holistically and in real-time, all in an effort to streamline operations, boost productivity and, of course, maximize profit by saving money.

Here’s a representative sampling of TEM players. . .

AnchorPoint (News - Alert)

(Framingham, Massachussets) AnchorPoint’s TEM software solutions manage invoices and inventory, evaluate expenditures, and track usage with call accounting software. You can buy their whole package, or they can tailor their software to best fit your business needs.

In addition to their innovative, integrated telecom expense management business solutions, AnchorPoint maintains a list of best TEM practices. For example, a great TEM solution should rely on a common database that can be called upon by an integrated, comprehensive application suite, and the TEM system should be made up of automated, integrated TEM software modules with single entry point.

Asentinel (News - Alert)

(Memphis, Tennessee) This company shines when it comes to automated auditing. Asentinel’s web-based software, Asentinel 5.0, has more than 60 cumulative years of development behind it. Available in either a customer-hosted or Asentinel-hosted deployment, Asentinel 5.0 simplifies and streamlines the entire TEM life-cycle process for all wireline, wireless; voice, data and equipment telecom assets, including invoice processing and workflow, asset and inventory management, procurement and provisioning, and business intelligence and reporting. It provides real-time control by identifying errors as they occur, automating the provisioning, invoicing and reporting processes, and maximizing resources, contracts and network configurations while significantly impacting expenditures. Asentinel 5.0 features TouchFree TEM (your telecom invoice go directly to Asentinel), ContractControl (experts input your contracts into the Asentinel 5.0 system), and Optical Invoice Recognition (OIR) technology (intelligently reads paper invoices with near 100% accuracy).

Asentinel continues to grow its list of Fortune 500/1000 companies and government entities.

Avotus (News - Alert)

(Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) Avotus’ Intelligent Communications Management (ICM) realizes significant spend reductions and continuously verifies and permanently implements all cost and process improvements. Avotus ICM is composed of three components that can be implemented in any order to support your TEM requirements:

  1. ICM eProcurement is an automated online approach to sourcing and procurement, helping to eliminate hassles and expenses involved with manual RFP processes. Using the power of technology and an online reverse auction, you arrive at contract negotiation after having your suppliers bid their lowest terms and their best terms, conditions and SLAs to win your business.
  2. ICM Expense Management manages all of the operational processes across the entire purchasing to payment chain including implementation, inventory management, invoice validation and finance management.
  3. ICM Usage Management is an advanced form of call accounting, enabling you to manage and control the costs of all types of communications services from traditional PBX (News - Alert) to the latest converged communications platforms to mobile and wireless, calling cards, and video and web conferencing services. Using web-based reports, detailed information on communications usage is available to help you identify areas to reduce costs, enforce corporate policy and comply with legal and regulatory rules.

Avotus ICM can be deployed as licensed enterprise software, a fully outsourced hosted application, value-added Managed Services, or any combination. Avotus also provides consulting and analytical services to examine all areas of your corporate spend, not just voice, data and wireless. Their certified IT services teams support Oracle (News - Alert) and SAP environments.

BroadSource

(Atlanta, Georgia) BroadSource’s OneSource is a TEM solution powered by “Virtual Auditor”, which represents years of experience of BroadSource’s staff. OneSource (News - Alert) has a friendly, menu-driven user interface, which intuitively guides the user to manage finances, contracts, and inventory, as well as handle disputes and generate reports. Its patent-pending User Wallet feature enables companies to monitor, report and reconcile telecom inventory and expense on a single user basis. OneSource’s Advanced Reporting functions enable companies to customize reports that fit their organizational structure and specialized needs. Advanced Reporting options can include single user and group average spends and utilization by location, department and company. OneSource also gives you one place to electronically view invoices and inventory for services such as voice, data, IP, mobile, CPE and circuits. It automates many of your daily tasks to streamline telecommunications operations into a central inventory, contract and billing system that enables rapid access to the technical and financial aspects of each service.

Cass Information Systems

(Bridgeton, MO ) Cass is a big company that includes the Cass Commercial Bank, the Transportation Information Services business unit — a leading provider of freight invoice payment, audit and rating services in North America; a Utility Information Services business unit — a leading back-office provider of energy information in North America; and a Telecom Information Services unit, which has made a name for itself in the growing TEM market. The foundation of their solution is the advanced nCONTROL Technology, a web-based platform that delivers a higher level of automation, visibility, and control than exists in most companies today, reducing overall telecom costs and streamlining your operations. Each nCONTROL service complements the strengths of your internal staff with additional capabilities. Cass’ areas of services include: Process and Pay, Audit and Optimize, Order and Inventory, Source and Contract, and Wireless Management.

Control Point Solutions (News - Alert)

(Rutherford, New Jersey) One of the oldest and largest companies in this market, the result of the 2004 merger of TEM vendors Teldata and Broad Margin. Control Point Solutions provides customers visibility into their telecom provisioning, delivery, invoicing and bill payment. They provide sophisticated Provisioning and Inventory Management, maintaining an accurate inventory of assets and services to provide a base upon which invoices can be compared; Invoice Management in the form of a full end-to-end solution for the receipt, reconciliation and dispute resolution of paper and electronic bills. Invoices can be converted into a standard electronic format; Call Accounting is offered with the ability to track usage of equipment and services to an individual’s end point; and Audit and Sourcing.

Information Strategies Group

(Parsippany, New Jersey) ISG’s Telecommunications Billing Verification Audit Services ensure billing accuracy, reduce costs by eliminating errors and recover revenue from past overcharges. ISG audits include a review of all invoiced items to ensure compliance with government tariffs and/or regulations along with applicable contracts as well as an analysis of all current monthly invoice charges rendered by vendors for discrepancies. An historical review is also done of billed recurring and non-recurring charges rendered by vendors, and the physical inventory is examined as required of sites to verify the existence of facilities and services billed on an invoice, such as ancillary equipment, private lines, special circuits, etc.

ISG’s Telecommunications Inventory Management Service (TIMS) is for clients that don’t want responsibility for managing the telecom process methodologies and associated software systems. ISG’s TIMS service supports inventory database management, facilitates install/move/add/change service order management, reconciles vendor billing with work order activity, and provides information invaluable for controlling technology cost.

Integrated Mobile (News - Alert)

(Columbus, Ohio) Integrated Mobile is a provider of global managed mobility solutions used by over 250 of the Fortune 1000. Their iWIN package simplifies the process of equipping your mobile employees with the services, software and devices that match their business needs by providing a single portal consisting of a standardized catalog for all your wireless carriers. The iManage product handles visibility, control, Rate Plan Optimization, asset management and wireless analytics. iBill takes care of cost allocation, invoice management and integration with AP/GL Systems. They also offer their iPro professional services that help transform your business with mobile technologies.

Invoice Insight

(Manassas, Virginia) Invoice Insight pioneered Software-as-a-Service (SaaS (News - Alert)) for TEM. They provide both technology and outsourcing solutions to commercial and government end-users of telecom services. In particular, the offer BillPort, web-based TEM software offered as a service, as well as other services, which they divide into three categories: 1) Information Management (invoice processing that includes receipt and data loading of every invoice into BillPort, regardless of the format service type, or vendor), 2) Cost Control (monthly invoice validation, ongoing optimization, or other services), and 3) Managed Services (for customers preferring to outsource the TEM function).

MBG (News - Alert) Expense Management

(New York City) MBG provides total enterprise telemanagement solutions for Fortune 500 companies and carriers. Founded in 1990, MBG helps companies understand and control their enterprise-wide voice, data, and wireless telecommunications and associated services and costs. Using their approach, large organizations can analyze, manage, monitor, and order all of their telecom and related IT services through a secure, centralized web-based portal, even when working with multiple providers.

The MBG Enterprise Telemanagement suite of solutions includes Provisioning, Inventory, Invoice Processing, and Corporate Chargeback solutions, which combine to provide complete, modular and scalable end-to-end solutions for customers. MBG’s flexible delivery model enables customers to co-manage telemanagement functions with MBG or to rely on MBG for complete management of those activities. The offer an interesting vendor management function and scorecard spanning all MBG solutions that provides a comprehensive strategic view of telemanagement. MBG enables the integration of telemanagement data with all Operating and Enterprise Support Systems (OSS, EOSS) and Enterprise Spend Management (ESM) systems and claims to be the only vendor to offer a Global Telecom QuickStart Vendor and Service Analysis Program, which delivers immediate cost savings and strategic planning benefits.

MDSL (News - Alert)

(New York City) MDSL’s TEM is an OnDemand service, so there is no hardware or software to install or maintain at the customer premise and no capital expenditure. TEM is composed of eight inter-connected functioning categories: 1) Sourcing (make sure you can buy at the best rates), 2) ordering and provisioning (control the process from ordering to payment), 3) invoice reconciliation (validate automatically the veracity of invoices), 4) dispute management (manage inaccuracies, credits and vendor relationships), 5) cost allocation (ensure fair and precise charge back), 6) asset management (enable accurate management of the telecom estate), 7) usage management (visualize usage patterns, detect fraud and abuse), and 8) reporting (give transparency at every level of the organization).

mindWireless

(Houston, Texas) Solely focused on corporate wireless management, mindWireless’ clients include Fortune 500 enterprises and organizations having over 2000 wireless devices. Their Wireless Best Practice Lifecycle services help save up to 40 percent and integrates four critical services: enrollment, procurement, billing optimization and allocation, and reporting. When combined with their dedicated wireless help desk, business intelligence via the “mW SMART” package and administrative support, the result is an improvement in efficiency, savings and productivity of a customer’s wireless TEM program.

MobilSense

(Westlake Village, California) Their MobilSentry is an end-to-end wireless management system safeguarding companies from abuse and uncontrolled use of wireless assets. It provides continuous control over the entire wireless environment. It provides a secure online view of cell charges for central and local management, electronic bill delivery to employees, and a set of comprehensive reports including rate optimization and exception reports to flag usage outside company policy. The MobilSentry Management Suite consists of three modules:

  1. Enterprise Monitor (Rate Plan Optimization and Distributed Reporting)
  2. Policy Supervisor (Automated Policy Management and Administration), and
  3. Bill Assistant (Online Invoice Access for Employees).

ProfitLine (News - Alert)

(San Diego, California) ProfitLine is one of the larger TEM vendors. Their TelcoManager is an intelligent, flexible web-based platform that enables the majority of telecom invoices to be input, validated, cross-checked, paid, audited and allocated in a fully automated manner. It also provides complete visibility into your spend and control over many of the parameters that determine how things are managed. MyTelcoManager is essentially a software platform with a web services and distributed database architecture based on standard Microsoft (News - Alert) .NET and MS SQL technologies, all running on standard hardware. This loosely coupled modular architecture enables ProfitLine processes to be scaled independently to handle virtually any volume of work in any area of the telecom expense management lifecycle. The platform incorporates proprietary ProfitLine intelligence in the form of business rules encapsulating deep knowledge of carrier operations and hundreds of best practices garnered from decades of experience in TEM. These business rules can be modified to configure the system to your requirements.

Quickcomm

(New York City) Quickcomm’s telecom cost management software solution is an in-house enterprise application that reconciles telecom invoices to your inventory. It automatically analyzes every single line item, from mobile and cellular voice services to tie lines, paging services, data and PBX. Quickcomm identifies each of the discrepancies in your bills, including services and personnel who no longer appear in your other records. Indeed, it does automatic reconciliation of telecom bills down the line-item level, reports charges for lines or services that are not in your inventory, as well as charges by personnel who are no longer with your company. Quickcomm’s software allocates telecom expenses by cost center and can analyze telecom infrastructure usage to help guide provisioning.

Rivermine (News - Alert)

(South Fairfax, Virginia) Having merged with wireless management innovator BBR Wireless Management, Rivermine now is a leading provider of solutions (both software and managed services) that automate the entire telecom lifecycle including contract sourcing, ordering, inventory management, invoice processing/auditing and reporting/analytics.

In terms of software, Rivermine’s TEM software suite delivers whatever you need for telecom contract negotiation, procurement, provisioning, inventory management, invoice processing, auditing, and business intelligence using four applications:

  • Rivermine Inventory Engine — builds and maintains a current repository of all your wired, wireless, and data networking assets.
  • Rivermine Service Order Manager — creates, validates, and tracks telecom orders from request through approval and provisioning.
  • Rivermine Finance Manager — enables automated invoice processing, bill validation, cost allocation, and auditing.
  • Rivermine Clarity — provides visibility into and control over telecom spend through packaged dashboards, reports, and drill-down analytics.

As for managed services, Rivermine’s eXPERTSolutions are software-powered services that can be used individually to provide “quick-hit” cost savings or together to provide a complete TEM managed service. They include: eXPERTSourcing (telecom contract analysis, rate benchmarking, and negotiation solution), eXPERTAudit (turnkey solution encompassing historic audit, ongoing audit, and carrier dispute/collection services), eXPERTInventory (software-powered inventory build service — handling circuit, equipment, and services including wireless), eXPERTInvoice Loading (ensures invoice data is quickly and accurately entered into your TEM system; handles both electronic and paper invoices and leverages electronic invoice readers to expedite the loading process), eXPERTHosting (outsources deployment, operation, and support for your Rivermine TEM software implementation, including all hardware, network access, application and database back-up and restore procedures, system security, and monitoring).

Symphony Spend Management Solutions (SMS)

(Palo Alto (News - Alert), California) Symphony Spend Management Solutions (SMS) is part of Symphony Service Corp., a global provider of full lifecycle, product engineering outsourcing solutions (www.symphonysv.com). They enable enterprises to manage voice, data, IT, wireless and other services through their expertise and solutions in Telecom Expense Management by providing a systematic approach to invoice management as well as asset management across the lifecycle. This includes automating order processing, ebonding, monitoring expenses, managing vendor invoices, tracking and managing inventory of assets, web based mobile provisioning, providing ongoing invoice reconciliation via workflow (against actual inventory, contract terms and usage), wireless optimization and accurately allocating costs to internal cost centers. With over 350 clients, Symphony SMS (News - Alert) offers flexible business model options based upon their patented EMS 11 TEM software platform. They offer several engagement models: EMS Enterprise (enterprise-based license that includes all TEM software modules), EMS Standard (license for usage management system), SaaS / Hosted (Software as a Service and hosted application services), Managed Services (Symphony provides business process outsourcing services by service line).

Tangoe (News - Alert)

(Orange, Connecticut) Perhaps the TEM industry’s most dynamic company, their CommCare Managed Services and Telecom Expense Management Solutions strives to go beyond the simple savings afforded by TEM, and into the world of communications lifecycle management for fixed and mobile communications. The CommCare Communications Lifecycle Management services are built upon patented technologies that optimize all essential voice, data, and mobile communications.

CommCare Management Platform (CMP) application components include:

  • CMP Bill Management Module — allocations, payment, approval, credits, and disputes.
  • CMP Inventory Module — building a dynamic services inventory footprint.
  • MP Contract Module — managing carrier agreements.
  • CMP Provisioning Module — requesting and ordering of fixed and mobile services and equipment.
  • CMP Auditing Module — audit contractual commitments, billing, service levels…and more.
  • Reports and Analytics — transforming telecom expense management data into useful management information.
  • CMP Knowledgebase — delivering expense management industry reference metrics.

Telesoft Corporation

(Phoenix, Arizona) Telesoft’s Total Cost Management Suite is software for enterprise-sized businesses. It utilizes complete web-based telemanagement automation and back-office integration to validate vendor billing and inventory, manages call accounting, manage work orders and trouble tickets, and measures and optimize wireless plans. Telesoft’s software enables customers to effectively manage their telecom expenses while using flexible and friendly software. Each software module performs on a single platform and centralized database. Customers select modules that are applicable to the organization. Modules such as Invoice Validation, Call Accounting, Wireless Device Management and Asset Management run in concert to track inventory and products with internal resources while optimizing and validating those same products with external vendors. The system can handle about 1 million calls per hour.

Telesoft’s Quick Validate engine can review thousands of invoices in second. CD, EDI and other electronic formats from every vendor are mapped to the database for accurate and quick validation. Thanks to the modular design of the software, other telecom related management tools can be added, such as Invoice Processing, Asset Management, Cell Phone Optimization and other tools. You can also automate data exchanges among telecom, HR and Accounting departments — integration can be done with SAP, Oracle Financials, JD Edwards, Peoplesoft and virtually every Enterprise market system.

Telwares (News - Alert)

(Greenwood Village, Colorado) Formerly Vercuity, Telwares offers an integrated technology platform that integrates all of a company’s wireless and wireline, domestic and international, services and network assets into a single application. Telwares’ solutions suite encompasses the entire telecom spend lifecycle from sourcing, procurement and negotiation, audit and recovery, to inventory and invoice management, call accounting and expense allocation. Thus, you can now manage your entire network spend through one application, and Telwares will integrate this with any of your related in-house applications, including HR, Finance, Accounts Payable, and Procurement systems. IT

Richard Grigonis (News - Alert) is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

 

The following companies were mentioned in this article:

AnchorPoint (www.anchorpoint.com)

Asentinel (www.asentinel.com)

Avotus (www.avotus.com)

BBR Wireless Management (www.bbrwm.com)

BroadSource (www.broadsource.com)

Cass Information Systems (www.cassinfo.com)

Control Point Solutions (www.controlpointsolutions.com)

Information Strategies Group (www.infostrategiesgroup.com)

Integrated Mobile (www.integratedmobile.com)

Invoice Insight (www.invoiceinsight.com)

MBG Expense Management (www.mbg-inc.com)

MDSL (www.mdsl.com)

mindWireless (www.mindwireless.com)

MobilSense (www.mobilsense.com)

ProfitLine (www.profitline.com)

Quickcomm (www.quickcomm.com)

Rivermine (www.rivermine.com)

Symphony SMS (www.psytechnics.com)

Tangoe (www.tangoe.com)

Telesoft (www.telesoft.com)

Telwares (www.telwares.com)

 

» Internet Telephony Magazine Table of Contents



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