Deloitte Insights reports that companies spend 3.28% of their annual revenue on information technologies, so it's no wonder more and more want expert assistance managing their telecom, datacom, and other technology expenses. There are now several providers of telecom expense management (TEM) services to choose from, and you are well advised to carefully examine them in the process of selecting one.
Some of the following issues to explore will sound familiar. The criteria for selection of most services are consistent and similar. This checklist of questions to ask will help you compare these providers. The right one will save you from thousands to millions depending upon the size of your enterprise.
TEM Provider Evaluation Checklist:
- As with any company you’re considering partnering with to provide you with mission-critical services you want to be certain they are in reliable financial and operational condition and can be relied upon for a long time to come. How long have they been providing TEM services? What are their financial ratings and other assurances? How long have their senior executives been in place and what is their experience? Who are their signature clients? Can you consult with some of them?
- A timely consideration that can offer insight for the future is how they have addressed the current Covid-19 pandemic? Have they sent their team to work from home (WFH) to protect them? Have they made all the necessary provisions to enable them to function productively? Another related question might be whether they had a WFH program or policy prior to the pandemic.
- What services are included in their TEM programs? Do they provide hosting of their software for your use? Is there a supported on-premise version? Are upgrades included? Patches? Will they provide server maintenance for your server on-premise? Does support include answers to your users’ questions?
- Will they contract to operate the software for you? Will they provide call accounting? Bill payment? Will you be required to provide and even load your invoices into the system, or will they handle that for you? Are these each individual choices you get to make, or is there a fixed, standard package?
- Are their hours of operation flexible? Does their contract fee change for 8x5 coverage instead of 24/7? Are these hours valid in all time zones? Which services are and aren’t available at ‘non-standard’ hours?
Technologies and Services Managed
- Some TEM firms still only manage telecom expenses, both wireline and mobile services. The more progressive firms have already included cloud services, including infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS), unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS), Internet of Things (IoT) and other expenses with recurring billing. These services are all significantly intertwined, and you’ll want control over every connection to people, things, and other systems.
- Will they provide any optional services, such as providing staff augmentation to help out when you may be shorthanded, or challenged by sudden growth?
- What are the standard reports you can expect to receive periodically? Do they provide consultative reviews of these reports? Can they produce ad hoc reports as you request them? Are they capable of adding customized reports for you?
- One way of moderating fees is to limit the number of people from your enterprise who are entitled to request support. If you designated a specific individual for this function it is important they be able to obtain answers from TEM support and relay them effectively to the original requestor within your organization. You may also designate specific teams, such as an internal support department.
- Will you have designated management sponsors, account managers, or other representatives assigned specifically to your account?
- Most of us have become so accustomed to talking about a “service call” that we may be ignoring the fact that we’re living in a far more multi-media world. Do they welcome service requests by email? By simple text? Do they provide a web portal? A mobile app? Does their software automatically signal the occurrence of an anomaly?
- What is their response time commitment? That is, how quickly can you expect someone to return your call to learn more about the problem? What is their mean time to return systems to full functionality?
- What happens when their system goes down on your premises? In their own data center? How do they action alerts issued by their system?
- What happens when something goes wrong? How do they handle it when flaws are uncovered in their software? What happens when they make a mistake in paying a bill for you?
- Your users make use of telecom services via desk phones, mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. What happens when one of these devices fail? Does the user need to know where to go for device repair? Or can they call your support desk?
- A major component of a quality TEM service is inventory control over your entire telecom estate, including all contracts for all services and all equipment involved. How often do they perform cycle counts or other similar procedures, and how do they assure accuracy of your inventory?
Security & Regulatory Compliance
- These providers are managing a substantial proportion of your funds. Security is a primary concern at every level. How do they secure their operations? How do they background-check their support personnel? How do they secure your financial data?
- Are they willing to serve as a regulatory Business Associate (BA)? Are they prepared to provide operations that will conform to procedure and pass any audit? Are there any limitations or Acts for which they are not prepared?
Levels of Training and Support
- It makes sense that well-trained users require less support, but just how much less is questionable, and you should be questioning that. What levels of support do they provide? How many ‘tiers’ are there, and how are they defined? How many people do they have on staff for each tier? What is their experience and what are their credentials? Are they multi-lingual and multi-time-zone? How is escalation of more challenging issues handled? How quickly?
- Is there one resource a user can contact to obtain any support, or must they know multiple departments and numbers? Is there a frequently asked question (FAQ) page users can refer to for popularly asked questions? Can they consult a maintained Knowledge Base (KB)? Is there a separate quick-response service for restoring lost passwords?
There are many resources you can consult to learn more about their assessments of your choices, but often the most important element is the personal relationship you enjoy with your business partners. Investing the time up front will optimize your return from then on.
If you want to learn more about Calero-MDSL solutions and services, we invite you to reach out and contact our team.