Your telecom audit will be much easier to understand (and complete!) when information is organized. By organizing information properly, you will define and focus your audit so the task seems much less overwhelming.
The following seven step checklist is what we at TelCon Associates have used for over 35 years when preparing for a client telecom audit and cost-reduction study.
Step # 1: List Hypotheses
Savings opportunities and ideas for them will come to mind throughout the audit and analysis process. Chances are you had a few in mind when you decided on embarking on a full-blown audit of your telecom department. These ideas are the “hypotheses” to be tested, rejected as invalid, or seriously considered for recommendation/adoption portion of the audit that comes later.
Hypotheses will begin to emerge from the moment you look at a telecom bill. Write down your initial hypotheses now and continue adding to them as you progress through the audit process.
Step # 2: Define the Size and Scope of Your Audit
There will be numerous directions your audit may take you, so it is extremely important that you now establish a project scope and focus your efforts to make them more manageable. You simply cannot audit everything at once.
Ask questions to determine you goals. Examples are: Are you concerned with telecom services at the corporate headquarters? Field locations? Both? Will you be delving into just interstate long-distance, or will you include intrastate and intralata calling as well? Are you concerned with voice only, or will you be auditing data services too? Will you be auditing only local services, only wireless – or both?
Before you continue, decide now and put in writing exactly what the size and scope of your audit will encompass.
Step # 3: Prioritize and Organize
Now you need to prioritize and organize the segments of your project. You will soon learn that most projects are too big to handle all at once. They must be divided into manageable segments for effective study and completion.
The most common method, at least initially, is to organize by location – geographical or organizational. Many segments will be defined by location – simply analyze and sub-optimize all services at each location.
Complete the organization of your project by assigning priorities; define the sequence in which each will be studied, then assign responsibilities to each staff member or person involved in the audit.
Step # 4: Gather Customer Information
The next step is to gather information contained on two main sources: bills and contracts. Some situations may require examination of more specialized information. For now, we will focus on these two items.
All relevant bills must be obtained, whether monthly, quarterly, annual or intermittent. It is advised that 2-3 months of the most recent bills be collected. Be sure to collect ALL bills that you have defined in the “size and scope” step above. These may include bills and contracts from:
Local Exchange Carriers (LECs)
Interexchange Carriers (IXCs)
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs)
Leased or Equipment Rental
Maintenance or Service Agreements
Step # 5: Obtain Supplier Information
To complete a thorough audit or cost-reduction study, very specific information and data may be required from the carriers and vendors. These may include:
Customer Service Records (CSRs)
Nomenclature Translation (for USOC’s or other items on CSR)
Step # 6: Organize and Display Data
There are two reasons for systematically organizing and displaying the information that has been collected up to this point. 1) The process ensures that each cost element is considered, and 2) it directs future analyses into the most promising areas for cost-saving opportunities. The following types of data displays will be useful in many studies:
Summary of Billed Accounts
By the time you have organized and displayed collected data, your hypotheses list should have many items that now must be tested.
Testing your hypotheses will require a certain amount of personal surveys with end users, although much of the information you’ll need will be contained within CSRs and the actual telecom bills.
Step #7: Organize Personal Survey Information
The last step in preparing for your telecom audit will be to determine the extent and scope of surveys conducted with end users. Remote and/or on-premises observation and interview surveys are critical to the information gathering and hypotheses testing processes. Surveys are the “glue” that helps all the hard data you’ve collected come together.
The content of your interviewed surveys can be as simple or as complex as you would like to make them.
However long or short, your interview survey content should include general data about the user and location being surveyed. Surveys should include questions that will help you determine if lines and features are being billed correctly, and if any lines and features are unused, or even unknown, to the end user.
A successful corporate telecom audit begins with planning and preparation. The more systematic and organized you are from the outset will help determine the ease and success of the entire process.
About the Author
Karen Thatcher is President and CEO of TelCon Associates, Inc., a 37 year old telecommunications consulting and bill management firm based in Lenexa, KS. For more information on how to control and manage your corporate telecom expenses more effectively, visit www.telconassociates.com.