The amount of telecommunications information generated by a typical mid-size American company is staggering compared to 20 or more years ago.  Today’s telecom departments are literally inundated each month with invoices for local services, long distance, wireless, internet services, equipment leases, contracts, etc.  Consistently organizing and processing this mountain of information can be overwhelming to even the most seasoned of telecom departments.

Day-to-day management of telecommunications services and systems typically includes many tasks - authorizing payment of bills, allocating costs, modifying and/or optimizing facilities, controlling and curbing abuse, detecting and correcting problems, training, improving user productivity, etc.

Effectively managing and controlling telecom costs is directly related to your organization’s ability to efficiently manage and process monthly telecom information.

First Things First: Get Organized

The first step in managing telecom information successfully is to implement a compartmental system for staying organized.  Operational information should be grouped into five major categories - account orders and bill tracking, inventory status, usage of system capabilities and carrier facilities, local and long-distance calling, and service and diagnostic information.

Compartment #1: Account Orders and Bill Tracking

The number and formats of separate bills received each month from telecommunications vendors has multiplied many times over in the last 20 years. It is not unusual for even small to mid-size companies to handle hundreds or even thousands of bills every month.

Develop an internal system for keeping track of account orders and be sure that every bill can be easily retrieved and tracked. Use of a systematic control record for each account is essential for staying organized. Simple to complex software is now available commercially or you may choose to develop your own to suit your company’s unique needs. Whatever option you choose, be sure that your system provides a complete visual status of each account onto a single display.

Compartment #2: Inventory Status

Maintaining and updating inventory records for all aspects of your telecommunications department is essential for achieving long term cost-reduction results. The term “inventory” applies not only to hardware, such as wireless handsets, but also to station assignments, station numbers, carrier facilities, and wiring.

Large organizations will almost certainly use a software-based automated inventory control system. As with any system, the software is only as good as the data the system is fed. Before entering any information into an inventory database, a thorough audit and inventory analysis of equipment and services should be conducted. Failure to take the proper steps in setting up your inventory system will almost certainly result in flawed information from the outset.

Compartment #3: Information Drawn From Systems and Carrier Facilities

Collecting and analyzing system usage data is an often overlooked area of telecom cost-reduction. This information is typically drawn from PBX systems or carrier facilities or suppliers. Most PBX and ACD systems store data on how often various features are used. Older systems maintain proprietary control of system access, requiring users to obtain data through the supplier.

Analysis of system usage data will reveal which productivity-improving features are being utilized and by whom. It will also reveal areas where overprovisioning is evident. Be sure to instruct employees on how they can more effectively use the system. Eliminate areas where features are either not used or not needed.

Compartment #4: Local, Long-Distance and Wireless Call Activity

Many options are now available to collect, organize and report on call activity. Modern PBX, hybrid and electronic key systems make Station Message Detail Recording (SMDR) data available through an RS-232-C interface. SMDR data typically provides a record for each call - the station originating the call, date and time of origination, number dialed, duration, and the facility carrying the call. Most carriers now provide this billing information electronically.

Once obtained and organized, this information can then be fed directly to on-site services for processing. There are hundreds of commercially available software programs for sorting and organizing call detail. Reports generally fall into one of three categories - system management reports and summaries, cost allocation reports, and traffic reports. Each provide valuable information for determining the appropriate cost-reduction measures needed.

Compartment #5: Service and Diagnostic Information

A variety of diagnostic routines can be performed on most current telephone systems. These tests will reveal non-working aspects of the system. Traffic reports will sometimes indicate problems with facilities such as a trunk that shows no usage. Check with your suppliers for a list of diagnostic tests they can perform that you may not be aware of.

Don’t let the enormous flow of monthly telecommunications information overwhelm you. With proper organization and analysis, the data collected from each of the above compartments will invariably reveal areas that are ripe for cost-savings.

Submitted by: TelCon Associates, Inc.