MDSL and why Telecoms Expense Management is well worth a look

In part 1 of this series we looked at MDSL, leading players in international Market Data Management (MDM) and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) solutions.

We talked about the complexity of the telecoms market, with tariffs changing by the day, and the difficulty of keeping track of users is another key problem - users who these days may have 3 or 4 different devices hidden around their person!

The complexity was evident, says Ben Mendoza, CEO of MDSL, when one of their clients was receiving electronic billing from the supplier and wasn’t very happy with the quality. So they requested a hard copy. The bill duly arrived – 20 boxes stacked on a pallet!

Hence the need for software tools to manage the process, the equipment and the costs.  And here's another worrying tale from MDSL – a procurement manager may be negotiating literally 1000s of different elements on a tariff – calls from country A to country B at certain times and so on. But when the provider's account manager goes back to base, there’s a fair chance that the person in charge of pricing will say, “our system won’t let us do a special rate for Australia to Panama weekend calls. We’ll have to charge them the normal rate – but don’t worry, they’ll never notice”!

And without some pretty clever tools, they’re probably right.

A further key point MDSL emphasise is that user organisations must have good processes as well as the right tools. That means processes for ordering new equipment, or managing assets, for disposal and so on. It also means having policies to support the processes, and being prepared to back them up.

“We suggest to clients that they should seek to develop processes that make it easier to follow the rules than not”, says Mendoza. “But you have to have some teeth behind the policy as well”.

Another source of additional complexity has been the exponential growth in mobile devices, and devices being used for much more than just calls. We’ve all read horror stories of people on holiday being charged a fortune for checking their Facebook accounts; “we see the same things happening at corporate level”, say MDSL.

The Chief Executive, stuck in a distant hotel for a week, or even an airport for a few hours, who downloads films on her iPad, makes some calls, updates the email. Then a few weeks later, there’s a bill for hundreds or even thousands of pounds and a telecoms or procurement manager wondering how to bring up the subject with the boss!

That unexpected corporate cost has in some cases also included staff texting charity donations to TV appeals and similar, using their corporate phones and therefore corporate money rather than their own.

And that’s before we even touch on Unified Communications, which means you might see an item on the bill for a call from Paris which actually no-one in Paris made, or knows anything about..  We’ll save that for another day.

So clear policies, good processes, then the means to manage tariffs, manage the population of devices, lines and users, and the ability to check bills. These are some of the key success factors for managing telecoms spend effectively.  And going back to fundamentals, I asked Mendoza, "what's the average billing overcharge you find when you go into new TEM customers"?

“It’s around 10% - probably slightly over”, he says.

Well, as a final message, that's a pretty strong incentive to look at TEM if you haven’t already .

(And of course, MDSL aren’t the only TEM providers around - I'm sure that as a good procurement person you’ll look carefully at the market)!

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