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How AI Will Support Your Communications Technology Expense Management

Like most of us, our organization is on the learning curve when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

My organization is in the business of helping our clients manage communications technology including expenses, contracts and inventories for fixed, mobile and cloud services. It is of particular interest to us to learn how AI capabilities may help to improve how large organizations manage this increasingly complex and expanding array of services.

AI has already changed human workflow for telecommunications expense management. For example, ServiceNow users may be able to use the AI capabilities the vendor developed to work with specific telecom expense management systems such as Sakon. Here are some other areas where AI will change how communication technology professionals track and manage expenses:

  • Data collection and integration: In many organizations this is still done by human entry – if done at all. AI can help businesses collect and integrate data from various sources, such as invoices, contracts, usage reports, and service providers and store it in a centralized and standardized format. This can help reduce errors, inconsistencies, and duplication of data, and improve the accuracy and completeness of your telecom expense data.
  • Data analysis and optimization: Individual with special skills may no longer be needed to provide this analysis. AI can help analyze and optimize your telecom expense data, using techniques such as data mining, machine learning, and natural language processing. AI can help identify patterns, trends, and anomalies in telecom expense data, and provide insights and recommendations for cost reduction, contract negotiation, service optimization, and policy compliance. AI can also help forecast telecom expenses and budget accordingly.
  • Data visualization and reporting: Executives are looking for accurate and meaningful reporting. AI can help your organization to visualize and report telecom expense data, using techniques such as dashboards, charts, graphs, and natural language generation. AI can help you to present their telecom expense data in a clear and concise manner, and communicate findings and actions to various stakeholders, such as managers, employees, and service providers.

In addition to having the needed AI capabilities in place to accomplish these tasks, it will be of critical importance to have good data to be accessed as a starting point. 

In order to get your records in a form that will be easily accessible for AI tools in your expense management platform, start by getting a list of each of your service providers for the following:

  • Traditional “telecom” services (voice communications)
  • Data network (which may also carry voice communications)
  • Mobile services and equipment for voice, data and machine-to-machine wireless communications
  • Video conferencing services
  • Office 365 capabilities such as Teams that support communications
  • Communications hardware including routers, edge devices, switching equipment etc.

And within each of the above bulleted categories make sure you have:

  • A list of all account numbers for bills received from each service provider
  • Access to monthly invoices on the service provider portal
  • A current executed copy of each contract in place with the service provider, with rates included. In some cases, there may be a Master Service Agreement and then a contract for each service in the form of a signed order. Mobile lines each usually have a separate contract. 
  • Up-to-date names and contact details for the account executive, billing specialist and technical support representative for each of your service providers. One of the things AI cannot do is to maintain good relationships with each of these people, which is important for you to keep current on service and rate changes and new services.
  • Access to any current in-house records being kept
  • Identification of which people in your organization are responsible for which services including:
    • Purchasing/Contracting
    • Maintaining service provider relationships
    • Reviewing monthly invoices
    • Approving monthly invoices
    • Paying monthly invoices
    • Record Keeping
    • Technical Support
  • Identify the terminology used in your organization for the services you purchase from communications service providers. The providers typically use their own proprietary terms for services, so there is little consistency of terminology from one provider to another. Being able to normalize service names supports better data analysis.

Once you’ve compiled all the data in formats that you can easily drop into your new AI tools and you’ve compiled a list of all the stakeholders who are responsible for the ongoing vendor relationships, accounts payable and purchasing agreements, you should speak to your communications technology service providers to see what they are doing to plan and implement AI capabilities. Determine how this may help you to develop your organization’s own communications technology management strategy.

Jane Laino is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.