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Resetting Your Communications Expense Budget Post-Pandemic


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In March 2020, COVID-19 arrived so quickly that organizations went into a reactive mode to continue operating. While people worked from home, the ability to keep things running smoothly was of greater concern than the associated incremental costs. Since many people are still working from home, it’s a good time to step back, look at expenses, and anticipate which new ones will appear.
Since there was no roadmap in place, each organization devised its own approach to keeping things going. To get you started, I've listed a few questions to think about regarding mobile, and videoconferencing services as well as connectivity to your organization's data and voice networks.
Mobile Services
  • Did we provide and pay for mobile devices and services to employees who didn’t previously have them? If so, do we have a record of these and the associated cost? Do we have plans to take away or downgrade the mobile service once employees return to the office?
  • Did we adjust our mobile plans to accommodate the increased usage for voice, data, text messaging, and mobile-to-mobile video calls? What are the incremental costs incurred, and can we adjust these when the employees are back in the office and using the office communications systems?
  • If we didn’t make any plan adjustments and the costs have gone up significantly, what plan changes do we need to make now?
  • Are any employees paying for their own mobile services and charging back the costs to our organization? If so, what expense does this add, and will it remain?
  • Were any mobile ‘data only’ devices added for employees who didn’t have good Wi-Fi? If so, what’s the incremental cost of these devices, and are they still necessary?
Videoconference Services
  • What are we paying for regarding videoconferencing services (Zoom, Teams, WebEx, BlueJeans, Go-to-Meeting, etc.), and what have we contractually agreed to?
  • If we are paying for a total number of licenses, how many people are using the service? Is there a usage-based approach to paying that may lower the expense?
  • What are the costs associated with people dialing into the videoconferences for audio? Are we charged a competitive cost per minute rate for this from our video conference provider?
  • If the ‘dial in’ for audio users will remain working from home, will it be more cost-effective to increase the bandwidth capacity of their Wi-Fi rather than having them continue to dial in?
  • If you have audio conferencing services, similar questions apply regarding how you are using them, how a vendor charges you, and how these services may change when people return to the office.
Connectivity to Your Organization’s Data Network
  • What new costs did you incur while enabling your remote users to access the organization’s data network?
  • Did bandwidth capacity at their homes increase?
  • Were security measures implemented that resulted in additional costs, such as VPN services? Was equipment purchased or leased for employees at home, or were they using their own equipment?
  • What was the impact on your network in terms of usage—did the costs go up? If so, will they lessen when workers return to the office?
Connectivity to Your Organization’s Voice Network
  • How did calls to your office-based or cloud-based telephone numbers reach the employees at home? Were the calls forwarded? If so, what was the total cost? If you forwarded the calls to the mobile phones, there might be a cost from both a fixed line or cloud provider and the mobile provider.
  • If you added cloud-based voice call capability for your at-home workers, what was the incremental cost—if any?
  • Did your employees make outgoing calls using the office-based or cloud-based telephone system? If so, did the call volumes change and therefore costs change from when the people were in the office?
  • How does the cost of making and receiving calls through the office system compare to mobile calls? Is it up to the employee to decide which one to use? Does it make economic sense to place mobile calls through Wi-Fi when possible?
Reevaluating On-Premises Services
Although answering the above questions is a good starting point for determining what new costs are likely to remain, it follows that you can eliminate some expenses as a result of changing work styles developed over the last year and a half. Since it wasn’t clear how long working from home would last, most organizations didn’t make cost-saving adjustments to their office-based communications systems. If you permanently reduce the number of people in the office at any given time, you’re likely paying for more capacity than required for services and equipment.
Figuring all of this out is no easy task. A good place to start is to ensure that you have a complete inventory of all communications equipment and services in your offices and at your employees' homes (if used for work). Document the monthly costs and contractual obligations with each service provider in addition to the inventory.
Next, make some decisions on what costs to eliminate, which you’re unsure about, and what needs to stay. Keeping your inventory, contract, and expense details current enables you to make good decisions moving forward as your organization, communications infrastructure, and services landscape continue to evolve.

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Jane 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.