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3 Pillars of Effective Communications Technology Management
Without good IT management, money will be spent unnecessarily, and service levels will deteriorate. Well-managed communications technology provides enterprises with a solid foundation to support inevitable change, enabling you to keep up with the latest systems and services to support end users.
By “communications technology,” we mean all services and equipment needed to keep your staff in touch with each other, customers, and suppliers. This is a basic function of every organization, but managing it is anything but basic. It requires expertise, tenacity, and well-thought-out management processes. Based upon experience helping manage communications technology, here are some suggestions to get started.
Before Starting: Know Your Providers
The first thing to do is get good descriptions and records of all communications technology used by your organization. Start by listing all the providers with whom your organization does business. If your organization is large and global, this may be a long list, and there will likely be unknowns. Here are some providers to list and questions to ask yourself about them:
- Voice communications services – What provider connects you to the outside world for conversations?
- Data communications services: Internet access – Who connects your users to the worldwide web?
- Data communications services: network – Who provides your organization’s network connecting your multiple locations?
- Cloud-based communications services – What services do you buy that are hosted in the cloud (maybe voice, data, or management services)?
- Mobile services – Which network provides your users with mobile services?
- Voice communications hardware – Who provides the hardware (e.g. business telephone system/call center system) connected to your voice communications services?
- Data communications hardware – Who provides the hardware (e.g. routers) connected to your data communications services?
- Mobile devices – Who provides your users with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile communications hardware and software? (It may or may not be the same company that provides the services.)
Also, note: In some cases, the providers of the services also rent or sell the hardware as part of the monthly bill.
1. Identify Bills and Services
Once you have a list of all the companies involved in supporting your communications technology, determine exactly what you are buying from them. Identify each bill you get from them monthly, and determine what services or equipment are covered by the monthly bill.
Adding up all the bills, will give you a better idea of the overall communications technology spend. Consider that some bills may be quarterly or annual rather than monthly. The account numbers and business purpose of the services billed will also become part of your communications technology management profile.
Additionally, make sure to document the names and contact details for each representative of each service provider, including the account executive, billing representative, and technical support people.
2. Understand Contracts
Next, come the contracts. Many services have rates based upon a contract you signed with the service provider. To ensure you are receiving the agreed-upon rates and terms, managing the contract is important. Locate a copy of each contract and develop a means of keeping track. The company that provides you with the services will likely have copies of your contracts if you can’t locate them. Many contracts have related documents to be managed, such as schedules, amendments, service orders, etc., which should all be treated as contracts since they may have their own rates, terms, and conditions.
3. Inventory Services and Equipment
Once you have all the accounts and related contracts in place, you can begin to determine the state of the services and equipment inventory. Inventory detail is critical to managing your communications technology, and it’s the piece that is often the least well understood and organized. Each inventory item is associated with a cost and rolls up to the bill from your service provider.
Ask the individuals within your organization about the state of the inventory records and how they are kept up-to-date. Certain inventories, like mobile devices, can change daily. Global networks can also change regularly as office locations open and close, or the speed of circuits is increased.
Another approach to building an inventory if there is none is to start with the invoices and list the services under each (type and quantity). Many service providers have separate documents (often accessible online) that provide additional service details, such as circuit numbers or mobile numbers.
Just the Start
To recap, the three pillars of communications technology management are billing, contracts, and inventory. If all of these are aligned, this is a good first step, and you have the basics of your communication technology management profile in place. Keeping all the details up to date is important. Once armed with this profile, you can dig deeper to find cost-saving opportunities. You will also have a strong foundation for updating your communications services and equipment as technology changes.