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Mobile expense management tools significantly reduce IT costs

Organizations not managing mobile expenses can end up leaking thousands of dollars per year from tiny individual expenses here or there.

Mobile expense management tools have become an important way companies can keep enterprise mobility programs in check.

The small monthly costs per mobile device might not seem like a lot, but when $10 or $15 per employee gets multiplied out each month, it can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs per year, said Jack Gold, an enterprise mobility consultant at J. Gold Associates. "There are a lot of companies that don't see expense management as an issue or even something they have to worry about," he said. "But you can't save money if you're not monitoring the bills."

Only 13% of organizations were actively using a telecom expense management (TEM) tool to control mobile expenses last year, according to a November 2012 survey of 270 companies by J. Gold Associates.

Part 1: Mobile expense management tools significantly reduce IT costs

Part 2: Mobile expense management strategies reveal wasteful BYOD spending

Even if IT departments monitor the bills, doing so can be a painstaking process without affordable tools to help make sense of the breadth of data generated by a mobile initiative, said Michael Green, IT director at a Dallas-based energy exploration company.

Green previously managed a database of 1,500 corporate-owned devices through an Excel spreadsheet to track variables that would impact the bottom line. Unfortunately, that spreadsheet didn't give him great insight into the carrier plans' shifting costs, and when he needed that information to adjust his organization's costs, it wasn't readily available.

"If you ask the carriers for spending reports, it's all batch processing with a file that can be downloaded a few days later," Green said. "I don't want to say the carriers are useless, but in my world I don't have the time to wait to download that report. I need it when I need it."

After testing products from TEM vendors, Green settled on MobilityCentral, a Software as a Service (SaaS) app from San Francisco-based Visage Mobile. "Now that I have the right tools, it takes me half a day per month at most," he said. "The bills show up into the system, and once we've reconciled all the bills, we can see the data and make the necessary decisions to adjust our monthly spend."

Among the expense problems Green has been able to catch are rogue texters who continually go over their allotment every month, and one user who assumed he was using a laptop AirCard with unlimited data and left it turned on. That rang up a few thousand dollars in additional expenses for blowing through the data cap.

Other SaaS startups that sell tools for IT to manage the process themselves are Amtel and MOBI Wireless. Additionally, device management vendors, such as AirWatch and MobileIron, have begun bundling expense tools with their products.

Vendors that provide expense management services, such as Tangoe Inc., WidePoint Corp. or IBM Emptoris, rely on massive data-crunching engines to compare mobile expenses against thousands of records from similar organizations to determine where costs can be optimized. They typically take a small percentage of those savings as a cost for services rendered.

Visage Mobile just partnered with Concur for its MXP plug-in app so IT customers can get better line-item visibility into bring-your-own-device employees who expense their monthly mobile bill through Concur. Visage MXP for Concur is 99 cents per user. Visage's MobilityCentral costs $3.50 per user per month.

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Would you consider using a mobile expense management tool? Which one?