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Cellular bill consolidation: Making the most of managed mobility

Cellular telephony is a big enterprise expense, and it requires great vigilance. Cellular bill consolidation can provide companies with low-overhead cellular management approaches that deliver predictable costs.

Did you know that each of the major wireless operators in the United States offers a bill consolidation service covering contracts that your company has with other carriers? Yes, it's true, but there's more to managing cellular than presenting a single bill. Fortunately, there are managed services to address some – if not all – of the pieces of the puzzle.

The goal: Vendor management
The carriers seldom talk about themselves as vendors, but any IT organization looks at the mobile operators as vendors that need to be managed. And cellular telephony is a big expense that requires close attention. At issue is far more than managing the cost of mobile telephony – IT departments wish to deliver quality services to their users, and IT managers speak in terms of trouble tickets, service quality and issue resolution with key vendors.

The day-to-day issues of vendor management can consume a lot of time and energy, and this is where managed services come into play.

Bill presentation
Some people like to have a single bill from which to work, and bill presentation services can give managers a single electronic file to use for audit, analysis and vendor management. We will talk further about audit in the next section, but first there is the question of how we can put thousands of subscriber accounts from half a dozen carriers onto a single stack of paper.

The answer is that we aren't exactly doing that. Sure, it's one file and one stack of paper, but it's not a single billing system, and all we're doing is assembling multiple bill "images" into one place. That back-end integration between hundreds of different billing systems isn't going to happen anytime soon, and that's OK. The important thing is that we have billing information in one place so that we can audit and analyze it. And most major carriers, as well as numerous service bureaus, offer this service.

Audit and analysis
Enterprises are looking for three things in an ongoing bill audit: errors, outliers and opportunities. Errors and discrepancies take the form of over-charges, unused accounts and any other errata. Statistical outliers are usage and charges outside of a standard range. For this purpose, workers who do not use their mobile telephones are as important as their colleagues who consume thousands of mobile minutes a month. Having identified the mistakes and outliers, it is then possible for the IT organization to close unused accounts, to "pool" minutes among co-workers, and to "right size" service plans for heavy and infrequent users.

A common misconception about audit programs is that they are designed to insulate the corporation from the liability of paying for expensive cellular bills. Properly implemented programs seek to identify users who routinely exceed their monthly allotments and to place these users on the appropriate plans. Companies lacking resources for a full-scale audit and analysis program may want to consider using a service bureau to handle these functions and possibly to take over vendor management functions as well.

Vendor management and negotiation
It's hard to believe, but there are professional services firms that will assume the full responsibility for wireless operator vendor management, contract negotiation and ongoing best practices. In addition to easing the headaches of managing mobile operators, vendor management services enable smaller companies to benefit from large-company processes such as vendor "grading" and ongoing trouble ticket and problem resolution.

The combination of bill presentment, audit and analysis, and vendor management can provide companies with low-overhead cellular management approaches that will deliver predictable costs in the months and years to come. Next month, we will finish up with a discussion of mobile enterprise applications services and conclude with a best practices guide for managed mobility services.

Daniel Taylor

About the author: Daniel Taylor is managing director for the Mobile Enterprise Alliance, Inc. (MEA), and he is responsible for global alliance development, programs, marketing and member relations. He brings over fourteen years of high technology experience and is well known as a subject matter expert on many of the aspects of mobility, including wireless data networking, security, enterprise applications and communications services. Prior to the MEA, Dan held a number of product marketing and development positions in the communications industry.


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