A remote workforce has been growing exponentially in the U.S. and abroad for the past decade, enabled by ever-improving telecommunications bandwidths, more sophisticated mobile phones and other devices. Nearly two-thirds of employees work remotely at least part-time, according to multiple surveys over the past two years. Employers and employees alike cite flexibility, productivity and creativity as the top benefits of working remotely.
But none of this comes without costs and management challenges. Telecom carriers are constantly revising their rate and equipment plans. Manufacturers introduce new technologies and hardware on at least an annual basis. Cloud computing services are proliferating and the Internet of Things (IoT) is sprouting everywhere. Managing all of this is a major challenge for any business or organization.
The research firm IDC recently conducted a survey on behalf of Tangoe, Inc. of more than 500 companies from a mix of industries across the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and France with 1,000 or more employees. The survey results are set to launch later this year. The respondents overwhelmingly acknowledged being challenged by rising costs, increasingly mobile workforces, and rapidly advancing technologies.
Respondents reported their four most significant challenges are:
- Forecasting for future expenses (32%). This is all about having a clear line of sight, identifying trends and using technology to offer and act on the next best action or option. Most of the technology out there is reactive – it is after the fact. The goal is to get a step ahead of it all. So instead of having a rear-view mirror, you have headlights that help you see the road ahead.
- Validating telecom invoice accuracy (26%). When you have millions of lines on thousands of bills and invoices, there are bound to be errors. It is important to get clarity and visibility into all of them. It’s also important not to set a limit on what to identify. An enterprise may decide it won’t investigate any errors under $10, but if it has $10 error on a million lines of invoices… that adds up to be a $10 million.
- Managing and maintaining an accurate telecom service inventory (26%). An accurate inventory is the foundation for everything else. You can’t begin to save and reduce costs if you don’t know what you have.
- Accurately charging back costs across the business (24%). IT departments are not there to fund technology for the enterprise. Therefore, they need a way to know who requested what technology, how they are using it, how much of it they are using – so they can charge it back to that department.
According to the IDC survey, two-thirds of U.S. enterprises anticipate investing more in mobility in the next 12 – 18 months while more than 40 percent cite the Internet of Things (IOT) and machine learning applications as technologies they expect use more in the next three years.
New technologies are entering the workforce whether companies want them or not. More organizations are embracing them because they don’t want to get caught on their heels as a lot did with mobile a decade or more ago. As more of these different types of technology enter the workforce, it makes the management of them, and their related expenses, much more complicated. To meet these challenges, a large majority of those surveyed by IDC reported that they are turning to Telecom Expense Management (TEM) solutions to meet their current and future technology management needs.
Most management systems today are built around specific technology types that are already deployed in the organization or are in plan for deployment. This reactive approach worked in the past because technology (mostly) came in through the IT department – and it was mostly used within the confines of the office. Now, times are different. And this change – as we all know and keep hearing – is accelerating.
Technology acquisition outside of IT continues to rise as does the use of it outside the office. Building management systems around a particular type of technology is too rigid for our new mobile work environment. IT management systems need to be fluid. They need to be set up in a way where the foundation and processes are built to accept the next new technology that we don’t even know about yesterday. The IT group can’t build this system alone.
Because today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology comes in from every department – all parties should be involved in the building of the new system with IT at the helm. Finance, Operations, Security, Legal, Sales and Marketing are the key influencers, and should all be a part of this new dynamic management build out.
The IDC survey found that 89% of global enterprises have adopted a formal TEM solution provided by a third party. This includes 67% that manage their telecom expenses internally with technology provided by a TEM provider and 21% that formally outsource their telecom expense management to a third-party solution provider. The three most important qualities in a TEM managed services provider, according to respondents, were the quality of services, the quality of technology and the cost of services.
Processes and practices like TEM are proving their value in the management of the resources that drive today’s remote workforce, and the productivity derived from these tools are shaping the future. Organizations can take a more proactive approach to newer technologies now by introducing more dynamic IT management systems that are not built around one type of technology – but are built around a process that can adapt to whatever new technology that might appear tomorrow.