Employees ring up telco costs

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto
Cape Town, 25 Nov 2010

Personal communications by employees are ringing up a total cost of about R5.9 billion for South African companies.

These organisations find that between 17% and 28% of their communications budgets are chewed up like this, says Unison Communications.

“When one considers that corporate spend for 2008 for fixed voice, mobile, LCR [least-cost routing], bulk SMS and Internet was believed to reach R34.8 billion, these cost implications take on a darker turn,” says Craig Young, group MD of Unison Communications.

Young says the R5.9 billion total is based on Unison Communications' calculations.

According to Young, the research was gathered through nearly 30 years of data from top companies in the country via its Galactrix telecoms billing system, and then analysed using its business intelligence software.

Unison acknowledges the fact that some private communication is necessary at work. It says experience has shown that companies believe 17% of their total communications spend is acceptable.

“Our methodologies give us a guarantee our data is accurate, and when you look at the overall financial burden this is costing SA, one needs to take stock.”

Young adds that the findings show that more than half of the staff contingent of a company typically contributes to the 17% spend, which further highlights a lack of productivity within business.

“Companies need to be aware of how much time is wasted through abusive usage. During the course of our research, it is not uncommon to find employees who spend on average 40 minutes of every hour worked on private calls,” Young says.

Heidi Gouws, national sales manager for The DataRoom, says determining the exact cost of telecommunications abuse by employees is extremely difficult.

“Everyone wants an exact number. But a lot depends on the individual company's call patterns, culture and policies, and how they implement them.”

Gouws says some companies are prepared to absorb the cost of employee calls while others want an exact breakdown, but even this is difficult to implement.

“If an employee has to work late and then decides to phone home to check on the children, what does the employer do? [The calls] can be for very legitimate reasons,” she notes.

Gouws also says the determination of abuse can relate directly to the type of package a company has purchased from a telecommunications operator, as these come with various terms and conditions.

“A lot is about education of employers and employees, and ensuring policies are properly implemented,” she points out.

Young advises that companies need to include mobile billing information along with other communication information into a centralised pool.

Gouws says another factor in the mix is the advent of number portability, which shows a number that should be associated with one network, but is receiving a higher charge, because it is being terminated on another.