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Managing the mobile sprawl: Voice challenges

Exploring what companies should be looking for when it comes to effective tools to get the best results from their mobile voice spend.
Read time 4min 50sec

Africa is often called the mobile continent, and with good reason.

Individuals and businesses see mobile as a way to overcome the lack of fixed-line infrastructure and leapfrog directly into the 21st Century.

However, the ease with which mobile can be purchased and adopted has created something of a headache for companies: How do they manage the proliferating number of mobile devices and contracts to ensure employees are provided with the mobile capability they need to do their jobs effectively but not waste money?

It’s worth taking a step back to consider what is at stake here. For example, imagine a company with 100 employees who are using mobiles in the course of their work. If they are using on average R1 000 per month each, we are talking about R100 000 a month or R1.2 million a year.

Although the profile of corporate mobile usage is rapidly shifting towards data, voice remains a critical part of the mobile value proposition.

Understanding the nature of the challenges relating to voice will also prove helpful in scoping the challenges relating to data, the topic of my second Industry Insight.

Although the profile of corporate mobile usage is rapidly shifting towards data, voice remains a critical part of the mobile value proposition.

The following challenges are evident when it comes to managing corporate spend on voice contracts:

  • Reactive management: This remains a fundamental problem affecting all attempts to manage mobile. At present, management actions are, for the most part, prompted by an invoice – there needs to be some way of monitoring costs in near-real-time in order to take timeous corrective action.
  • Proliferation of providers and SIMs: Obtaining an overarching view of the company’s total mobile landscape is important in order to manage it properly, and to assess whether contracts are optimal.
  • Lack of reporting and insight tools: Typically, corporate managers rely on tools offered by some of the carriers, but in truth these are not properly designed to help clients genuinely assess their position – and, of course, they only provide a partial view. In addition, one should be wary about relying on the fox to manage the henhouse!
  • Lack of business intelligence/analytic capability: Aggregating data relating to usage and costs is difficult, which means companies are starved of real business intelligence about their often-considerable mobile spend. What are the costs associated with each individual and device? Who is subscribed to premium services? Which tariffs are being used (or not used) for each individual and are they being billed accordingly? Who is roaming and what is it costing? Who are the big users and is their usage justified by their job description? (The 80:20 rule usually applies, with 20% of users accounting for 80% of costs.) If you can’t answer all of these questions easily and accurately, it’s highly likely you are paying more than you should be.
  • Inability to set and enforce policies, and allocate costs: Policies that govern how employees use mobile, and what mobile benefits attach to each job, are crucial in providing a sustainable management framework. To do this effectively and ensure accountability and budget adherence, a highly granular view that matches employees, job descriptions, cell numbers and SIMs is needed, linked to the organisational organogram. Such a policy framework would enable alerts for each policy category to be set, so that deviations are immediately flagged and remedial action can be taken.

Allocating costs to the correct budgets is critical for proper governance, and particularly important as IT departments position themselves as service providers/value creators, rather than cost centres.

  • Inaccurate budgeting: Mobile expenses already represent a sizable budget item, one that is growing year-on-year. It is virtually impossible to budget accurately if the current and past spend is not able to be quantified at a granular level.
  • Enforcing commercial compliance: Telcos typically have cumbersome, user-unfriendly billing. It is virtually impossible to analyse effectively at scale, making it hard to confirm that each mobile user is being billed at the correct rate and for the correct service.
  • Zero billing: A common practice among corporates is to collect unused SIMs (for example, when somebody leaves the company), which attract recurring costs. It’s thus important to have a way of identifying and assigning unused SIMs as new users join the company.
  • Pooled voice minutes and voice data: Enterprises are commonly offered this option by telcos, but it can be hard to assess whether it in fact offers value for money in each case, as each company has its unique operations and users. Again, the issue is obtaining information that is sufficiently granular to enable proper analysis. Without analysis, it is not possible to ascertain whether the pooled option is working or whether it is being abused by staff.
  • Overcommitted managers: The golden thread running through most of these points is the need to provide greater transparency across the mobile estate in order to allow costs to be managed effectively and easily. The key word here is “easily” because this is likely to represent additional work for already overstretched managers. Reports that are designed for the company’s needs are crucial, and if they are automated, so much the better.

Next time, a look at some of the challenges relating to growing data consumption in business. 

Neil Buckley
MD, Apex BI.

Buckley completed his studies in software support and PC engineering in 1999. He later went on to enhance his knowledge and skill through courses at the Harvard School of Business plus other institutions in the US. He has two decades of experience in an ICT career that has seen him appointed to senior management positions across various functional lines of business, including enterprise, SME, partner and retail channels. In 2007, he founded Apex BI. In the 12 years since inception, the company has attracted market share and has become a major player in the technology expense management sector. Apex BI is the only African company to be a member of the Enterprise Technology Management Association.

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