TEM Provides Key to Long-Term Clients, Prosperity in Converged World

If you are relying on your inside relationships to keep you in good stead with your clients while delivering commodity network services, your preferred vendor status could be in jeopardy. Telecom expense and facilities management services can help you prove your value every day, and thats what panel participants will discuss today during the Counting on Telecom Expense Management session.

Solutions providers across the country are changing their business models to incorporate telecom expense and asset management. One driver is the altered nature of telecom customers are wary of straight sales approaches and need more than just lower rates on long-distance to sign on and stay with a communications vendor.

Telecom expense and asset management describes the process of analyzing and tracking telecom-related spending and facilities to help clients optimize network spending and save money.

An expert panel led by author and consultant Missy Sue Mastel, CPA, will discuss how to incorporate telecom expense and asset management into a successful solutions-oriented sale.

Mastel, president of Mass-Tel Communications, is author of Telecom Audit, and has saved her clients millions of dollars in operational costs. She is joined on the panel by Jeffrey L. Burke, executive vice president for PAETEC Communications Inc. where he oversees the companys PINNACLE business unit, which is focused on selling customer asset management solutions. Dana Topping, president of Resource Communications, which recently merged with Intelisys Communications, also shares his experience serving high-end customers using its proprietary CommADVISOR telecom facilities management toolset. Finally, Scott Levy, director of channel sales for Telecom Solution Center Inc., will share his approach to telecom expense management, a term he considers a misnomer because it causes people to focus too heavily on invoice management, which is only a small part of TEM, he says.

As she leads the panel, Mastel hopes to imbue solutions providers with the understanding that telecom expense management is about control and information, not necessarily savings or refunds. Offering TEM services allows partners to help clients match current

services with better pricing and symbiotic technology offerings, she says.

Likewise, Topping notes traditional TEM products the kind that provide audit fnctions only after telecom services have been billed and paid for are no longer adequate for savvy customers. Large telecom users want in-cycle applications that provide them with real-time, on-demand information to manage billing and inventory issues with maximum efficiency, he says. They also want applications that are fully automated so that the application itself is doing the heavy lifting so they dont have to.

Burke adds that an automated TEM system helps customers with issues that extend beyond expense management. Corporate compliance with federal laws is sometimes challenging, he says. Automating TEM can ensure asset-tracking controls for Sarbanes-Oxley and E911 support especially for IP phones. Service levels can also be improved by providing faster turnaround through better management of work order and trouble ticket queues.

For solutions providers and their clients alike, understanding and taking advantage of TEM leads to larger customers, longer-term relationships and countless upsell opportunities, Levy says. Offering TEM also means partners are acting as consultants, which creates far greater dollars generated with the same client than ever before and a much longer relationship, Levy says.

Burke concurs. TEM, he says, provides high-value services to customers and means recurring revenue for channel partners. Wireless is the fastest-growing expense for telecom managers, yet it is largely unmanaged, he explains. We are in the midst of an industry-transforming technology transition to IP. There is a general lack of systems and processes in place to manage the customers environment; and lastly, there is the attrition of the customers telecom employees. All of these items spell opportunity for the channel partner.

The challenge, Topping adds, is to develop and communicate a unique vision for each customer or prospect, a vision that helps to set the channel partner apart from all other service providers by eliminating their customers pain. Another challenge Burke points

out is to find a software vendor that provides the flexibility needed to offer TEM services. Such flexibility allows solutions providers and their customers to decide whether to operate the software behind the clients firewall, or to roll it out as a managed service, he says.

Look for your software vendor to support you with the software and the infrastructure and you can utilize the software to provide the TEM service, he advises.

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