You know channel partners are looking for opportunities to upsell their clients and expand their base by establishing new relationships. What you may not know or fully appreciate is that in channel partners’ drive to sell more network services amidst changing company environments, enterprise telecom inventories have gotten out of control. What does this mean to channel partners? It’s this: If clients do not know what they have, where it is or what they are paying, they cannot make good decisions about what they need. Channel partners willing to first help clients understand what they have will be the first to sell their network services.
The tool customers need to manage telecom service and cost is an inventory. The inventory aggregates telecom data into a usable format so a customer can understand what services they have, where those services are located and how much those services cost.
So, where do most customers source information for their inventories?
Their main source of telecom data is service provider invoices. The reason invoices are the first source of information is they directly correlate to the amount of money spent on telecom services, and the organization’s management team often evaluates the cost of services before the services themselves are evaluated.
The fallacy with using invoices as the sole source of information to populate an inventory is they may contain errors. While invoices represent the amount of money spent on telecom, the accuracy of the charges and the services listed are suspect. Tactical decisions about telecom services require the insight available only with line-level service detail and itemized cost.
Since service provider invoices provide varied levels of service detail and itemized cost, additional supporting documentation must be assembled and reviewed. The best practice for building and maintaining an accurate telecom inventory requires relevant service and cost information to be sourced from invoices, customer service records (CSR), circuit catalogs, toll free ring-to catalogs, contracts, tariffs and service guides.
While LEC service provider invoices offer limited service detail, CSRs provide necessary details about local services and their configuration.
CSRs detail all service component configurations, component level costs and ancillary costs, such as taxes, surcharges and service fees. Each service cost component contributes to the overall cost of the service and to the telecom budget.
CSRs provide the necessary level of detail to complete an inventory for LEC-based services, but details about IXC services also are required.
Circuits and toll-free services from IXCs have multiple service configurations and itemized cost components that contribute to the inventory baseline. Information from service-provider circuit catalogs and toll-free ring-to catalogs can be used to complete an inventory, as they provide necessary details about these services. All circuits have configuration details affecting their technical performance and price structure. Dedicated voice T1s, ISDN PRIs, frame relay circuits and Internet access pipes each may have access, mileage, muxing, coordination, port and management configuration components contributing to cost.
Toll-free voice numbers have service features with individual cost components, such as number charges, routing configurations and advanced management options that require capture in the inventory.
Understanding of the service configuration and cost of all circuits and toll-free services contributes to the inventory baseline used to make sound management decisions.
Contracts, tariffs and service guides also are integral to the service and cost telecom inventory. These administrative documents provide details about the services available and their stated costs. Knowing what contracts exist and what addenda or attachments are associated with each contract is just as important as knowing what services exist, as the contacts bind financial commitments between a customer and their service providers.
Telecom management ultimately boils down to budget management. When contract terms and conditions are included in the inventory, audits can be performed against invoices, services and costs to determine invoice accuracy. This addition to the inventory allows telecom management to become a proactive function that includes budget protection. Protecting the budget is as important as knowing the budget numbers.
Once the inventory is developed, maintenance becomes the primary focus. MAC (moves/adds/changes) management must be interlinked with the baseline inventory to track service changes and individual cost component changes. By incorporating change management into the telecom inventory management best practice, the inventory then becomes a dynamic tool representing the operational and financial aspects of the entire environment.
Budget management, budget forecasting and perpetual needs assessment can be performed efficiently if customers understand what services they have, where those services are located and how much those services cost. As customers focus on these telecom management activities, a complete inventory of services and cost becomes the definitive baseline for all operational and financial decisions.
Timothy C. Colwell is director of knowledge operations for TeleManage Training Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TeleManage Training Inc. www.telemanagetraining.com