AOTMPs 11th Annual Fixed & Mobile Telecom Management Conference Tackled Tough Topics
Enterprises continue to struggle with age-old telecom/IT/mobility management issues even as their firms proceed with growth plans and face new challenges. At least for the moment, the most pressing problems remain the familiar ones:
- Obtaining and maintaining accurate inventory;
- Implementing TEM, and deciding how to do it – whether to use one vendor or create a custom approach with multiple platforms;
- Deciding between a BYOD and corporate-owned approach to mobile; and
- Fighting the perception that the fixed and wireline department is a cost center.
These areas, among others, cropped up over and over last week at the 11th annual AOTMP Fixed & Mobile Telecom Management Conference in Orlando. Indeed, that organizations have yet to overcome these obstacles is frustrating and, at the same time, proves that the telecom/IT/mobility management industry and profession is vital and necessary.
A Telecom Management Department Lives, Or Dies, By Inventory
Without an accurate inventory, how can a telecom/IT/mobility management department expect to have the right data to share with procurement, billing, executive and other groups? It can’t. This issue surfaced more than once throughout the 2017 AOTMP enterprise conference, underscoring that most organizations have yet to get a solid handle on the types and numbers of fixed and mobile assets for which they are responsible. “The core is always going to be inventory,” said Kim Warren, vice president of vendor program management for AOTMP, during the State of the Telecom Management Industry address.
Pinning down what an organization owns remains the challenge. Warren lauded the enterprises that are integrating business intelligence to help with this but, she added, “the core is what that content is – is it correct?”
Michelle Pappas, senior telecom analyst at Adobe, agreed. “Your TEM can only be as good as what you provide them,” she said in the “Enterprises and Vendors Face Off” general session. “So if there’s not a clean inventory, I have to take ownership of that. It’s not their failure, it’s ours.”
Many enterprises throughout the conference confessed to still relying on spreadsheets to track assets – even those that spend more than $100 million per year on telecom. Spreadsheets can work to a small extent, as long as the information goes into an inventory database, said Ashley Kelm, vice president of global enterprise services for AOTMP. However, they lack real-time updates and accountability, and are not guaranteed to be available outside of specific siloes – or even specific users. Therefore, relying on spreadsheets, rather than using TEM/WMM platforms, runs the risk of inventory staying inaccurate. This will form an erroneous foundation for every report issuing from the department.
Implementing TEM Not As Easy As It Sounds
To be sure, not every attendee at the conference was yet using an automated TEM/WMM solution. Several said they still rely just on spreadsheets to track assets as they decide whether to sign with a vendor. The answer seems obvious, particularly when comparing the capabilities of a real-time TEM platform to the static and siloed nature of a spreadsheet, but a number of enterprises remain on the fence. Concerns surround cost, even when peers emphasized to one another during the roundtables that using a TEM tends to pay for itself, and fear about industry consolidation.
To the first point, part of the problem goes back to organizations continuing to try to reduce expenses by looking to the telecom/IT/mobility department to carry out that mandate. This goes against the reality that the unit actually should and does contribute to an organization’s revenue results and customer satisfaction rates.
Indeed, the sooner executives understand that the telecom/IT/mobility management division, viewed through a more strategic lens, adds far more than it depletes, the sooner the enterprise overall will experience positive changes.
To the second point, as TEM providers have purchased one another over the years, integration has emerged as the top pain point for their customers. During the State of the Industry discussion, Kelm said she hears this often from her customers. “Mergers and acquisitions are fantastic but if there isn’t adequate integration activity, there’s no benefit to the enterprise,” she said. Speaking in the “Enterprises and Vendors Face Off” session, Voncia Molock, IT support ser-vice manager for Perdue Farms, agreed. “Behind that one name are 25 or 30 more companies,” she said. “It’s a given, you’re going to have billing issues.”
Take, for example, Tangoe. AOTMP’s research shows the company has rolled up almost 30 different cultures and solutions since it was founded 17 years ago. When Molock works with a vendor that’s buying other companies, she makes sure her department is involved in the integration process “from the beginning to the end.”
Both of these areas need to evolve, and they will as the people responsible for the telecom/IT/mobility management units, and as TEM/WMM vendors, abide by Efficiency First® Framework principles. Along those lines, enterprises expressed confusion about whether to:
- Use one TEM for fixed and another for wireless;
- Rely on several TEMs, fixed- and mobile-focused, in specific global regions as their companies expand;
- Opt for a full managed service or offer their own services such as help desk, or go with a hybrid;
- Sign a short- or long-term contract with a TEM vendor.
The answers to each question require individual assessment, much of which was performed during the conference. All of the issues are “complicated,” said Timothy C. Colwell, senior vice president of Efficiency First® adoption at AOTMP, and asking for guidance is important. The Never-Ending Question: BYOD or Corporate-Owned?
Another recurring topic during the AOTMP conference was that of deciding whether to go with a BYOD or corporate-owned mobile strategy, and how to implement policy either way. Live polling during the event showed 30 percent of enterprises do not allow BYOD. Another 40 percent of respondents said BYOD comprises 10 percent or less of their wireless strategy, while the remaining 30 percent said 11-20 percent of their strategy includes BYOD. These results squared with AOTMP’s research and therefore presented no surprise. Nonetheless, mobility is causing headaches for enterprises especially as it becomes more popular. As a result, telecom/IT/mobility departments have no choice but to solidify how they are going to handle wireless. Here’s a simple starting guideline from Kelm: “Enabling and supporting all devices is going to cost more,” she said. “BYOD may be the right move. If you’re going to restrict choice, that’s going to be easier to manage.”
To narrow down which way to go, start with policy, AOTMP experts emphasized throughout the week. Decide the following:
- Who may have which device;
- When or whether that person may upgrade as soon as the next iteration is released;
- How approvals are handled (requests often go to the wrong manager or to someone who has left the company);
- Whether to partition corporate apps on a BYOD phone or tablet; or
- Whether to buy and support only corporate-controlled devices.
In addition, keep track of who’s employed. This is critical, for inventory, policy and security reasons. Coordinate with HR, whether through the TEM platform itself or another reliable method, to maintain a weekly stream of information about who is coming on board and who has exited.
Make sure the organization’s policy reflects whether an employee gets to keep a device or whether the telecom / IT / mobility management department needs to retrieve and wipe it.
After all of that, know what to do with a device when it reaches end of life. Some enterprises choose to recycle, earning some money in return, while others send devices out for refurbishment. Still others do nothing, letting devices simply languish in a drawer. This, of course, is not a smart option, as the device still holds sensitive company information. Overall, remember, as Vince Cobb, director of CBI Telecommunications Consultants put it during the session on managing mobile and wireless programs, “Policy is only as good as it’s enforced.”
Killing the Cost Center Perception
Finally, enterprises lamented throughout the week that they continue to fight the perception that the fixed and wire-line management departments remain targets for controlling company costs. AOTMP hammered home the message that these units actually are key to improving top- and bottom-line results, but more organizations need to work on executive buy-in to that notion. This is not possible, however, if the telecom/IT/mobility management department does not stand out as a center of excellence. Indeed, more than half (54 percent) of enterprises said during live polling in the “Creating a Telecom Management Center of Excellence” general session that their practices do not qualify as a center of excellence. Achieving this status requires clear ownership of the department and knowing who is responsible for what, AOTMP’s Kelm said.
Regarding the former, 61 percent of enterprise respondents in the room said their telecom management practice does not have a clear owner accountable for all performance results. “If you don’t know who that leader is, that’s a challenge,” Kelm said. The latter ties back to policy for acceptable use, enablement and support mechanisms, AOTMP’s Colwell said. “It needs to be reviewed and dynamic,” he added. It seems organizations are doing better along these lines. A live poll revealed that 58 percent of enterprise attendees consider the policies governing their telecom environments as “somewhat mature.”
Paying attention to this kind of process will help create a center of excellence, Kelm and Colwell said. Documenting processes and workflows for the entire telecom management practice, and linking those practices to the business, is essential. “Prioritize what you’re go-ing to fix first,” Kelm advised, even while remaining on the lookout for new services and technologies to bring into the practice. And, Colwell said, allow everybody to innovate within the process.
Above all, the telecom/IT/mobility management department must own reporting and analysis of the data to determine actionable conclusions for executive, finance, procurement, business unit leaders, internal customers, telecom management and telecom/IT operations. “Use the data, explore it,” Colwell said. “Understand and uncover the elements and aspects to find out what you didn’t know yesterday or confirm what you thought was true.”
This all is critical if enterprises are going to convince executives that telecom/IT/mobility management is crucial to the organization’s success overall. Unfortunately, attendees said in live polling that their executives remain mostly unaware of this fact. That disconnect “surprises me,” Kelm said.
“How can a telecom management environment be productive if the executives aren’t buying in?” To help make that happen, institute performance measurements, service delivery financial models, strategy and business alignment in addition to the aforementioned advice. Performance measurements include KPIs and ratings on focus area, team performance, fixed and mobility efficiency, vendor performance, business impact and performance indices – assessments in which AOTMP specializes. “Understand your relationship between actions today and value to the business tomorrow,” Colwell said.
Establishing service delivery financial models includes different types of charge-backs. Strategy means aligning members of the telecom management team with the group itself and business objectives. And business alignment calls for committing to ongoing dialogue between the telecom/IT/mobility management department and the rest of the organization. “Be a business accelerator,” Colwell said.
— Kelly Teal, Editor-in-Chief, AOTMP Telecom Management Industry Update
This blog is part of the April 19, 2017 issue of Telecom Management Industry Update. Download a .pdf here.