A TEM vendor provides Telecommunications Expense Management – and, if done well, much more than that.
At its most basic, TEM tracks and monitors an organization’s spending on wireline assets and services – say, for instance, T1 circuits that deliver internet access over copper or fiber-optic phone lines, and the routers needed to distribute that connectivity to phone systems, laptops, desktop computers and more. Traditionally, the organization’s telecom management department has purchased this connectivity and its associated gear, entered expenses into a spreadsheet – perhaps keeping the information updated – and paid the bills.
The formal practice of vendor-led TEM started after the 1984 federal breakup of the Ma Bell monopoly. Like anything else nascent, TEM was at first rudimentary, focused just on bill auditing. As more carriers entered the landscape throughout years of deregulation, invoice errors grew in number and frequency. TEM providers understood that enterprises needed help managing telecom expenses, paying invoices, conducting dispute management, and recouping overcharges, all while working to reduce costs.
All this remains relevant, and yet TEM, on its own, has grown too narrow as enterprises have added mobility and information technology (cloud, SD-WAN, big data, internet of things, etc.) to their core operations. These days, TEM really ought to be considered Communications Lifecycle Management. With CLM, many of the practices of TEM stay intact, they simply expand to cover more domains. Think of it as the evolution of TEM.
Still, back to the original question: What is a TEM provider? A TEM vendor handles a range of telecom, mobility and IT activities, including:
Not all TEM vendors are equal, of course. Some only deliver software (often referred to as “software as a service” or SaaS), others provision a few of the above services or simply produce reports and leave the rest to the client, and still others provide them all on a fully managed basis. Each configuration has its merits, depending on the customer’s needs, budget, and staff.
There is one extremely important point to consider regardless of which configuration an enterprise chooses. Ideally, the TEM provider will offer a single platform that gives the customer visibility and control, even when the vendor is in charge of the work. This is critical. Due to tumultuous TEM mergers and acquisitions over the past decade or so, too many organizations have had to juggle different interfaces as their providers failed to integrate systems. The situation has created much frustration among enterprises, many of whom continue to look for a stable TEM vendor that will not subject them to upheaval.
What Should I Look for in A TEM Provider?
When it comes to selecting a TEM provider, enterprises would do well to make thorough checklists comparing vendors as they search for the right fit.
Small and mid-sized enterprises with revenues under $1 billion will find they have unique needs compared to their larger peers. Knowing that, here are some questions to ask when vetting a TEM provider:
- Does the vendor offer fully managed services as opposed to software as a service or piecemeal assistance?
- Does the vendor specialize not only in Communications Lifecycle Management, which includes mobility and information technology, but also up-to-the-minute cybersecurity and regulations compliance?
- Does the vendor provide U.S.-based, around-the-clock help desk support?
- Does the vendor do more than supply reports? In other words, does the vendor suggest and implement improvements and strategies for saving money in ways that contribute to the organization’s overall business goals?
These days, most organizations require advanced TEM that goes far beyond the basics. Basics are imperative but they are not enough anymore. That is because, while not obsolete, fixed-line services no longer consume the majority of a telecom management department’s attention. Mobility and information technology needs now take up more bandwidth, as it were. Telecom, wireless, and IT all are coming together, blurring the boundaries between one another. As a result, the definition of Telecom Expense Management is rightfully evolving into Communications Lifecycle Management. And quality, client-centric TEM vendors will follow suit.