Be honest: when was the last time you tried to do something about your telecom expenses? Although telecom costs are anything but cheap, these expenses are typically one of the most neglected segments of a company’s IT budget. Many CIOs look at these hefty line items as necessary evils, driven by an increased appetite for bandwidth and access. And, let’s face it, who wants to kick back after a long day and curl up with a copy of your various telecom providers’ contracts?
This is not to say that CIOs don’t think about telecom at all. Every day, they have to address three big issues: availability, expansion of capability (often hampered by the company’s physical layout) and the unit cost of services provided. The problem is, how those issues are prioritized often plays out like the old game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in which the most pressing issue of the moment trumps the other. Over and over again.
So, how can a corporate leader get ahead in the game of telecom and ultimately win—lowering costs without sacrificing bandwidth and accessibility? How can he or she transform telecommunications from a giant pain into an elastic, efficient enabler that adjusts to the needs of the business?
Start with my simple three-step program:
1. Build a Strategy
I know we all want to meet with our telecom providers and learn all about the latest service offerings. But, before you even think of accepting that meeting invite, invest the time and resources to create a clear telecom strategy. I’m not talking about a few notes scratched on the back of a napkin but a real plan that makes your network one with your other strategies; integrates telecom into your business objectives, and enables you to take advantage of the latest technologies as they become available.
Just as important, identify how much you’re willing to invest to get to the end game. Ask yourself:
- How much control do I want over my network?
- Am I willing to spend capital to drive change?
- What is my timeline for getting from where we are today to the future state?
2. Be a Leader
Spend some time looking at the market. Evaluate carriers, the software tools available for managing telecom expense, as well as the providers who can do it for you. Know your options, look at the pros and cons; and identify the tools and partners who can become your agents of change.
I’ll add one caveat: Be careful of trying to do it all yourself or you run the risk of turning your “march to the future state” into giant science project. Your goal is to remain the visionary program leader you are, not digress into a shark-swimming, death-defying IT scientist who goes mad from trying to do too much.
3. Get Help
Building the telecom strategy of the future—one that enables the network to drive the business—is something few leaders or internal teams can accomplish alone. No doubt your suppliers are ready and willing to offer help and free advice—because they want to sell you software or carrier services down the road. These parties are as interested in shaping your decision as the Greeks were in entering the city of Troy. Any plan built, all or in part, by an interested seller is going to be biased to the assault and capture of your account. Except in this case, the Trojan Horse may well arrive in the form of an electronic document with a list of “recommended next steps.”
The best choice? Work with an independent consultant who is being paid to develop a viable, measurable telecom strategy with you—someone with no affiliation with any of the many suppliers vying for your attention. Yes, this does cost money. But, going a different route could cost you a lot more later on.
So the choice is yours. Start putting your telecom expenses front and center. Make a plan. And, consider hiring someone who can help you develop a strategy with your best interests in mind.
And if you do choose get your advice solely from a trusted carrier or software provider, you might want to start sleeping with one eye open. Otherwise, you could end up like the people of Troy, waking up from a nice slumber to find the carrier or software company “owning your account” because of the flawed decision to not pay for a bit of help from a consultant.