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Cellular bill management: Getting policies under control

In part 2 of this series, Daniel Taylor takes policy control a step further and explores techniques for "wrestling" the proverbial alligator and focuses on using a combination of strength and finesse on what is often considered a personal business decision.

Wrestling the alligator
There are two ways to wrestle an alligator. The first is to beat it senseless, and the second is to use a combination of strength and finesse to overcome the animal. Alligators have prehistoric, pea-sized brains, and beating rarely works. Most successful opponents are unafraid to get wet, jumping into the water and using their skill and strength to defeat the reptile.

In the enterprise, cellular telephony is much like the proverbial alligator – it's strong, it has a lot of inertia, and it will bite anyone who casually tries to wrestle it into submission.

In Part I of this series, we talked about the ways in which telecom managers can set focused and attainable objectives for getting corporate cellular purchasing under control. This is important because the underlying policy -- defining how cellular telephony is purchased – is the thing that really needs to be fixed. This second part focuses on the combination of strength and finesse that are required to get cellular policies under control.

An indirect approach
As with the alligator, we know that sometimes the best approach is an indirect one. We also know that it's really hard to take something away from people. When it comes to cellular, it's clear that it's going to be hard to take purchasing and decision-making responsibilities from workers. People spend a lot of time using their mobile telephones, and the purchase of a phone for work is a very personal decision.

And the strategy we've already proposed is one that focuses on creating a set of policies to simplify the ways in which IT manages cellular. The way we do this is to focus our internal efforts on improving the basics of billing, audit and accounting. As we use these objectives as a way to communicate with our superiors, we should remember that we'll be packaging these objectives in a very different manner.

It's all about service
In contrast to the internal objectives such as electronic billing, audit and accounting, any change in cellular purchasing policies should be focused on the ways in which IT will improve service quality for internal customers.

One way to think about this is to consider consolidating minute "pooling," which has several benefits for end users. From an IT perspective, this is a home run, because it puts the purchasing within the purview of a manager who's focused on getting a good deal and consolidating a group of workers onto a single plan. For end users, there are quite a few benefits. The first is the elimination of the monthly bill, the expense report and the time spent waiting for reimbursement. Let's not forget that most users don't want to deal with bill backs, so having the bill go to someone else is a benefit. With pooled minutes comes the elimination of overage charges for users going over their monthly limits. So the user doesn't have to worry about how many minutes he has used this month.

Having an IT manager in charge of cellular plans, purchasing and billing helps to improve service for end users.

One voicemail
In that vein, IT is in a position to help develop new services and to figure out ways to incorporate cellular technologies into existing infrastructure. One such example is the idea of a single voicemail platform for workers. Instead of having a desktop telephone and a cellular telephone that feed into separate voicemail systems, it is possible to integrate everything into one voice mailbox.

Just like that cellular bill that a worker has to expense, having two voice mailboxes is inconvenient. If the telecom department can simplify things, then there's another benefit to pass along to the end user.

Bridging benefits
This approach is more than simply a matter of packaging a new set of policies for cellular. The focused internal objectives for billing, audit and accounting have a direct effect on the types of services that an IT or telecom department can provide to end users. These are the same people who use their cell phones because it's easy. Making cellular easier, more convenient and better is a win-win situation.

The best way to wrestle an alligator is to be able to anticipate his next move. That's exactly what has to happen when IT departments focus on managing their growing bills for cellular telephony. By setting a series of internal objectives that bring telecom managers closer to end users, it becomes easier for IT to identify user pain points and to anticipate the next generation of services that users will demand.

Daniel Taylor
About the author: Daniel Taylor is managing director for the Mobile Enterprise Alliance Inc. (MEA), and he is responsible for global alliance development, programs, marketing and member relations. He brings over fourteen years of high technology experience and is well known as a subject matter expert on many of the aspects of mobility, including wireless data networking, security, enterprise applications and communications services. Prior to the MEA, Dan held a number of product marketing and development positions in the communications industry.

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