Controlling mobile costs has been an age old quest. Business models have been developed around better carrier account optimizations. Companies have spent millions building software that will offer detailed analysis of carrier bills and provide change recommendations. However, the industry has changed and I contend that this reactive approach to managing and controlling mobile spend is a dinosaur.
What has changed, you may ask?
First of all, the carriers have simplified rate plans and they are not as challenging to manage as they once were. There was a time when it required either a lot of time or some fancy software to comb through a carrier bill and identify opportunities for savings. Those were the days of pooled voice plans, separate text plans, and separate data plans with potentially a pool of data to manage. It was commonplace to find differing plan types within one bill. Also, procurement controls were lacking resulting in inaccurate plan and feature adds/changes. There was a lot of opportunity for error and bill management was challenging.
Today, nearly all plans include unlimited talk and text, and each line only has one plan eliminating the text and data plans. Nearly all plans include a pool of data to manage across the account. This is a much simpler environment from the bills of old. So, with these simpler environments, the companies that specialize in reporting and optimizations are finding it far more challenging to demonstrate a positive ROI than they did 10 years ago.
Secondly, customers are demanding faster, more accurate data. The days of waiting for the bill to show up, combing through it to identify savings opportunities, issuing plan changes to the carrier, and waiting for the next bill to see if you were successful, are over. A more modern approach that is developing today is obtaining usage data from the carriers before the bill arrives. The ability to analyze and react to that data allows organizations the opportunity to make changes in advance of the bill. Since most carriers, and all major carriers, allow you to back date changes to the beginning of the month, it is possible to turn back time and impact the bill that is days away from arriving. This more proactive approach to optimization allows companies to save money now rather than waiting one or two months until that savings is realized. Those two additional months of savings is real money that organizations using prehistoric solutions will never get back.
Finally, new technology is making it much easier to improve organizational visibility into mobile spend. This visibility can include usage data such as how much data each user consumed the previous month or has consumed to date this month. It can also include cost information allowing users to see how much their specific mobile usage cost their organization. The thought that employee usage is being watched always has an impact on usage and behavior.
So, why hasn't this been a priority until now?
If you think about the types of usage we have managed in the past, it contained relatively low risk. It is fairly difficult to consume enough minutes or text messages to result in a huge bill spike. Data usage is not so mundane. A weekend binge of Game of Thrones can wreck an entire company's data pool. Plus, the risk associated with international usage can be disastrous for a mobile budget. This increased risk has resulted in a demand for faster data, and tools to quickly react to challenging situations. Some tools include the ability to automatically warn users when they come close to exceeding the company mobile policy provided data. This mid- month reaction can result in huge savings for companies and dramatically reduce the risk of bill spike.
Another reason that data usage is so risky is that we are seeing dramatic spikes in overall usage. We have seen a 20% increase over the past 5 months with some companies seeing a far greater increase.
What are the companies doing that have been more successful at controlling data usage? First, they are implementing policies around data usage. It is common to see a 3 GB data allowance per user. Second, they have implemented tools that offer visibility and alerting mechanisms to notify users when they are approaching the company's policy on data use or have exceeded it. Third, they are utilizing a more realistic cost allocation solution that illustrates a more accurate representation of what each user actually costs the organization. When cost center owners see the impact of a rogue user to their budget, behavioral change tends to take place.
In closing, times are definitely changing. Changes in carrier rate plans combined with changes in user behaviors are creating a new set of challenges for organizations. Staying ahead of these new challenges will have a huge impact on the budgets of most organizations.
Written by: Brandon Hampton, Director of Mobile Spend