Recently I learned about Amtel, a company that combines mobile device management with telecom expense management (TEM). Sure there are plenty of companies that can do TEM, and we know that there are many companies with MDM capabilities, but what happens when you combine the two?
What is telecom expense management?
First, since I haven’t written about TEM before, I’ll delve into that a little bit. This is less technology related and more management related, but it’s nice to give closer consideration to areas that we may ordinarily just mention casually.
On of the biggest issues that TEM addresses is what the industry calls “zombie phones.” These are usually one of two things: an employee leaves, hands their phone into IT, and the account never gets shut off, or an employee leaves with their phone but the company’s still getting the bill. According to Richard Bliss, Amtel’s CMO, everyone’s always shocked by the amount of this that gets uncovered. Usually these things happen because the zombie phones get overlooked in the cracks between HR and IT and accounting, but the result is usually considerable savings
To do their magic, Amtel rectifies lists of current users and devices from IT and HR with lists of devices and users that the company is paying for. They have special ways of making this audit happen automatically, and from there they can hook into the carriers and shut off the extra lines. These audits can be automated and performed monthly. With their connections to telecom providers, they can do all sorts of other things like plan optimization, inventory, and contract negotiation.
When I spoke to Amtel, we didn’t go too deep into the specifics of their MDM solution, but it definitely has a wide ranging feature set on par with any other top-tier MDM provider. Their solution includes an agent app that lives on the phone, which serves to collect location information (more about that in a bit), provide an enterprise app store, and do some document syncing and management.
What happens when you combine TEM and MDM?
At the basic level, when you combine telecom expense management and mobile device management there are a lot more opportunities to control costs, through higher visibility and control over mobile devices. For example, it’s possible to know when a phone is roaming a long time before the bill comes, so through changes in the MDM configuration profile, you can turn off data-hungry features. Or because the TEM solution has an app on the phone, it can redirect expensive calls. In general, there’s simply a lot of information that can be collected in real time.
What about BYOD? The device management combined with expense management means that it’s a lot easier to parse out corporate usage for reimbursement. Sure, it’s possible to do this without MDM, but the extra visibility from the management brings more possibilities and the ability to make changes in real-time.
At first I wasn’t sure what to think of this solution. On the one hand, killing zombie phones doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with how devices are managed, or whether or not the devices are managed. And we’re talking about two different departments, IT and accounting, after all. Using the ROI from expense management to pay for MDM seemed a little weird to me.
The more I thought about it, however, the more logical it seemed from both angles. In a crowded MDM field, telecom expense management is a great value-add feature, especially if it can pay for the MDM. And approaching the issue from the telecom expense management angle, having MDM to extend the features of TEM to get more savings is a no brainer.
As more MDM vendors get consolidated, it’s likely that there will be more solutions offering the combination of MDM and telecom expense management. And for those that choose not to manage their devices, there’s still traditional TEM.