Mobile expense management: How to measure mobile costs

Network managers can properly analyze the costs of remote and mobile workers with mobile expense management. Learn how in this tip.

Mobile expense management can aid wide area network (WAN) managers in analyzing costs of remote workers and road warriors. Learn these mobile expense management best practices in Part 3 of this tip series, or navigate the table of contents below to view previous articles:

Table of contents:
Part 1:
Mobility complicates telecom expense management (TEM)
Part 2: Mobile telecom expense management: Where to cut costs
Part 3: How to measure mobile expenses

Businesses that use telecom expense management (TEM) solutions for mobile expense management have three primary goals, according to a recent CIMI Corp. survey:

  • Ensure that the service plan and options associated with employees are optimal in terms of usage, both within and among providers;
  • Make sure that mobile service usage is consistent with company policies on personal use; and
  • Maximize overall return on investment (ROI) on mobile expenses by ensuring that worker productivity gains justify the overall cost.

At the heart of TEM analysis is expense/value correlation. Mobile expense management is the process of assessing mobile costs in terms of the value the company obtains from the expenses. This is essentially a correlation between the details of the mobile bills during a specific period of time and the mission the employees were fulfilling during the same period.

Some businesses like to prescreen mobile bills quickly to target or prioritize certain situations. This step is often a waste of time when looking at large numbers of employees. Uploading the bills and having the company's mobile-expense-management software or a cloud-based mobile-expense-management service prescreen bills is usually faster. If you're taking the prescreening route, here are some best practices for a quicker and more accurate analysis:

  • Look for unusual expenses. The first step in expense/value correlation is normally to look for unusual expenses, like download charges, video charges, insurance and even handset/device replacement in some cases. These can be quickly identified and set aside for review. Mobile-expense-management-savvy businesses say it is best to screen for everything before you start dealing with specifics. A relatively new but very important item to look for is charges for apps that might be made directly to the mobile account. In some cases, it may be difficult to know the mission of the app, and in those cases, some review with the employee(s) is in order.
     
  • Keep an eye out for high usage charges. After looking for unusual expenses, normally the next step is to review cases where usage charges are high. Often expense managers know which employees often run up considerable charges for legitimate purposes, and they accept a "normal" level of usage without querying the employees involved. It is important to note when there is a sudden increase in usage charges on a large number of bills, however. This may indicate that an operator has changed its pricing plan and may signal the need for the company to review the plans again.
     
  • Remember to review the small users. Most businesses then review the "bottom-rung" users, those with the smallest amounts of mobile usage. The goal with this group is to ensure that workers aren't on a plan that is more expensive than their actual usage justifies. About 15% of workers are found to be "over-equipped" in their plan's basic allotment of data, voice calls and SMS. For some companies, this may be more costly than large overage charges.

In some cases, a low bill may indicate that the mobile device isn't being used as expected. This could be an indication that the employee may not need the device at all, or that the worker needs to be instructed on how and when they are expected to use the device. Some companies report low mobile-data usage as an indicator that workers who expected to use mobile devices for company VPN access or email are not doing so, which may result in a productivity issue.

  • Comparable comparisons. The final step in reviewing mobile-expense-management data is often a comparing a worker's bill with those of peers who have comparable job requirements and would be expected to have comparable service usage and expense. Discrepancies can indicate either overuse of mobile communications, possibly for personal use, or underuse, which may suggest a need for training or a review of the employee's practices in order to obtain the productivity and performance gains that justified the decision for mobile use in the first place.

Utilizing cloud tools and applications for mobile-expense-management review

All of these reviews are facilitated by a cloud or application tool that allows a company to load billing information, access reports on employee usage and review expenses by type. It is also useful to be able to maintain (within the application, as a download, or in printed form) past billing analyses so comparisons can be made between the current and prior periods to spot trends and patterns.

Mobile communications is an increasingly large cost to businesses, particularly those that have many employees who travel regularly on company business or who may move among company facilities and lack a consistent workplace where they can be reached using the company phone system. Mobile computing is also a valuable tool, and good mobile-expense-management tools can insure that the value always justifies the cost.

View SearchMobileComputing.com’s mobile device management resources or SearchEnterpriseWAN.com’s telecom service resources for more information.

This was first published in April 2012

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