What the industry refers to now as Technology Expense Management (TEM) describes the various systems put in place by companies to proactively manage and control new expenses in the tech era.
Over time, TEM gradually replaced an older categorization, telecom expense management. It provides a broader umbrella term for multiple new tools and technologies such as machine to machine (M2M), unified communications and collaboration (UCC), and the cloud. These developments created the need for more wide-ranging forms of management.
Today we’ll look deeper into TEM, how it evolved, and how businesses can use it to their advantage.
In the past, the concept of planning and budgeting around technology expenses was not as heavily emphasized as it is today; the costs were a lot more straightforward and it was rare to encounter services that involved monthly fees, pay-per-use, or several tiers of charges.
However, today’s environment has changed attitudes towards budgeting. Companies are making more of an effort to track technology expenses as this helps to guide investment decisions and keeps their operational costs under control.
Telecoms was the first type of communications technology that called for tracking, mainly due to its different cost structures and increasingly widespread adoption across all industry sectors. Technology is in a constant state of flux, and TEM is changing with it, forcing the market to adapt quickly to modernization.
Being aware of the background to TEM helps businesses understand why old methods like spreadsheets are so out-of-date.
What exactly is TEM?
Confusingly, ITEM (IT expense management) is sometimes used as a synonym for TEM. Whichever term you prefer, industry bodies like ETMA (the Enterprise Technology Management Association) consider technology expense management to cover roughly 10 areas, including the following:
- Inventory management and change control
- Procurement and fulfillment
- Invoice management
- Expense management, also covering validation and optimization
- Usage management and chargeback
- Bill payment
- Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
- Business Intelligence (BI)
TEM addresses all 10 areas, bringing huge business value and a real difference to ROI.
When Did the Transformation Begin?
Starting in around 1984, following the demise of Ma Bell, advancing trends in the telecoms industry caused organizations to review their billing systems. Inaccurate charges allowed aggrieved customers to claw back substantial refunds, and bill auditors pounced on the opportunity.
At first, organizations were lumbered with time-consuming manual processes. It was common practice for telecom providers to simply hire new personnel and task them with monitoring and rectifying overcharging and invoicing errors. Mistakes were common. Telecom bill audit software was still in its infancy.
A continued flurry of new services, operators, and vendors bombarded the industry, making it impossible to manage assets in the traditional way.
The situation was compounded in 1996 when the federal government relaxed some of the regulatory burdens on telecom providers. New phone companies appeared on the scene in the form of local exchange providers, resellers, and aggregators. With new laws and technology breakthroughs coming thick and fast, bill audit specialists knew they needed a different approach to keep pace. They would need to offer managed services. Outsourced telecom expense management looked to be the way forward.
From 2006 the industry saw a wave of mergers and acquisitions. Contractual changes, unreliable support, and shaky integrations brought chaos to customers. Account managers would change from one week to the next. The emergence of smartphones, wireless, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), and unified communications, has confused matters further. Through all those changes, TEM moved with the times.
What Makes a Standout TEM Solution?
A good TEM solution will help you in three key areas: saving money, saving time, and precision inventory management. It will track wireless, wireline, data, voice, IT, and UCC inventory as well as loading, processing, and validation of invoices. It will offer help desk and client support, help you to manage vendors and contracts, and identify potential savings. Above all, TEM is an extension of your business, as it helps you understand and optimize your technology environment, from usage to spend.
The Future of TEM
CFOs, CIOs, AP teams, travel managers, business travelers, and many others expect usability, long-term value, and future-ready solutions at enterprise-scale. They need technology that integrates seamlessly with their existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. A bespoke ERP system can make that sort of integration more complicated, of course.
The good news here is that TEM technologies just keep on improving — and this perpetual innovation shows no signs of slowing. Many current solutions support dozens of languages and nearly every currency. More advanced systems provide deep international tax, VAT, and per diem features, as well as 24-hour multilingual support. They are highly scalable, allowing you to add and remove capabilities depending on your exact requirements.
Mobile TEM solutions offer a real-time inventory of devices. Employees benefit from improved self-service, and it is even possible to automate or outsource your mobility help desk functions, thereby lowering service costs further. Expect to see more innovations in this area.
Experience the Difference
Gartner and Forrester have emphasized telecom spend (across fixed and mobile voice and data) as one of the biggest non-payroll cost centers. If a TEM project brings 20 percent or more in cost savings, we’re talking substantial sums.
Symplicity can help you implement advanced TEM software as part of a wider, future-focused IT strategy. We work with providers that have a detailed roadmap for the medium and long-term and are equipped to move with the changing technology landscape.