Managed Mobility Services vs. Telecom Expense Management. What’s the Difference?

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Lifecycle Management

The short answer to this question can be summed up with one word: scope. Managed mobility services (MMS) are focused primarily on managing an enterprise’s communications operational needs and associated expenses for mobility services.

Telecom Expense Management TEM has a more comprehensive expense management focus on traditional telecommunications services, which were, historically, less focused on mobility services, which we’ll address further below.

It’s also important to realize that both these services are not mutually exclusive. Many larger enterprises smartly utilize both services, with MMS simply falling under the more generic umbrella of TEM. 

Telecom Expense Management

Traditional TEM has a focus on managing all an enterprise’s communications network services and expenses along with other vendor expenses (e.g., utilities and waste management are also common nowadays), with an expense management bias toward driving savings first and foremost. 

Operations and support matters are important as well (e.g., time savings via automation) but there has historically been a strong push for more immediate savings with traditional TEM programs.  

TEM Platform 

A strong TEM program provided by a third-party TEM provider will utilize a powerful technology platform designed specifically to house large amounts of vendor data. The platform will have the capabilities to parse this data appropriately for audit and optimization analyses and possess highly flexible configuration capabilities to conform to an enterprise’s unique needs (e.g., automation and flagging functionality).  

The platform will also have a powerful system dashboard and reporting functionality for visibility in expense management decisions. 

Each TEM provider will have its own listing of services that may differ slightly in name, but there are basic service areas that any strong TEM program will offer:

1. Inventory management

This is an extremely important functional area that is focused on comprehensive and proactive management for all an enterprise’s communications network services/plans, expenses, and assets (e.g., fixed phone services or devices and tablets for mobility).

At Tellennium, we can’t stress the importance of strong inventory management enough. It’s the bedrock of all top TEM and MMS programs. You need comprehensive and accurate data to make sound expense management choices. The TEM programs with the best data will position themselves best for success.

Not all inventories built and maintained by TEM providers are created equal, so you will want to pay special attention to this in your vendor discovery process when evaluating TEM providers. 

2. Invoice management

This is one of the key block-and-tackle service areas but it’s important that this is done well for an enterprise to properly manage its communications network operations and expenses. This process focuses on processing and paying all vendor invoicing accurately and timely to avoid overpayments or late payment fees.

A well-run process will be highly automated and leverage industry best practices relative to performing system-generated audits, executing cost allocations across business units, and assisting in managing vendor disputes to secure the greatest savings possible for the enterprise.  

3. Usage management

This functional area is focused on properly managing an organization’s telecommunications usage, the goal being to minimize any potential underutilization issues (e.g., Minimum commitment penalties) or overutilization issues (e.g., possible fraud for excessive international calls that violate usage policies).

Moreover, the analysis of usage can help expense management organizations develop the best strategies for optimizing service use across carriers and among service plan offerings.  

4. Audit, optimization & dispute management

A strong TEM provider will also provide deeper dive analyses for both audit and optimization reviews. This would be in addition to automated system-variance audits or other system-generated checks performed in other support areas such as invoice processing. 

A competent TEM will possess highly skilled subject-matter experts that will deeply dive into verifying contracted billed rates, analyzing usage patterns, evaluating questionable charges, and will simply work to ensure that the organization is not paying more than needed to vendors. 

While the audit is the reactive side of the analytical coin, a strong TEM will also provide proactive optimization support. Optimization analyses will help inform expense management leadership of possible changes that can be made to drive greater savings forward for the organization. 

For example, certain questions will be asked: 

  • Should we renew services with a certain vendor for services nearing the end of its contract term? Could we get them cheaper with another carrier(s)? 
  • Are these still the right services for our user base? Perhaps we can shift to similar cheaper services that will still serve our needs at lower costs. 
  • Do we have our services under the right plan for the service plans offered?  

A strong TEM provider will be able to drive material savings via optimization analyses, especially if they have a deep bench of experienced subject-matter experts performing the analyses. 

The TEM provider will also work to support securing and realizing identified savings via dispute management activities for your expense management organization. 

5. Help desk

When users experience issues or have questions regarding their company communications services – phones or other services – they will often need the support of a technical team that can expedite resolution.

Support can manifest itself in many different areas such as technical troubleshooting, service request support, user support for functionality questions, etc.

A competent TEM provider will offer help desk services. 

6. Contract management

This is another important TEM area that a reputable TEM provider can assist with. This area requires deep industry domain knowledge and guidance from skilled subject matter experts. A highly experienced sourcing and contract management team can help your team procure the most competitive contracts from telecom carriers with the best rates for services.

This done well may be the single greatest support move for positioning a TEM program to be operationally and financially viable throughout its full TEM lifecycle.

Getting things done right on the TEM program front end will minimize many issues that can metastasize into much bigger problems down the line (e.g., services not properly aligned to user needs or poorly negotiated rates that will need renegotiation in the future).

Managed Mobility Services

MMS has a focus on managing mobility services and their associated expenses, with a bias toward managing mobility devices in a high-touch manner to focus on all enterprise technical, operational, and support needs.

TEM and MMS are alike in their desire to utilize the right services at the right costs for their organization. Traditional TEM can simply be conceived as the more general of the two terms. MMS focuses more specifically on managing and optimizing mobility services, their associated expenses, and device use.

Let’s review these common support areas with more of a managed mobility services focus:

1. Inventory management for MMS

Inventory management is equally important here. It’s concerned with all the same important expense management concerns.

Powerful visibility into all your organization’s mobile assets and expenses empowers your organization to make the right operational and expense management decisions throughout the full mobility lifecycle.

A powerful and highly configurable technology platform with the ability to house and parse all mobility data efficiently is necessary for strong centralized management. This is needed for any effective TEM/MMS program, and this includes building and maintaining an effective inventory.

An accurate and comprehensive inventory assists with important mobile support activities such as asset tracking, which is critical in always monitoring the location and status of all devices.

And knowing this will help in all other potential mobile support activities, whether they be focused on device replacement efforts, procurement activities, repairs, software upgrades/updates, audit/optimization analyses, device retirement et cetera.

If you don’t know exactly what you have and exactly what it costs, you won’t be able to effectively manage either your present mobile device universe or the more advanced mobile universe you aspire to move toward.

We can never stress the importance of strong inventory management enough. It is truly a foundational piece for any high-quality TEM/MMS program. 

2. Invoice management for MMS

The same overarching concerns are in play here as is the case for, say, fixed services under traditional TEM where you want centralized billing within a competent TEM/MMS platform.  It’s just focused on mobility services/devices and their associated costs.

This creates visibility and greater control for the organization, thereby reducing undesired outcomes such as late payment fees or unwanted service disconnects.

A well-managed invoice management process will also be able to effectively allocate device costs across different business units within the organization, which is important for larger enterprises.

Strong process automation will be employed via the technology platform to assist the team of mobility subject-matter-experts with various management activities such as flagging variances for first-pass audit purposes or support reporting & analytical activities. Emails can also be automatically generated for alerts or delivery of reporting. 

3. Usage management for MMS

Tracking and effectively managing all devices throughout the entire mobility lifecycle requires a platform that can house and parse mobile device data into a highly understandable form, i.e., strong dashboard analytics and reporting capabilities.

A TEM/MMS platform that delivers this empowers its organization’s management to make quality proactive decisions around usage management for its mobile devices, which impacts decisions relating to future mobile carriers, mobile plans, device choices, and policy choices.

Having a firm and clear grasp of mobile usage makes strong forward-leaning mobility management decisions possible for your organization. 

4. Audit, optimization & dispute management for MMS

Again, all the same concerns pertain here as with TEM. It’s about ensuring that you are utilizing the right mobile plans, services, and devices at the most competitive costs possible.

MMS subject-matter-experts will perform analytical exercises around current plans and consider the options for potential plans to achieve the right balance between needed mobile operations and their associated costs.

Usage will be compared to plan discounting structures, pooling options, available features et cetera to optimize for organizational mobility needs at the most competitive pricing available.

A well-managed mobility services team will not only assist with managing disputes relating to billing errors to recover these important savings but will drive key mobile optimization efforts, which is where material savings can really be found. 

5. Help Desk for MMS

Help desk support is especially important for mobile devices. There can be many moving parts involving the devices and their associated features, mobile carriers, and their associated plans, as well as any myriad of technical or user issues that can necessitate the need for real strong mobile subject-matter-expert support.

A strong TEM/MMS provider will offer this type of support and usually offers a few different mobile support plan options. If your organization is highly reliant on mobility communications – as most are these days – then pay special attention to this support area because it adds real value to your expense management program.

Your users will not be able to easily resolve mobile application issues, technical challenges, connectivity problems, or complicated software or hardware difficulties so we hope it is clear just how important this mobility support area is.

Most larger enterprises will most certainly benefit greatly from help desk support for mobility services.

6. Contract management for MMS

As is the case with all services provided by telecommunications carriers, managing contracts  well is important. And with mobility services, there are many moving parts as we’ve noted. 

So, like traditional TEM, expense management teams need to also be vigilant in their management of the full mobility lifecycle. It’s an ongoing and never-ending process of managing carrier contracts to ensure the following: 

  • Do we have the right mobile carriers and the right mobile services now? 
  • How are our current mobile services and plans performing relative to expectations? 
  • Where are we headed with respect to our mobile operational needs and cost expectations? 
  • How do we organize and optimize our next mobility discovery process so we can secure the best mobility carriers, plans, and devices at the best costs? 

A strong TEM/MMS provider will have the technology and mobility expertise needed to assist you and your team with proactive mobile carrier management.

Give this genuine consideration in your next managed mobility discovery process because it could cost your organization millions of dollars over the course of a few years if this area is not managed well. 

Managed Mobility Services and TEM Takeaway

Whatever your mix of telecommunications services outside of mobility (e.g., fixed lines, cable), large modern-day enterprises will require operational and expense management support for both their mobility and other telecommunications services.

Traditional TEM can simply be conceived as the more general of the two terms. MMS focuses more specifically on managing and optimizing mobility services, their associated expenses, and device use.

It’s important to know you are utilizing the right services and technologies for your organization’s needs and you will want the requisite support to know you are not overpaying for such services.

Moreover, you want to ensure you have the capabilities to manage your telecommunications spending effectively as you move forward. (This is not a one-and-done exercise.)

Finally, it’s important to have the right technology platform and expertise that a third-party provider such as a TEM/MMS provider or MDM provider (for mobility needs only) can provide.

Try not to become overwhelmed with the plethora of telecom terms and focus on where your organization could benefit from outside third-party support during your TEM/MMS discovery process.

If you’d like to consider Tellennium in your TEM vendor comparisons, contact us to schedule a brief demo of our solution.

Get Started

Call now for a no-cost or obligation demo. (800) 939-9440


Rob Halik is a Senior Analyst at Tellennium, specializing in Managed Mobility Services, Telecom Expense Management, and Utility Bill Management. With over 25 years of industry experience, Rob provides enterprise expense management insights to help businesses optimize their operations and reduce costs. This article is a collaborative effort by our expert team members at Tellennium, including Greg McIntyre, Shawn Veitz, Matt McIntyre, and Todd Givens, who collectively bring over 100 years of industry experience.

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