By Brad Tucker and the Editors of SearchUnifiedCommunications.com
Is your company spending too much on telecom carrier services? In the absence of proper telecom services analysis and a dedicated telecom services strategy, telecom carriers can become parasitic, slowly draining the host's budget, productivity and profitability.
Companies can opt to work directly with telecom carriers or work with an intermediary company to evaluate telecom carriers, develop a telecom services blueprint and ultimately ensure an amicable relationship with the telecom carrier of your choice.
In this tutorial, we help you identify, rank and measure your company's unique telecom needs and correlate those needs to service providers who meet your qualifications. We pinpoint the specific information you need to provide to the telecom carrier to expedite the meeting process, and list the questions you need to ask to ensure you find the best telecom carrier and telecom account manager to fit both the technological and cultural needs of your organization. Finally, we provide suggestions to secure a prudent and competitive communications infrastructure from your telecom services provider.
There are scores of telecom carriers; my company alone represents more than 100. In order to determine which telecom carriers might match up best with your company, it is important to keep in mind that each carrier has its strengths and weaknesses.
Here's what you should do before ever talking to representatives from telecom carriers:
- Start by identifying what you need and want. This is crucial. Too often, companies put the carrier selection in front of the need. If you determine that you need a 4.5 Mbps SIP handoff integrated voice/Internet circuit with MPLS, for example, that narrows the field to a manageable number to evaluate.
If you're not 100% comfortable in making this determination on your own, consider working with an agency to do so. They are like travel agents, and they should not charge for their services. Many companies rely on their hardware vendors to make those determinations for them, but I don't advocate that. Many integrators have agency agreements with a few telecom carriers; as a result, they are beholden to and biased toward those carriers. In addition, most VARs are focused on selling you their core solutions -- network, voice or UC solutions -- and they simply won't do as good a job as a telecom specialist would in making the determination. (By the way, many UC applications can be handled by telecom carriers themselves, so a good agent/consultant can help you get more bang for your buck.)
Find out how to perform a telecom analysis, and identify, measure and rank telecom service providers.
Now that you've gone through the steps of evaluating telecom carriers to provide your company's telecom services, you're ready to meet with the carriers' representatives. Here's what comes next:
- If you've decided to go without an agency, you should have narrowed your choices to five or six telecom carriers, depending on how close you are to a major metropolitan area. Provide them with all the pertinent information they need in order to generate an initial quote -- remember, you've already determined which telecom services you need. They will all ask, but I don't recommend giving out bill copies. You will get back five or six solutions, each designed differently, each tailored to the strengths of that particular carrier.
- Have all addresses, billing telephone numbers, and so on for each location. It is helpful if you can give the telecom carriers a network architecture map detailing the specific trunks and circuits, where they go, and the like. During the meeting, this process should take, at most, 10 to 20 minutes.
Find out the most important step in managing telecom carriers.
Our experience has shown that approximately 90% of companies are overpaying by 30% or more for their telecom services. Most companies don't address this because they don't have the manpower to perform an analysis of their telecom costs. The solution is either to grit your teeth and do your own analysis, or work with an outside company that can help you or even perform it for you.
Find out three methods for working with telecom carriers to free up both operating and capital budgets.
About the author:
Brad Tucker is the founder and president of Qcentus Inc., a telecommunications advisory and management organization that specializes in helping companies determine, acquire and manage the most appropriate telecom services at the best possible price. He has 15 years of experience on both the hardware- and carrier-services sides of the telecom industry, including unified communications (UC) design and implementation.
This was first published in March 2010