IT Cost Optimization: Vendor Dashboards Only Get You So Far – Use This Instead 

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Think you can optimize your IT services and costs using the data you get from your vendor’s dashboard? Sure, you can… But it takes a lot of manual work, and you won’t always get the best result. 

There’s a common misconception that default dashboards from IT service providers can help you track expenditures, make the best use of your IT services, and even lower your costs. But the truth is, dashboards typically provide little more than raw data – a button to export information into an excel spreadsheet. The remaining work of analysis, insight, and action is all up to you.  Tangoe finds that vendors leave their clients with an overwhelming amount of work to do before they can ever arrive at right-sizing assets or tightening their spending.

The problem is often described as the difference between data transparency and true data observability: Do you simply see data or can you pinpoint problems and the reasons for them? Observability issues aren’t just happening in one tech arena – it’s an issue with cloud infrastructure, unified communications applications, mobile phone data plans, and telecom circuits. 

Here’s a look at what we see happening in the real world today, what you can do about it, and a warning about potential conflicts of interest. 

IT Cost Optimization: Why Service Delivery Dashboards aren’t Effective 

Dashboard integration tools (often called APIs or e-bonding services) are advertised as a solution helping clients automate invoice and inventory management, but most of the time they are simply visibility tools.

Mobile Carriers Deliver Data but No Savings Insights 

E-bonding services from mobile carriers are a way for clients to capture invoice and device information. Far from an out-of-the-box solution for expense and asset management, their APIs aren’t implemented for clients, nor are they automated. For instance, you will need to use your own time and resources to connect to the available API, ingest the data on an ongoing basis, and build a streamlined process to evaluate and manage that information in ways that will drive desired optimization outcomes. Storage may also be an issue. 

UCaaS Providers Hide the Source of Overage Charges 

UCaaS services commonly charge overage fees when clients use more data than their contract allows. But invoices give no detail, putting the burden on the client to dig into the dashboard to find the source of their overage fees on their own. With no pre-built capabilities, clients must correlate multiple sources of data to arrive at the root cause. 

Missing contracts, users, and call detail records are common complaints for IT financial managers overseeing unified communications platforms from providers like Microsoft®, Zoom®, and 8×8®. Indeed, it can be a labor-intensive research effort to hold departments accountable for basic UCaaS expenses – not to mention overage fees. 

IaaS Dashboards aren’t Taming Runaway Cloud Costs

Public cloud infrastructure services are in the news a lot lately for runaway costs with some cloud service providers admitting that their invoices spin out of control. To help curb costs, Amazon Web Services recently announced new FinOps features within their client dashboard.  

However, even the latest advances aren’t a cure for cloud financial management.  

Critics say the utilization look-back period is too short to provide meaningful insight, and the breadth of offering is limited. While the new features make marked progress, they fall short of a comprehensive FinOps approach to cloud expense management.  

Telecom Vendors Don’t Connect the Dots for Errors and SLAs 

Telecom providers have a historical reputation for billing errors, which require clients to engage in monthly auditing exercises that compare invoices to contracts and usage data to find out where they’re being charged unfairly. Dashboards are helpful in providing the raw data, but don’t triage data to pinpoint anomalies — much less alert to problems in priority order.  

Another common problem is service level agreements going unmet, including performance guarantees and penalties for downtime. The burden is on the client to be the telecom watchdog – recognizing when agreed-upon SLAs are violated and filing claims to get their money back. Again, dashboards offer data but don’t always come forward with insights connecting SLAs to performance metrics in one view. 

So, what is the best software for IT cost optimization?  

Breaking the Confines of Vendor Dashboards: Use this Instead 

Technology expense management platforms are purposefully built to help IT and finance leaders avoid higher expenses than necessary. Mining deep usage data from a vast number of vendor dashboards, these software systems establish a highly integrated environment to help you get overarching views into IT costs with the ability to dig deep into overage fees, utilization patterns, charge details, and spending trends. 

For example, a technology expense management system can help you: 

  • Gain Visibility into Service Usage and Resource Waste: Assess usage data and evaluate the effectiveness of resource utilization, identifying unused assets, services, or resources and overprovisioned hardware and software 
  • Customize Spending Reports for Stakeholders: Create custom data cuts for departments or business leaders, helping them highlight how decisions and purchases impact costs and budget 
  • Identify Cost-Saving Actions: Define how to avoid expenses such as consolidating duplicate SaaS tools and reallocating unused licenses, downgrading IaaS instances or leveraging discount opportunities, decommissioning unused telecom circuits, and repossessing or reassigning unused mobile phones 
  • Arrive at Per-Unit Cost: Determine per-unit cost for each service by normalizing data across multiple vendors for easy price comparisons 
  • Optimize Service Contracts: Alert to contract renewals informing procurement teams with baseline usage and costs as well as potential sources of rate savings 

Should the Fox Watch the Hen House? 

The bigger question is this: Is it appropriate to turn to service providers and vendors – those with potential conflicts of interest or ulterior motives – when you need to right-size your resources, guide your cost-cutting efforts, and oversee your spending? While vendor dashboards have made strides in building client trust through increased visibility and data transparency, concerns remain about an innate lack of impartiality and potential harm. 

Those in control may not act in the best interest of their clients. Thus, there is a need for continued oversight and governance to mitigate any risk. 

Consider this question: Are long-term-commitment discounts a catch 22? Consider the implications of long-term commitments, such as IaaS reserved instances. While they may offer cost savings, committing to specific resources for an extended period may limit your flexibility. Exit strategies become more critical in modern times when new disruptors arise with higher frequency and companies are expected to innovate at the speed of tech evolution.  

In the end there are often tradeoffs, and effective optimization means being intimately informed — armed with a detailed understanding of your spending, provider offerings, pricing models, and the overall value they bring to your organization. On the other hand, IT expense management tools and providers are better positioned to save you a significant amount of time in unpacking the intricacies and the tradeoffs, bringing you an unbiased view into your IT services and the most cost-effective path forward. 

When you’re ready for meaningful data observability, contact Tangoe.