ITEM Pitfalls: When Inventory and Shifts in Technology Turn into a Data Dumpster Dive 

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Don’t you hate it when you’re told something is simple, and come to find out, it’s three times as complicated and takes five times as long to get done?  

Oversimplification or overpromising ends in disappointment, and it happens in the IT expense management (ITEM) industry. Providers make sweeping claims about how easy it is to build an inventory of all IT expenses, which toys with clients’ expectations leaving them frustrated and worse – feeling straight up deceived.  

This is a continuation of a series of articles on ITEM pitfalls. It’s time for transparency in this industry, so organizations can learn from those who have gone before them. In the name of accountability, Tangoe is also highlighting industry challenges alongside standards of excellence, so you can hold us responsible for our commitment to superior services backed by exceptional customer experiences.  

Avoiding the Inventory Dumpster Dive 

As explained our previous article, implementation times of 6–12 months is a pitfall to avoid in the ITEM industry. One key culprit is the inventory process — the systematic cataloging of IT assets and their related expenses. The inventory is an essential registry at the initial onset of any ITEM solution but also ongoingly and at key pivot points when the business has new tech investments to capture and evaluate.  

Those who have worked with lackluster providers describe their experience as a dumpster dive. That’s no surprise – after all, it’s garbage in equals garbage out. In fact, we hear lots of complaints about the process. “Inventory? It’s a total time suck,” they say. 

Why is it such a problem? Here are the most common reasons providers struggle to collect, catalog, and maintain an inventory of expenses for their clients: 

  • The sheer amount of data to capture: It’s a mountain range of information to gather (more on that later)  
  • Manual data entry:  The amount of manual work required can make cost optimization prohibitive, particularly without the right integration tools and automation 
  • Outdated information: As services change, the inventory must be updated — otherwise changes will not be noticed until the billing stage at which point details must be captured retroactively 
  • Outdated database platforms: Substandard user experiences make manual tasks miserable  
  • Lack of standardization: Multiple disconnected systems, poor recordkeeping practices, and undisciplined processes make capturing and managing an expansive dataset chaotic 

Inventories can become nightmare situations. Here’s the client story that really irks us at Tangoe:  

“[Provider name redacted] was missing over ¾ of my inventory and could never get it right. They couldn’t keep up with the changes in our services, and with no efficiencies in information management, we had budgeting, forecasting, and issues modernizing our network because we couldn’t see into what we were being charged for. We didn’t have the information we needed to plan for the future.”    

We come across this often with one specific competitor. It’s particularly tragic, because when done right, an accurate IT service inventory should generate cost savings – not punish the client. This explains why getting your records right is critical.  

So, how do you do that? 

3 Ways Tangoe Does Inventories Better than Anyone  

We’re hyper aware of the criticality of a clean inventory, which is why Tangoe works to automate and simplify every inch of the process. Unlike some competitors, we’re committed to ensuring every asset is accounted for every time, so your inventories are accurate and your bills are paid on time.  

Here’s how we make that promise possible. 

  1. Integration: Automated Data Capture from More Sources   
    Our vast integration tools gather information automatically from more data sources. Tangoe has five different methods for collecting your IT expense information, and with integration into 500 SaaS applications and 5,000 APIs for more automated dataflows, our platform is helping companies gain new visibility into their costs. Integration is also how we know our clients’ mobile devices are always in a known state. Systems are in-sync, pulling device updates to understand the current status of the corporate fleet and identify any devices considered a security risk or non-compliant. 
  1. Automating and Eliminating Manual Work  
    Tangoe uses advanced technologies to build inventory faster and more accurately.  
    For instance, Tangoe’s patented optical invoice recognition technology automatically pulls new circuit information from PDF or EDI/electronic invoices to better reconcile billing inventory changes as they happen each month. Plus, when it comes to implementing new network circuits, we’re using Google Maps technology to automate the process of matching the vendor’s reported installation address to our client’s list of office locations, thus double verifying the accuracy of the service location data stored in your inventory.  
    This is important because it reduces manual work but also because accurately associating each service with an office location is critical. If that office ever closed, you could potentially be paying for services no longer in use. The best providers, like Tangoe, don’t just have automated ways to speed data capture and verification – they also have automated reporting features to catch mistakes and bring forward these types of common overspending. But here’s the catch — they only work if the inventory has the accurate and detailed information it needs. 
    Automation is how we:  
  • Build inventory records for over 750,000 fixed network circuits every year 
  • Tag and track network circuits for over 295,000 client office locations, using Google Maps Address API integration to verify service locations, even when the physical addresses do not match exactly 
  • Capture, load, and process 370,000 invoices each month 
  • Track and manage 14 million mobile devices, cutting costs and improving security 
  • Automatically modify cloud infrastructure services and settings once a client has approved of the cost-saving recommendations 
  1. Visualization and Helping Hands: An Inventory that’s Easy to Work With 

Making sense of all that information is one of the hardest parts, which is why we have data visualization tools built into our solution, alongside flexible and granular reporting features so clients can slice and dice data the way they want to see it. 

Tangoe offers fully managed inventory services, supporting clients with the help of professionals handling the administrative work of data entry, updates, and maintenance across the lifecycle of your services – from ordering circuits to making changes and closing out contracts. And if that’s not enough, Tangoe Advisory Services offer an in-depth auditing service package. This is the type of customer experience you won’t find elsewhere.  

See how Tangoe cut our implementation times in half and won a gold Stevie Award

The Truth about Amassing an Inventory Information 

When you appreciate all an inventory comprises, it’s easy to see why poor data quality and mismanagement can make it a dumpster dive experience. Creating a comprehensive registry of IT expenses is no small task. Think of it as building a city library with a digital catalog and status information that must be updated continuously. ITEM inventories work the same way, but they go beyond the surface-level information of the old card catalog.  

Inventories capture: 

  • Details about the corporate fleet of laptops, smartphones, and mobile devices: Unique ID numbers, model numbers, operating systems, service types, assigned users, locations, accessories, installed applications, security requirements, compliance status, hardware condition and repair history, etc. 
  • Costs related to mobile, telecom, and cloud services: Service providers, contracts, service details like circuit speeds, service addresses and their associated offices, installation dates, invoices, and cost per month/year, account numbers, automated billing details, auto-renew status, associated cost centers, cost allocation history, and more. 
  • Service usage information: Number of licenses and users, average usage, status (active/inactive), detailed information about how each resource is either used or in some cases goes unused, as well as usage trends over time. 

Accuracy is Worth its Weight in Gold  

Taking stock of all the nitty gritty details is essential in reducing IT costs and waste, because you can’t control what you can’t see. Without the details, the more meaningful work of expense analysis and cost optimization is impossible. In fact, the more granular and accurate the data, the better.  

At the end of the day, your inventory should serve as a launchpad for minimizing waste, dialing in budgeting decisions, and accelerating financial management. But it can also aid in security policy decision-making as it relates to Shadow IT and unmonitored communication channels needing tighter control. With a single source of truth, everyone wins.   

Don’t miss 10 things to look for in an ITEM provider

Learn more about the Tangoe One platform for your IT expense management needs.