Telecommunications systems are the foundation for business operations, but over time, these systems have become increasingly complex, characterized by a growing number of legacy technologies, systems, and providers connecting highly distributed users and office locations. Modernizing communications and realigning resources to changing business needs amid this intricate web has made telecom inventory management more important, and more challenging.
An accurate database of all current telecom services helps companies gain visibility into their current infrastructure and costs, so they can manage their costs and upgrade analog services to cloud-based, digital communications using data-driven decisions.
Below, we will review what telecom inventory management is, why it can be difficult, why your business needs it, and the critical criteria helping companies select an advanced telecom inventory management solution.
Telecom Inventory Management: An Introduction
Telecom inventory management is the process of evaluating, tracking and managing an accurate list of telecommunications services, equipment and related assets used by a company. This covers a wide range of telecom inventory such as fixed wireline voice, data and network resources. This can include various hardware and software, such as desk phones, softphones, video and tele-conferencing devices, as well as legacy and modern communications systems, POT lines, PBX equipment, IP telephony, modems, Wi-Fi, routers, servers, cables and other related equipment and services.
Telecom inventory management also includes the tracking and managing of data networks and VoIP circuits, broadband, and internet connections. Telecom inventories provide network and telecom service providers with voice and data communications plans, internet services, SIP trunking services, and cloud-based services connecting users to unified communications applications and IT infrastructure. These are critical for businesses to exchange information, manage day-to-day operations and meet business objectives.
The process involves monitoring and analyzing service information, such as utilization, uptime and cost to identify areas of improvement. With this, businesses can take proactive steps to optimize their telecom service and improve their overall business continuity, getting the best service at the best price. Proper inventory management also helps with renegotiating service contracts or switching to a different provider.
Types of Data that Should Be Managed in a Telecom Inventory
An effective telecom inventory management platform might include the following data fields:
- Hardware Name, Model Number, Service Type and Operating System
- Vendor, Service Contract, and Account Number
- Active/Inactive Status
- Current Users or Location
- Security Requirements and Unique Systems or Applications
- Average Usage/Cost Per Month/Year
- Associated Cost Center or Department
Assuring Accuracy and Avoiding Inventory Problems
Populating all this data in a single place can be easier said than done. In fact, when the process of developing the inventory isn’t well collected and documented, this process can drag out for months or even years – delaying the more meaningful business outcomes. Tangoe offers this resource to explore common telecom inventory pitfalls to avoid.
Why Inventory Management is Critical When Modernizing Telecommunications Systems
As companies of all sizes upgrade their communications systems, telecom inventory becomes an essential tool in supporting your cloud migration plan. Modernization efforts include moving from legacy POTs lines and PBX telephone systems to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems, as well as SIP trunking and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platforms. VoIP and UCaaS systems allow businesses to make voice calls over the internet, rather than relying on traditional telephone lines, reducing costs and increasing scalability.
Many businesses are also transitioning from Primary Rate Interface (PRI) lines to Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking, which allows for more efficient use of bandwidth, further cutting costs.
Another example of a communications system upgrade aided by effective telecom inventory management is the move from private to public network services, trading out traditional telecom services. For example, many businesses are moving from Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technologies, which offer lower costs and greater flexibility and control over network traffic.
Telecom inventory management serves as the official record of equipment as companies transition to modern communications systems and technologies. It’s essential for businesses to understand usage, trends, costs, and other critical information. This understanding enables businesses to make informed decisions about their voice and data services, including what’s required of a modernization plan, which plans are best suited to their needs and whether they should consider moving to a different provider. Effective telecom inventory management can also help businesses identify areas where they may be overspending or underutilizing their existing services.
Common Challenges with Telecom Inventory Management
Managing telecom inventory can be challenging, especially for large, global organizations or those without a solid digital approach. Here are common challenges businesses face when they lack effective telecom and network inventory solutions:
- Poor visibility and observability into services, networks, costs.
- Difficulty managing multiple vendors.
- Extra and unexpected costs.
- Manual tasks and staffing inefficiencies.
Benefits of a Telecom Inventory Management System
Using a telecom inventory management system can help you understand your business and make more informed decisions. Here are some benefits of these systems.
- Improved Visibility: By gaining visibility into all your communications systems and assets, you can better understand what you have, who is using it and how, as well as what applications, access methodologies and services are in use. It also helps you understand how much it costs your organization to enable communications and data exchange.
- Better Accuracy and Tighter Security: Disciplined processes and automated inventory management eliminates the risk of errors associated with manual processes. Keeping asset data accurate and up to date, for example, can help companies avoid overpaying for telecom services or wasting money on telecom plans. An accurate inventory will allow you to glean intelligence that can be used to make policy, security, and compliance decisions. By identifying both monitored and unmonitored communication channels, you can tighten controls and improve necessary recordkeeping.
- Increased Efficiency: Telecom inventory management software and telecom expense management platforms automate data collection processes, centralize information, and automate financial management tasks that are often done manually and scattered across the business. This gives your staff more time to focus on the business at hand. With automated invoicing and expense management tools, you streamline the billing process and reduce the time and effort required to manage your telecom expenses.
- Cost Savings: Telecom inventory management software tracks service usage patterns, providing insight into where wired telecom services should be adjusted. It can identify where underutilized assets should be phased out or reallocated and where contracts should be renegotiated to more closely match pricing benchmarks considered standard for the industry at the time. Because you’re tracking inventory more effectively, the business avoids penalties and fees associated with exceeding data limits or making international phone calls on a domestic-only plan.
Choosing the Right Telecom Inventory Management System
Start by looking at the size and complexity of your telecom network. This calculation includes the number of services, locations and communication systems that need to be tracked, as well as the level of detail required in inventory records.
Here are other important considerations when looking for the right telecom inventory management service.
- Integrations and Automated Processes to Capture Data: Consider how the inventory management platform or service will capture information and the level of integration needed to automatically collect information from corporate systems, such as financial systems, ERP, EMM, and customer relationship management systems. Integrating with other key business systems enables the benefits of scale, automation, and real-time visibility.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Your telecom inventory management system should be scalable and flexible enough to accommodate your current and future business needs. As your network grows, you’ll need a telecom inventory management system that can handle an increase in communications service providers and network complexity.
- Reporting, Analytics, and Insights to Cut Costs and Use Resources Efficiently: A good telecom inventory management system should provide robust reporting and analytics capabilities to help you make informed business decisions and recommendations to reduce costs and use services more efficiently. Look for a telecom inventory management system that offers customizable reporting, real-time analytics, and the ability to export data in various formats.
- Security and Compliance: Telecom networks handle sensitive and confidential information, so your telecom inventory management system must support compliance, enabling applicable industry standards and regulations.
- Customer Support: Consider the level of customer support provided by potential telecom inventory management vendors. Look for a vendor that offers a comprehensive customer experience, including support services such as training, technical support and ongoing maintenance and upgrades.
- User-Friendliness: A telecom inventory management system that’s easy to use and intuitive will reduce the learning curve and increase employee productivity. Choose a telecom inventory management system that provides a simple and streamlined user interface, as well as mobile access.
In the past, many businesses managed their telecom inventory data with manual processes such as spreadsheets or physical inventory checks. However, as businesses scale, these processes become time-consuming and prone to human errors. To automate manual tracking processes, many companies turn to telecom inventory management systems. These technology platforms help organizations audit, track, and manage telecom assets, services, and expenses – including contracts, service agreements and non-physical assets.
Discover how Tangoe’s Telecom Expense Management System can help you.