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The Spreadsheet Dilemma: To Automate, or Not to Automate?

At first blush, automating manual business processes may sound a bit scary. After all, no one wants to be replaced by a computer. And we all saw how things worked out with HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey!

But automation is an opportunity, not a threat—and a significant opportunity, at that. A recent study by Smartsheet found that more than 40% of workers spend a quarter of their workweek on repetitive, manual tasks. That’s over 500 paid working hours per year that could be reallocated to more high-impact tasks. 

The task voted as the number-one candidate for automation? Data entry. That comes as no surprise, since data entry errors create some of the costliest mistakes. According to The Data Warehouse Institute, data entry errors cost businesses over $600 billion each year. A spreadsheet error even contributed to a public health crisis during the early days of COVID-19.

The good news is automation solutions exist to prevent those costly errors. That’s how Telecom Expense Management (TEM) came to be—the need for organizations to streamline productivity, reduce unnecessary spend, and leverage insights from a holistic view of their technology landscape.

What is TEM?

Before jumping into the benefits of TEM, let’s discuss what it means. Companies have been tracking communication expenses such as telecom and mobility for decades, largely due to the complex cost structure of communication devices and their widespread use across departments. In other words, the pain involved in managing device inventory and connectivity expenses is nearly as old as the telephone. 

The tech industry is constantly changing, and TEM is changing along with it. Many now refer to TEM as “Technology Expense Management,” because the suite of devices used in today’s work-from-anywhere world is ever-expanding.

Consider your overall technology expenses. Then, imagine reducing that cost by up to 60%. That’s the potential benefit of TEM, so it pays to understand precisely what TEM does and how it works. 

The answer goes back to manual data tracking methods like spreadsheets, and why they can no longer compete with automated alternatives.

Why businesses love TEM

TEM solutions exist to help organizations improve in three key areas:

  • Saving time / increasing productivity
  • Saving money / reducing spend
  • Holistic visibility into inventory and expenses

Let’s use our spreadsheet example to illustrate each point. 

Saving time / increasing productivity

If the average worker spends 25% of their working hours on repetitive tasks, let’s assume   half of those hours are spent manually entering or manipulating data in spreadsheets (a conservative estimate). Given a 40-hour workweek with two weeks’ vacation per year, that’s 250 hours saved yearly for a single employee. Not to mention the additional work an employee could accomplish with the extra time.

Saving money / reducing spend

A good TEM doesn’t just save money by way of efficient automation—it will also help flag opportunities to save money. The platform will automatically track inventory across all device types (wireless, wireline, data, IT) while simultaneously automating invoice processing and validation. A single source of truth for inventory, usage, and spend allows you to easily spot anomalies—such as rising costs with no apparent cause, or active services at closed offices—and leverage those insights to negotiate better contracts. 

This kind of data is challenging to spot in a manual spreadsheet due to sheer volume. With so many numbers on a page, trends tend to stay hidden unless you’re looking for them. 

Holistic visibility and automated insights

The word “automated” doesn’t just refer to data entry. Holistic visibility means all data is processed behind the scenes, allowing you to see the bigger picture or dive into the details—no manual analysis required. With TEM, the data comes to you, rather than the other way around.

All told, a TEM solution will help you understand and optimize your technology landscape at every stage.

The era of digital transformation has arrived—are you ready?

When you’ve been in business for years, automating any process that’s currently manual can feel a lot like a loss of control. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. How much control do you have over the inevitability of human error, or processes with limited potential for efficiency? Studies have shown that as many as 88% of spreadsheets contain errors, meaning only one in ten of the business-critical spreadsheets you rely on right now is entirely accurate.

Like it or not, the era of digital transformation is here. The aim is not to exclude, but to connect; better integration between people, data, and systems means greater collaboration, efficiency, and insight. 

Businesses that fail to adopt modern automation strategies will soon fall behind in a faster, more agile marketplace. The time to adapt is now. Otherwise, you’ll be left in the dust by your competition and wondering why your 10-key skills just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Ready to automate your processes, freeing up time and resourcing to focus on what your business does best? Contact Tangoe today to learn how we can help.

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