Category Archives: Network Services

EU Network Strategy: Don’t Delay Mobile Consolidation

Margot Wall Blog2

Margot Wall, Managing Consultant – 

Recent moves by the European Community (EC) have opened up the competitive landscape and created opportunities for global enterprises to consolidate network operations in EC countries.  Mobile operations are especially promising, and we’re seeing a number of client organizations move forward with plans to consolidate and rationalize plans from multiple carriers.

At the same time, other enterprises appear to be content to wait until their existing mobile contracts expire before taking advantage of these emerging market opportunities. That would be a mistake. The time to start a consolidation initiative is now, even for organizations with a number of contracts still in force.

Consider: With multiple countries and multiple in-country teams, and with at least one provider in each country, getting a consolidation deal to market – and then getting to contract – both take longer than you might expect.  If you wait between 6 and 18 months to go to market, by the time you’re done with the project another 8 to 18 months has gone by – and now your rates are more than three years old.

However, by going to market now, by the time you’ve signed new contracts the old agreements you were waiting on to expire are ready to migrate to the new deal, instead of sitting at the old rates. Bottom line – you save money sooner.

We’ll be discussing network and telecom issues, contracting strategies and the European marketplace at the 2015 Alsbridge European Vendor Summit, to be held May 19th in London.

Oracle’s New Sales Strategy: Battleship in a Bathtub?

Battleship in a Bathtub

Jeff Seabloom, Managing Director –

Is Oracle serious about changing its sales culture to a more customer-focused approach? One that helps customers leverage the full suite of Oracle solutions? More specifically, will the software giant abandon what one customer recently described as a strategy of “constant attack” from multiple sales people pitching multiple products?

It’s a tall order. Commission-based revenue chasing is a longstanding problem for Oracle, one that has only gotten worse as the product portfolio has expanded. By its own admission, Oracle has on a regular basis shifted, changed, reorganized and retooled its sales strategy, teams and methods – to the point that the process has become something of an annual rite of spring.

Will things be different this time? Incentives based on a regional and vertical focus can go a long way toward improving the reward structure and reversing the practice of throwing lots of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. The Key Accounts Program can also help, but should become a catalyst for the norm, rather than special treatment proffered on a handful of strategic accounts.

On the other hand, the current executive structure and supporting organizations are non-traditional Oracle, and many top sales executives have a background in hardware and, arguably, commodity sales. In the scramble for revenue during the past few years, Oracle has lost many talented professionals who were experts at complex solution-oriented sales and who were true advocates for the company and its vision. The gap left by their departure remains difficult to fill, especially when a culture of commission chasing continues to prevail in many quarters.

Ultimately, while Oracle’s leadership may be well intentioned and committed to driving a more customer-oriented sales strategy, the reality is that this is a very large company with a deeply entrenched culture. Think battleship in a bathtub.

Wireless Carriers Still Willing to Make a Deal

Businessman Holds Out His Hand To Make A Deal

Phil Hugus, Managing Director –

A recent report in CNET concludes that AT&T “wont chase customers” in light of a lull in the ongoing wireless price war. “After a particularly cutthroat holiday period,” the article states, “the carriers are raising fees and paring back on promotional offers.”

While this accurately describes the latest trends in the wireless consumer market, IT executives should take note that the enterprise space is an entirely different beast, both in terms of enterprise wireless contract renegotiation and the impact of the latest trends in enterprise BYOD programs where the wireless providers must work even harder to retain their client base, leveraging incentives where stipends will drive consumer behavior. We are seeing savvy clients signing new wireless deals and achieving 20 percent to 25+ percent price reduction results, along with significant contract term and technology benefits.

From Alsbridge’s perspective, while AT&T has become a bit more conservative in recent months following as they have stemmed the tide of net wireless unit losses to Verizon, they can still be driven to market leading pricing and contracts if properly leveraged. Verizon, meanwhile, is becoming a bit more aggressive in pursuing top-line revenues, again while properly leveraged. While we’re seeing subtle shifts in negotiating tactics, clients can still win with a leveraged approach capitalizing on the best market intelligence and negotiating tactics.

In other words, done right, it’s a buyer’s market.

Oh, You Wanted That Telecom Plan?

Price Cut Tag

Nichole Wells, Consultant

Don’t you hate it when you buy something and discover that you could have gotten something else that you liked better, and for less money?

Telecom carrier plans can be like that. Programs and options change on a regular basis, as do variations between small, medium and enterprise business offerings. Pricing, flexibility and support options also fluctuate, depending on carrier financial priorities and objectives, not to mention quarterly sales targets that have to be met. For example, enterprise buyers typically aren’t eligible for less expensive small-business wireless plans. However, we’ve seen instances where carriers make an exception to “make it work” and keep a client happy.

The point is that it’s worth exploring and understanding current vendor offerings and market nuances. Keeping abreast of market changes, carrier behaviors and what’s going on behind the scenes can have a significant impact on pricing and the overall contracting environment. If nothing else, customers can set a high level of expectation for carriers to communicate the status of new services coming on line, as well as established offerings being slated for retirement.

Plan options aren’t the only thing that’s confusing about telecom services. Pricing, contract terms and invoices can be maddeningly obtuse. There, too, customers need to demand clarity to understand what they’re paying and what they’re getting.

Telecom Pricing – Keep it Simple

3d graphic of a happy Dollar icon nodes in network cable chaos

Maggie San Miguel, Senior Consultant

In this day and age, why is it so difficult for a company to get a clear picture of their total telecom spend and contract landscape? Telecom rates are contained in a hodgepodge of formats that include contracts, amendments, addendums, schedule of charges, service order attachments, tariffs, service guides, discount tables, promotions, credits (both one-time and recurring) and ICB quotes. Invoicing and Billing is even a bigger quagmire. You have different names in contracts, not to mention different billing descriptors that don’t match the nomenclature for the contract usage types. My favorite is when a carrier offers lower access costs in “Lit” buildings, but then can’t tell you where those are, or even if you’re in one today. And what exactly is Type 1 versus Type 2, and Type 2 versus Type 3?

We know the answer, of course – obtuse pricing is a tried-and-true tactic vendors employ to muddy the waters and gain an edge at the negotiating table. If clients lack insight into a carrier’s pricing, they struggle to understand how Vendor X’s apples compare against Vendor Y’s oranges, and whether either offering is aligned with competitive market standards. Amidst this confusion and uncertainty, clients often leave money on the table.

Clearly, the client bears the onus to understand the contract, reference actual pricing included in the agreement and define a true contract rate as the basis of negotiation. That’s a challenge, but it also represents an opportunity – if you as a customer can establish market-based guidelines and comparative standards, and a consistent, leveraged approach, vendor negotiations can be a dialogue rather than a battle, and you can get past the smoke and mirrors.

And while vendors may not relish the thought of a more level playing field, increasing transparency and consistency will ultimately facilitate an honest, mutually beneficial relationship.

Pricing clarity is one of several initiatives discussed in a recent Alsbridge white paper that examines how the tactics of cost reduction can support the strategy of network transformation.

EU Openness an Opportunity for Global Network Management

Circuit board background - Europe - JPG version

Margot Wall, Managing Consultant

In recent years, the European Union has taken steps to begin operating as a single economy, going beyond a single currency to develop consistent standards for information privacy and freedom of movement for EU citizens.

That philosophy of openness is extending to telecom providers, with new entrants into the fixed and mobile operations space being granted freedom to offer their services across the EU. While the old Postal Telegraph and Telephone (PTT) operators continue to function under (and often hide behind) a great deal of regulation, the new market entrants – as non-incumbents – have more freedom to build, price and negotiate.

Meanwhile, many U.S.-based multinationals are looking to operate more globally and centralize management. The WAN is typically under a single invoice, but other services are largely decentralized and present an opportunity to drive out cost. To seize this opportunity, many businesses look first to Europe: It’s accessible, it’s probably where they first expanded and costs there are probably out of control.

For these enterprises, the new players in the EU market represent a potential option beyond the traditional PTT. The typical practice in Europe is to repeatedly renew local and mobile contracts and to think of the PTT operators as “Ma Bell.” Renewals involve either the country manager striking an agreement to get another plan added or drive another access level discount. The business often recognizes that the market outpaces these auto renewals, and that consolidation and optimization is really the key to maintaining control over costs. The challenge, however, is to understand the local and mobile options and to know which options are viable and which aren’t.

To develop an effective consolidation plan, insight into the players, their footprints, services and solutions is imperative. In addition, clients need an understanding of the specific steps involved in building their inventories right – and doing it right the first time.   Any strategy, any RFP and any RFP response depends on a valid and accurate inventory as the first step in understanding the current situation, and the last step in planning any transformation project. Finally, for both mobile and fixed (local voice) service, regulatory knowledge is needed to navigate EU privacy laws, while still getting access to billing portals.

Bottom line: the evolving EU economy presents some significant opportunities for optimizing global communications by leveraging the capabilities of new market entrants. And as the market moves away from TDM-based voices services, European players offer some interesting options on next-generation technologies. But knowledge of local conditions is a must.

An advisor who understands the technology, the local players and regulatory environment can help overcome the obstacles and achieve a positive outcome. It’s like going to Paris if you’ve never been and don’t speak any French. You can go on your own, or with someone who knows the language and customs.

Margot Wall is an Alsbridge Managing Consultant in the Network Services Group.

Cloud Implementation – Network Can Still Be a Blind Spot

Cloud Computing

Katharine Rudd, Managing Director

Enterprises moving to the cloud are increasingly taking a reasoned approach to implementation. CIOs are recognizing that cloud doesn’t mean the end of the world as we know it, that it doesn’t require wholesale jettisoning of legacy systems, and that cloud applications can in fact be effectively integrated into existing infrastructure. An excellent article recently published in CIO magazine describes the pragmatic step-by-step approaches that many organizations are successfully adopting.

This de-hyping of cloud is certainly a good thing, but the fact remains that cloud is in many respects a different animal, one that requires new approaches and awareness of unexpected issues and complications that can arise. As such, while we see an increasing level of market savviness regarding the practicalities of cloud, we also see cases where clients fail to anticipate potential gotchas before making major investments in cloud-based delivery. This can lead to performance issues after the fact.

Network infrastructure is perhaps the biggest blind spot. Perhaps because it’s not particularly sexy, you just don’t hear a lot about the network in cloud discussions. But if you don’t have the underlying infrastructure in place, no cloud solution will perform well. Hosting, developing or testing any application on the cloud creates compression and congestion points that need to be addressed when implementing a solution.

Cloud-based delivery means many new types of traffic coming through the network, in addition to traditional data, voice and video. This increase in traffic types, volume and to new vendors is a new undertaking for many enterprises, and many lack insight into the unknown risks and potential opportunities. The result can be underperformance or even overpaying for bandwidth.

For example, the capacity requirements of cloud are leading many enterprises to explore capabilities such as bigger Ethernet connections or connecting directly to providers for larger SAAS based deployments such as Microsoft Office365. In doing so, many are neglecting the potential benefits of alternatives such as carrier neutral facilities (carrier hotels), a much lower cost-of-connection option that uses a colocation facility to provide secure, direct access to a wide range of cloud and hosting providers who interconnect through these facilities.

Carrier-neutral facilities are just one example where due diligence prior to implementation of a cloud initiative can yield significant payback. Speaking of due diligence, check out a new Alsbridge white paper that examines cost-savings opportunities in network operations and how they can be leveraged to fund new innovations.

Don’t Pay Too Much (or Too Long) for Custom Network Services

By Beth O’Hern

In an ideal world, you as a telecom services buyer negotiate contracts based on existing, validated rates for standard services and well-defined business terms and conditions. This helps ensure relevant comparisons, competitive rates and quality service. In many cases, however, you require specialized, custom services such as private rings and high bandwidth private lines. Pricing for such services is highly dependent on location, routing and availability, and typically requires vendors to invest in special equipment and expertise. These investments are generally passed on to you, the customer. While that’s reasonable, you often continue to pay high rates long after vendors recoup their investment and have significantly lowered their internal monthly costs.

One reason this happens is that specialized services are typically contained within a larger network services agreement and, during renewal, tend to be wrapped into the big-picture discussion rather than separately and directly negotiated. As a result, the high rates get pushed into the next agreement. Moreover, the competitive landscape for custom services is unfamiliar, so finding a market-based comparative precedent for special services presents a challenge.

How can you prevent this long-term overpaying? At a minimum, insist on including custom services in renegotiations as a separate discussion item. While direct, like-for-like market-based pricing comparisons are hard to come by, you can apply rules of thumb regarding margins and payback period for custom access and special builds. Using the contract to show evidence of install dates and details such as ring locations and private route paths, you can make an effective case for lowering monthly rates.

Vendors will typically push back, stating that the complexity surrounding custom services requires special support on an ongoing basis. But don’t be too quick to accept that argument, and don’t hesitate to demonstrate a willingness to put the service out to bid. Keep in mind that custom services generate significant margins for vendors, so even with lower monthly rates your deal will remain a profitable one and your vendor will not want to see you walk.

While the opportunity varies, the size of the prize can be significant for a Fortune 1000 enterprise. I’ve seen instances where a business spends $10 million annually on capital-intensive custom services and could easily lower that spend by 40 to 50 percent.

Bottom line: don’t ignore the potential of this low-hanging fruit.

Mobile Consumerization and BYOD Strategy: It’s Not For Everyone, Says Alsbridge Report

A new report from Alsbridge, Inc., outlines how to successfully implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy through careful evaluation, the right sponsorship and the right implementation plan.

According to the report, innovation in consumer technology is outpacing business, and many employees are using their personal devices and applications for work to leverage those innovations. In fact, 73 percent of enterprises now allow non-IT managed devices to access corporate resources.

“As the proliferation of employee-owned smartphones and tablets continues to accelerate, employees everywhere are growing impatient with standard issue devices and capabilities that many enterprises still deploy,” says Alsbridge Inc., CEO, Chip Wagner. CIOs and their IT organizations are faced with a profound challenge of satisfying the demand for device, platform and application flexibility while mitigating the financial, operational, technical, and security risks that emerge.

Bring your own mobile device is part of the larger trend in the consumerization of IT, but it is one of the fastest growing segments and certainly the most visible in the media. Armed with a credit card, business units are provisioning cloud infrastructure, storage, hosted applications, collaboration tools and even customer-facing systems in hours and days.

“BYOD and broader consumerization strategies are not for everyone,” explains Dieter Thompson, president, Alsbridge Inc., “It requires careful evaluation, the right sponsorship, and the right implementation plan to be successful.” The benefits should be meaningful and compelling, and encompass business advantages that stretch far beyond cost savings.

Marketplace dynamics and the technologies available to the enterprise will continue to change rapidly. Like the technology it represents, every mobile strategy is a transitional state and a fluid plan. Staying ahead of the competitive curve takes long term commitment, resources a partnership with a market-savvy advisor.

Read the full report here: Alsbridge Insight: Mobile Consumerization Takes Flight

About Alsbridge Inc.

Alsbridge is a global consulting firm that helps companies transform and optimize the way they purchase, manage and leverage technology and business processes.   We have over 175 team members on 4 continents serving over 200 clients a year including more than 40% of the Fortune 500.  Alsbridge has helped hundreds of companies reduce costs and get more value from their vendors.  Our experienced consultants leverage proprietary tools and information databases to identify and engage the optimal vendors for your situation, negotiate best practice terms at fair market prices, and improve the way you work with your service providers.  Alsbridge clients utilize the most cost effective and value added sources globally for IT infrastructure services, network carrier services, hardware and software, application support and development, business processes and cloud services.

EDITORS/WRITERS: Journalists interested in covering the above topic or interviewing one of our SMEs please contact:

Eric Gilmour
Office: (214) 696-6410

eric.gilmour@alsbridge.com
www.alsbridge.com

Reduced Network Costs is only one of the Many Business Benefits of TEM, Says Alsbridge

In the current economy, telephony bills have become an important place to save money, and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) helps enterprises do that together with providing innumerable other benefits. Alsbridge’s latest report A Better Way to Cut Costs with Telecom Expense Management explains how enterprises can tap into big savings through Telecom Expense Management.

Through the analogy of a famous book retailer in America, the report explains how the Alsbridge TEM team helped the book seller run all its telephony bills through the TEM system, realizing innumerable business benefits. According to this third largest book retailer in America, apart from the surprising amount of cost savings the biggest benefit has been the in-depth inventory the Alsbridge TEM team completed. Also, the business intelligence and analytics the TEM system provides.

With the bills today so complex, it is difficult to know if you are paying your telecom provider too much. The difficulty becomes geometrically more challenging for corporations with thousands of phone lines, data lines, switches, cell phones and tablets for which it now must pay. Moreover, few companies have the time, expertise, specialized systems, applications or processes to handle their ever more complicated telephony bills, which have become an important place to save money.

“The current economy is forcing many companies to focus on expense control management on a heightened level,” says Phil Hugus, managing director, Network Services Group at Alsbridge. “In today’s connected world, companies are dialing into Telecom Expense Management (TEM).”

For further details on this case study and to know how your company could also save money by dialing into Telephone Expense Management, download the complete report A Better Way to Cut Costs with Telecom Expense Management.

About Alsbridge Inc.

Alsbridge is a global consulting firm that helps companies transform and optimize the way they purchase, manage and leverage technology and business processes.   We have over 175 team members on 4 continents serving over 200 clients a year including more than 40% of the Fortune 500.  Alsbridge has helped hundreds of companies reduce costs and get more value from their vendors.  Our experienced consultants leverage proprietary tools and information databases to identify and engage the optimal vendors for your situation, negotiate best practice terms at fair market prices, and improve the way you work with your service providers.  Alsbridge clients utilize the most cost effective and value added sources globally for IT infrastructure services, network carrier services, hardware and software, application support and development, business processes and cloud services.

EDITORS/WRITERS: Journalists interested in covering the above topic or interviewing one of our SMEs please contact:

Eric Gilmour
Office: (214) 696-6410

eric.gilmour@alsbridge.com
www.alsbridge.com