When you think of the telecommunications function within the enterprise, most professionals are likely (and erroneously) to assume that telecom is synonymous with IT.  While there are definite interdependencies, most organizations’ strategic IT plans tend to leave telecom by the wayside. The telecom function seems an identy-less waif looking for a home. Is it a subset of operations?  Does it belong under IT?  Are there aspects of telecom that need to be attached to specific business units? Who manages our BYOD and MDM policies?  Because of telecom’s ubiquity and necessity, time and again it fails to find a holistic, permanent residency amongst established business units within the enterprise.  Because of its tie to IT, it seems obvious to include telecom within the strategic IT plan.  However, there seems to be a pervasive gap between the telecom business unit and IT, perhaps due to differences in objectives and culture, or maybe because of a mutual obliviousness for the other group’s expertise.   Whatever the cause, this uncertainty can result in costly IT systems that ignore an organizational wide telecom strategy. For this reason, the search for IT and telecom alignment has frustrated the enterprise for decades.

Telecom’s very function roots it in IT, from the onset, and makes it very difficult to determine the differences between the two, or that telecom is a viable subset of technology.  Why then, does telecom have such a difficult time earning its way into enterprise IT planning?  Perhaps, in many organizations, IT doesn’t have the means to understand how it supports a telecom management strategy.  The link between IT’s capabilities and telecom’s needs is not usually adequately mapped out.  Additionally, the execution strategies within the IT department can be notoriously slow, and trying to get any type of business objective, let alone telecom objective aligned within the IT strategy can be challenging to say the least; especially with the explosion of mobile devices in the enterprise.

All of this may seem superfluous, ultimately not truly identifying the underlying causes of why telecom has suffered so.  Amongst mid-sized, as well as large and Fortune 500 enterprises, telecommunications has been treated as a necessary evil;  recognized as vital to any organization, but a pain to manage.  Since most organizations do not have adequate IT resources to holistically manage telecom, let alone optimize, the telecom function, it is likely to spiral out of control and become an exasperating sunken cost to the organization, across all departments.  Taking ownership of such a disconnected mess and trying to tie strategic objectives to it can be an effort in futility, full of ambiguous information. Telecom is dynamic, and complicated, requiring much flexibility in planning and execution.

Telecommunications horizontally supports all facets of any enterprise, and as such should be managed with metrics in mind; for instance: total cost of telecom (TCT™) per employee. Within a typical organization, when a business unit requires IT department expertise, a business case or plan is created and presented, justifying IT’s time and efforts with some type of meaningful ROI back to the business.  Telecom cannot be positioned in this manner, as it’s a supporting organizational function; crucial as it may be, it cannot compete with other strategic initiatives when most organizations have a difficult time managing all aspects of telecom across an enterprise.

Additionally, attempting to manage telecom with IT resources not properly trained or prepared to deal with the mesh of operations, technology, accounting, and economic functions necessary will, time and again, result in a huge uptick in indirect spend across multiple departments.  While telecom is not a revenue generating powerhouse, it is something that, if properly managed and optimized, can have a positive financial impact on each facet of the organization.  Magnifying it’s potential to increase efficiencies and output from other strategic IT initiatives may bolster telecom’s importance within the enterprise planning process.

If your telecom management is spread across multiple departments without clear identity or holistic management, it’s also likely that it cannot be effectively measured. If this article describes your organization, it’s time to get a telecom management evaluation.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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