Controlling corporate cell phone costs: How we do it at ACL

Published | Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Cellphone costs can be a notorious plague on an organization, to the extent that some vendors have made it their entire business model to help corporations reduce the cost of their mobile fleet. In this post, I’d like to show you how the IT team at ACL uses the ACL Platform to better manage corporate cell phone costs and avoid waste.

Why are cell phone costs such a problem?

Unlike most other technology services, IT doesn’t have full control over cell phone costs. Control and oversight is often divided in the following way:

  • IT controls the basic fees by assigning a phone plan to a user and deciding whether to upgrade the device or purchase extra service packs. This is the part that IT can predict, but…
  • IT does not control the overage charges resulting from usage that goes beyond the plan; these extra charges are a result of the employee’s actions.

The challenge is to control user behavior, which is not easy in the age of heavy smartphone usage and a global business environment. While users need (and are required by policy!) to be vigilant with data usage abroad, old habits are not so easy to break.

Policies are only as good as their enforcement

A year ago, we updated our cell phone policy to articulate the employee’s responsibility, such as requesting a travel pack in advance of leaving the country. The trouble with that approach was that we failed to change behavior in the long term. Having users read, understand and sign a document only once proved to be ineffective—and often forgotten when the time came for them book their corporate travel.

Instead, we have now come up with a process to reinforce ongoing awareness of the policy: every month, we review the detailed cell phone bill to identify overage charges.

Not every overage requires the same response, so we defined two thresholds:

    1. Low: The employee will be notified and reminded of the policy if their overages exceed the first threshold (e.g., $30).
    2. High: If the overages exceed a second, higher threshold (e.g., $100), our Finance team will also be notified so that they can take appropriate action.

How we automated policy enforcement—and follow-up—with the ACL Platform

Previously, follow-up on overages meant that a member of the IT staff would review the report in Excel and then send follow-up emails manually. This exercise was made somewhat more difficult because the detailed bill contains about 50 different charges for each user—and it’s not always clear whether a fee is a normal element of the basic plan or the result of overage. This largely manual process was in place for about a year, until recently.

Using the ACL Platform, our new process only has ONE manual step (and we hope to remove this, too!): Download the latest report from the provider’s portal into a shared folder.

Every step is automated after that. Here’s what the system does for us:

    • ACL Analytics Exchange picks up all the new reports automatically.
    • The ACL script then:
      • Adds the user’s email address
      • Calculates the 4 subtotals of charges for each user: Basic fee, Travel fee, Device fee, and Overage fee
      • Summarizes the data to have the total of each of these fees for the month
    • The analytic results are then immediately uploaded to the ACL GRC Results module, which outputs a storyboard of visualized analysis and metrics.
    • All visualizations, metrics and storyboards are instantly updated to include the new data.
    • In cases where charges exceed our Low threshold limit (i.e., $30), the system triggers a questionnaire to be sent to the employees to capture the context/justification for the overage and ensure awareness of the policy. The users get regular reminders until they respond.
    • If the overage charge exceeds our High threshold (e.g. $100), the system triggers a second questionnaire to be sent to the Finance team.
    • IT staff is notified at every step of the process above, giving us clear oversight.

Ongoing visibility into accurate numbers and trends

We used to rely on someone’s email inbox to track responses; now have a centrally available repository of information which enables tremendous transparency into our cell phone costs and controls.

In a dedicated ACL storyboard, it is possible to see:

  • The evolution of charges over time
  • The detailed overage fees over time, split by user (plus, we can drilldown on a single user by clicking on their name)

ACL results over time
The value we built will never go away

Using the ACL Platform, we quickly built a resilient system that is running automatically. We brought our practice to a new level of control and visibility, and have dramatically reduced the effort required by our IT and Finance teams. This immediate time-saving validates that this initiative is worth spending more time on—and we will!

Our journey is far from over—but we started it, and we recommend you do the same. The sooner you take the first step, the faster you’ll have more time to do great things


Written by Roland Flutet, Manager, IT Service, Information Technology, ACL Services

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