Telecom Billing Analyst vs the Bill Payer
I recently entered into a debate on the role of the billing analyst versus the bill payer; the latter often referred to as the Accounts Payable Clerk in most organizations. The bill payer role is well understood and the process quite straight forward. Vendors must be paid in a timely manner for the service to continue or to stay away of the collection agencies. The bill payer typically must seek approval in the form of an electronic or wet signature of the cost centre owner to proceed with paying the invoice. Job done.
The Billing Analyst Role
The billing analyst role is often left to the cost centre owner to determine the validity of the charge or charges. In the case of telecommunication costs for a medium to large organization, this should likely be a full time role; that said, I have seen the position repeatedly under-staff , under-skilled or under-resourced. By under-resourced, I am referring to the lack of tools and technology to manage the magnitude of the billing and the services it can represent. The tools must be three dimensional in that it looks at the inventory, the outstanding orders and the invoice(s).
It is staggering when the studies reveal that 80 to 85% of telecommunications invoices are paid in full without validation – resulting in an overpayment of 5 to 35%. Why you might ask? IT folks are not necessarily well known for their financial acumen; conversely, accounting types are not readily versed in the technology generating the costs. Telecommunication billing expertise marries the two disciplines, and for any medium to large organization this unique skill set is a must if they have any chance of harnessing their telecommunications costs.
The Role of the Bill Payer
The debate I refer to above was prefaced on unclear roles and responsibilities and consequently an understaffing reality in the organization. Is it the role of the analyst or the bill payer to investigate a service continuance issue because the bill wasn’t paid? In this case the service was buried knee deep in a vendor consolidated bill that contained hundreds of like services. The bill payer had neither the inclination nor the skill set to delve into the very convoluted invoice where this service was apparently charged, or investigate the change that preempted the non-payment. The analyst when they exist, may require several hours to investigate, and may require the services of the vendor to resolve the issue. You also risk the service being cut off before you have located the problem and resolved the payment issue. Alternately, mismanagement of services can add hundred if not thousands to your monthly costs because obsolete services continue to bill, and companies continue to pay.
A TEM cannot possibly replace the billing analyst or the bill payer role but it can successfully unite the two roles, limit the required number of staff, improve efficiencies, and provide the quintessential tool set for managing the assets or services. With a TEM, the issue above could have been resolved and activated within minutes had the company had the foresight to invest in the right skill set, the right tool set, and oh yes, the creation of a job profile or two!
What is your role in the Telecom expense management process?