If you’ve worked in the enterprise or wholesale telecommunications industry for a while, you probably remember well the first time you took a serious look at a telecom invoice from one of the major US carriers. If you were like me, your first thought was:

“Wow, whoever created this did not want anyone to understand how much they are paying for telecom services, or whether they are paying the correct amount. They just want to make sure you send your check to the right PO box.”

And sadly, with the proliferation of data services and mobile, not much has improved.

In a world where data overload and confusion are commonplace, telecom invoices standout — in their impenetrability, their overwhelming detail, their ability to transform what should be simple into utter chaos.  The same service from the same provider often has different names.  The same carrier often uses different billing formats due to legacy billing systems.  Everyone knows there is not just one version of an AT&T invoice.  And there is no consistency among competing service providers.  All of this makes auditing telecom invoices – which is hard work even if invoices were easy to understand – a major headache.  And it makes doing continuous telecom audits, which we wrote about in another post, pretty daunting.

At Cloud Age Solutions, we know because we have been working on this problem for a long time.  Over the last 10 plus years, we have been automating many of the hurdles associated with managing telecom expenses.  And while we are not yet at the point where we can automatically give every telecom invoice a big thumbs up or thumbs down (like the Commodus in the movie Gladiator) when it arrives in your inbox, we’ve made a lot of progress.

The first step is to make sure you have good data.  We have an extensive library of software-based invoice “readers” that automate telecom invoice receipt, and translate invoices into a standard, easy-to-analyze file format.  The next steps are to validate your data.  We have automated some all-important data reconciliation tasks, such as comparing line item detail with summary charges, checking for missing elements, comparing invoice items to a customer’s actual inventory of services, and extensive validation on GL coding.

And now, we have gone one step further in the audit automation process.  Cloud Age Solutions has advanced our automation toolkit by adding configurable rate audits. With this new capability, users can define a rate audit based on one or more charge descriptions and define which provider and accounts to run the audit.  These configurable rate audits are run every time an invoice is loaded, and they can be run manually if needed.   For example, you can configure an audit to check all of the rates on your Verizon MPLS circuits automatically.

Why is this level of automation important?  Apart from saving all the time and money associated with doing things the hard way – trying to find a needle in a haystack — there is a more strategic reason.    I saw this quote recently and it really hit home.

“When you automate, you can use your staff more creatively.”

This applies to all members of the telecom supply chain.  Medium to large enterprises can automate when invoice volume starts to overwhelm them.  Rather than chasing problems, they can think creatively about how to better serve the overall business.  Channel partners and consultants can use this capability to design an efficient auditing service offering for their customers.  This level of automation allows channel partners to move resources from time-consuming manual efforts to spending more time addressing critical customer issues.  And for service providers who buy circuits from larger carriers, our automation toolkit can help them achieve enhanced network visibility and better cost controls.

In short, our automation capability is a great example of how Cloud Age Solutions makes telecom invoice management painless.

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