Transforming IT communications can lower your cost base, save your organization in 2020

By squeezing efficiencies from IP and telecom networks, many agencies can realize significant cost savings while continuing to serve the public and the mission ...

Who would have thought a virus, an invisible germ, would infect our modern, globalized economy? The current battle plan for the majority of businesses is one of survival – tread water and keep afloat until calm and normalcy return. We’ve survived crises before and we’ll get through this one.

The Congressional Budget Office projected the U.S. GDP will drop 7% and unemployment will triple to 10% in the second quarter. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the outbreak could permanently eliminate three million jobs by summer. In fact, a number of enterprises–large and small–have already shed workers through layoffs and unpaid furloughs and many in hard-hit industries such as retail have closed their doors. Layoffs, as we know, can be counterproductive once demand rebounds – and it will – when companies find themselves short of key talent. Other companies will seek savings by sidelining important digital transformation projects that were until recently seen as strategic and imperative to future survival.

Rather than foregoing digitization efforts, there is another path to take that can offer cost-savings while supporting digital transformation and improving and supporting the public and the mission of the agency. By squeezing efficiencies from IP and telecom networks, many agencies can realize significant cost savings while continuing to serve the public and the mission of the agency, while embedding into their core operations new capabilities for networking, security and bandwidth. The result is a platform that can handle our current crisis in surging traffic, extra users and upcoming 5G technologies designed to aid sales, marketing and back-office functions. Which seems increasingly important as schools, offices and our government goes online en masse.

Here are some key areas to look for immediate savings while building for the future:

Consolidate: A simple consolidation of telecom resources and vendors can cut communication costs by up to 1/3 for many businesses and can positively impact agency mission budgets. Consolidation can offer a single source for voice, data and more. Companies and government organizations can achieve much lower rates and integrate multiple networks, doing away with complexity and multiple sources of invoicing. A single vendor, armed with leading technologies, especially Software Defined Wide-Area Networks (SD-WAN) and backed by an ecosystem of innovation, both in hardware and software, can deliver a network customized to your organization’s current needs and ready for future growth, especially with the surge in remote users. SD-WAN allows for deployment to remote offices without technical staff. It’s cheaper and more effective than dealing with the cacophony of providers selling piecemeal solutions.

With federal agencies increasingly deploying mobile technology, it’s prudent to restrict device usage to official business. The concept of software defined mobility (SDM) provides security and compliance at the network level by allowing organizations to block certain web sites and bandwidth-hogging streaming services. This gives the agency the ability to identify individual usage, control, cap and minimize it. Both SD-WAN and SD-M can be used to expand capabilities and lower costs.

D-Day for POTS: Plain Old Telephone (POTS) lines have reached the point of no return … on investment, that is. Major carriers no longer support copper wires, resulting in ever-rising costs to maintain outdated technology. These relics cost agencies unreasonably high monthly rates that will continue to climb year over year, if they are even available. A transformation of phone lines is now possible, including special services, such as fax, alarms, point-of-sale and elevator lines, which used to require an analog dial tone. POTS transformation provides an easy, cost-effective way to complete a digital transformation with plug-and-play simplicity, and realize immediate ROI and savings – up to 25% in most cases.

Managed networks and centralized management create a truly distributed workforce: Increasingly, mobile and remote employees will need more secure and more reliable devices — from smart phones to tablets of all configurations. You can squeeze costs and improve efficiency of these devices by centralizing management, procurement, replacement and invoicing.

FIS, a large financial technology provider, knows how. FIS centralized management for 15,000 mobile lines and devices and pooled its network access across multiple telecom carriers, resulting in more usable data at a much lower cost.  Overall, this saved the company more than 20% of their wireless communication expenses.

Choosing the right management platform is another key to enabling the remote tools employees need, as well as provide the security and infrastructure of a normal, in-office operation. It should be able to handle onboarding, billing, ordering and help-desk capabilities among other essential tasks. Savings can be substantial. One client – a large government agency with 690 separate vendors and more than 10,000 separate accounts – saw more than $8 million in savings two years after moving to a centralized management platform, with about $2 million saved just by correcting erroneous billing.

Tune-Up with IoT: Companies and government departments that maintain and manage fleet vehicles, service trucks, tractor trailers and other investments on wheels or on the move through their supply chains, have another avenue towards efficiency and cost-cutting. The rapid digitization of freight and logistic companies has created a new software ecosystem and a new flow of network traffic that enable communication providers to streamline operations, improve service and cut costs for such enterprises. But you don’t have to be in the trucking, logistics or transportation businesses to realize efficiencies and savings from vehicle assets and the drivers that are responsible for them. Indeed, the city of Phoenix, Arizona saw service levels increase, complaints drop and maintenance costs fall on its public works activities when it implemented IoT and fleet management systems in recent years.

Across the U.S. and the globe, healthcare providers and governments are working frantically to resolve this crisis as quickly as possible. Projections range from 60 days to 18 months or longer for a total healthcare resolution. From a government and business perspective, however, the impact is likely to last much longer as we all scramble to improve services, reduce or control costs and enable the remote worker.

But there is relief, not on the horizon, but available today. By digitizing and consolidating IT communications and network operations this year, agencies can achieve efficiencies and maintain and improve service levels. We will learn a great deal from this crisis by developing best practices that will future-proof IT and telecommunications that will evolve into our standard operations in the future. Planning and implementing now with leaner, more resilient and flexible networks and communication systems may well save countless jobs and businesses in 2020 and help support our collective economic recovery, while exceeding the goals of the agency.

Wray Varley is vice president of MetTel Federal.

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