Reconciling the monthly telecom invoice is a pain. If you’ve managed an IT organization that supports dozens of remote offices, you know exactly what I mean—especially if the company is constantly adding, moving, or eliminating offices.

As the CIO of an organization supporting more than 200 remote offices, I had to develop a tool that would help me keep track of our wide area network (WAN) activity and status so that our telecom expenses could be reconciled and were appropriate per our usage. A consistent principle I developed early in my IT management career is that if you aren’t inspecting and reconciling your telecom invoice, you’re overpaying.

In an environment that incurs changes every month, you have to have up-to-date information that allows you to monitor, plan, and reconcile the activity that generates the expense.

When it’s your company’s money, it pays to inspect these costs closely. They can run into thousands of dollars quickly.

To help me with this issue, I developed a tool that allowed me to keep track of every WAN circuit in the company. You can download a copy of this tool now.

The tool was developed in Excel so you can sort certain columns for an easier view of the data. One of the key components of this spreadsheet is the Install Date column. If you manage a large WAN implementation, or convert from one carrier to another, you need to track the install date closely. In one conversion effort, we migrated 65 WAN circuits from AT&T to Qwest. The agreement with Qwest was that the billing would not start until the circuit was actually activated for use and we had connectivity. There are two components to activating a circuit for actual use:

  1. The national or regional carrier activates the circuit in its infrastructure service.
  2. The local teleco installs the local connection for the national carrier service.

You can do step 1 before the local teleco gets its part done. This is actually very common. The local telecom connection is the piece that no one has control over. I have had situations that took 60 days longer for the local teleco to complete its part after the national carrier had its WAN service setup in place. If I did not have an agreement as I did with Qwest, I would have incurred two months of charges from both Qwest and AT&T. The tool gave me the ability to manage the project very closely and to ensure that we were paying only for what was being used.

Another column in the tool is the Monitoring column. Many companies are outsourcing network monitoring services to watch their WANs and to automatically begin troubleshooting problems as soon as they occur. I would highly recommend that anyone with a large WAN explore the use of monitoring services. There are many companies that do excellent work in this area and that help you keep your systems up and running. One such company that I have had positive results with is TA Associates in Atlanta.

Mike Sisco is the CEO of MDE Enterprises, an IT management training and consulting company. For more of Mike’s management insight, take a look at his IT Manager Development Series.