- Alie McCormack Senior Systems Designer
- Jean-Pierre Bédard Director, Telephony & Unified Communications, CBC/Radio-Canada Media Technology Services
The Telecom Expense Reporting & Management Systems (TERMS) project is a very expansive undertaking within CBC/Radio-Canada sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB); it is designed to cover the entire lifecycle of all of CBC/Radio-Canada's mobile devices and consists of the implementation of two separate systems:
- A Telecom Expense Management (TEM) system, and
- A Mobile Device Management (MDM) system.
TERMS itself seeks to provide a transparent answer to a few questions that are vital within any organisation:
- Who is using mobile devices within the Corporation?
- Which mobile devices are these individuals using?
- How are they using them?
The ability to answer these questions allows us to elucidate the reason why we pay for the services that we have contracted and whether we are making the best use of the funding that the Canadian taxpayer provides to CBC/Radio-Canada.
Following a Request for Proposals (RFP) that was issued about a year ago by the Telecommunications, Media Technology Services and Information Technology groups, Tangoe proved to be the best solution to the Corporation's needs, as it fits in within CBC/Radio-Canada's move towards Cloud-based solutions. Tangoe provides its service within a Software as a Service (SaaS) framework; as such, no equipment needs to be purchased by the Corporation, which will lease Tangoe's service on a per month and per user basis.
Figure 1 – TERMS Challenges, Solutions, and Benefits
Telecom Expense Management
One of the key issues encountered prior to our implementation of TERMS is that the Corporation's employees have never known precisely how much the monthly use of their mobile device costs.
Presently, CBC/Radio-Canada has approximately 9,000 employees and 6,500 mobile devices, most of which are registered with Bell Mobility, as well as approximately 500 split between Rogers and Telus. Seven out of ten Corporation employees have a cellular telephone, but there was no transparency as to the costs associated with these devices and, consequently, little attention was paid to the way in which they were used.
Costs in the cellular telephone market evolve extremely quickly. When we launched an RFP seeking a cellular service provider back in 2008, the rates offered by Bell Mobility were the best ones available at the time; however, we are presently switching our service to Rogers due to the fact that Rogers offers more competitive rates.
Under the billing structure that we had in place until now, we would only receive warnings about extreme cases; e.g., if someone went abroad and returned with an exorbitant bill a week later, a situation that has arisen more than once due to the amount of time that some of our news correspondents can spend on the road. Until now, our employees would not necessarily have billing plans that were properly adapted to their work situation. These scenarios will be spotted early on by the Telecom Expense Management system and monthly reports will be sent to each user, so that they are aware of what they have consumed.
The TEM side of the TERMS project covers four important areas:
- Inventory: This deals with the creation of a complete inventory of mobile devices used within CBC/Radio-Canada, which provides a detailed view of who owns what, as well as how each device is used. This was not available under the corporate infrastructure that we had until now.
- Reporting: This function will allow reports to be run on the use of individual devices, their total cost per person, per device, and the like. All of this is in the interest of providing visibility and accountability, as well as cost reduction. Reports sent to individual users will include details, such as their text message and data usage, as well as the talk time that they have consumed. These reports will be sent to users as well as their managers, in the interest of making changes if need be.
- Invoice Charge Amount & Expected Net Charge Amount: Prior to this point, CBC/Radio-Canada had no way of immediately validating the content of mobile billing; this service will automatically flag billing errors through Tangoe's TEM system, errors such as employees being charged too much for text messages and double-billing mistakes that could have gone unnoticed within our previous infrastructure.
- Contract Optimisation: This functionality of the TEM system analyses each service number, the plans assigned to it, and what should be changed based on the use of the device associated to it during the preceding months in order to maximise CBC/Radio-Canada's savings and ensure that the Corporation's employees are matched to the sort of billing and use plans that are more suited to their needs. E.g., if an employee had no text messaging package as part of their monthly plan but received and sent many text messages every month, a small plan change would allow the Corporation to make very substantial savings during every subsequent month.
All of these elements, as well as their visibility in real time will allow CBC/Radio-Canada to adapt quickly to extraordinary situations that were not necessarily apparent within our previous infrastructure. E.g., if the user of an iOS or Android device suddenly goes into roaming because they just went through Customs, they will receive an alert advising them of their roaming situation and inquiring whether they have purchased the necessary package to cover roaming use. If an individual is made aware of this situation in time to correct it, substantial roaming charges can be avoided through a simple call to ITSC to purchase the appropriate addendum to their service plan. Additionally, TEM will allow us to send consumption alerts to mobile devices in real time when they are approaching the upper limits of what is allowed by their calling and data plans, thus giving them a chance to purchase extra talk time or data on the fly.
Mobile Device Management
The second main aspect of the TERMS project is Mobile Device Management in real time.
This functionality gives users and support personnel the ability to connect to any mobile device supported within the system (iOS and Android devices, as well as, eventually, RIM devices) in real time and check whether it might have any issues: whether it can send and receive emails, whether its battery is dead, whether it has been “jail-broken”, whether it happens to be roaming, etc. Essentially, MDM can be used to provide a real time snapshot of any CBC/Radio-Canada mobile device.
Beyond that, MDM allows for specific configurations and applications to be pushed onto the Corporation's mobile devices, which covers options such as pushing:
- A series of applications onto a device at the time of its activation,
- CBC/Radio-Canada's Wi-Fi service on any device activated within the Corporation,
- VPN configurations,
- Security measures specific to CBC/Radio-Canada, such as forcing a password to be implemented, and
- Corporate email.
Under the previous system in place, all of the options described above were manual configuration options, which left some room for error and inconsistency. On the other hand, thanks to MDM, all of these options can be taken care of automatically by the system as soon as the user receives their device, visits the Tangoe portal, and activates it.
Consequently, the degree of automation in the process as well as the ability to verify a mobile device's status with little more than a couple of clicks has the effect of notably simplifying any troubleshooting that might ensue following a mobile device malfunction. If any software issue becomes evident on an employee's mobile device, upon receiving a support call from them, the Support person will be able to immediately push all the appropriate configuration options onto the device in question.
Return on Investment
As one would expect, CBC/Radio-Canada did not embark upon this project exclusively for the accountability and support reasons described above, but the Corporation did so at the request of the TSB in order to gain a substantial return on investment (ROI), and to be able to channel any savings towards what matters most to Canadians: our content.
As such, the calculations made by the combined team from the Telecommunications, Media Technology Services and Information Technology groups have estimated that, following implementation, the entire TERMS project would pay for itself within its first year of operation, with the ultimate goal of reaching a 20% to 25% cost reduction in the long run thanks to the new, optimised system infrastructure.
Additionally, other savings will be derived from switching to Rogers as CBC/Radio-Canada's mobile service provider, following that organisation's response to the Government of Canada's RFP concerning mobile telephony back in 2011. Consequently, the Corporation will be able to benefit from the same text, talk, and data rates as the Federal Government and other Crown Corporations for the foreseeable future.
Moreover, further monetary savings and environmental benefits will follow the implementation of TERMS, as mobile devices that have reached the end of their lifecycle will be responsibly recycled by a provider of recycling services who will compensate CBC/Radio-Canada for the reusable components of the mobile devices shipped to them. This will be a substantial improvement in comparison with just handing obsolete equipment back to their original service provider.
The ROI of the TERMS project extends beyond strictly monetary value, as TERMS has a strong aspect of self-service to it, which should empower CBC/Radio-Canada employees by involving them more directly in the use and management of their mobile devices, and this self-service aspect reaches all the way back to device acquisition.
Users will be able to log onto the Tangoe portal, select the device that they require in accordance with a set of criteria, follow the necessary steps to approve the purchase, and, within 48 hours, receive their device with the usage plan that they selected.
Furthermore, the device's administration console will not only be accessible to system administrators, but it will also be accessible at any time to the user, so that they can see the options available on their device and tailor their choices to their needs. They will be able to access, erase, activate, or even replace their mobile device. Essentially, it will be up to users to do their homework and make enlightened choices related to their devices from that point onward.
The TERMS project represents a turning point within CBC/Radio-Canada's adaptation to a new, more dynamic and productive wireless workplace.
In spite of its broad scope, it is designed to add accountability and visibility to the Corporation's use of mobile devices in the interest of being able to accomplish a lot more with increasingly limited resources, and, building upon that sense of accountability, to empower CBC/Radio-Canada's mobile device users with the information that they need in order to make enlightened choices as a function of their own needs, as well as those of the Corporation.
The project's ample return on investment is a clear indicator of how CBC/Radio-Canada is striving towards using the latest technology in order to be able to concentrate on what truly matters to Canadians: providing our content to them, everyone, every way, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.