Facing the Technology Challenges

By Elizabeth Bennett  |  Posted 2006-08-06 Print this article Print

The food services company turned to an expense management system to keep track of more than 4,000 handheld devices.

Facing the Technology Challenges

While the results have been fairly impressive, getting the Rivermine software to work for Sodexho took some effort, according to Tocco. "The software is great, but it has to be customized and configured for your business," he says. "You have to be ready to invest your own time and consulting services to get the implementation that is right for you."

It took Sodexho about three months to configure the software to its specifications. Sodexho used a team of three Rivermine consultants for the project. Rivermine says such an investment is typical for its customers.

In Sodexho's case, the Rivermine software needed to be integrated with the facility management company's payroll and financial data because Sodexho wanted to be able to track accounts and analyze spending and procurement trends.

To integrate the software with the legacy payroll system, Ingalls worked with the Rivermine project team to create a script that once a week pulls data, such as employees' hire dates, unit information, location and termination date, in SQL format from the company's payroll database into a text file. The file is uploaded to an FTP file-sharing server and then imported into the Rivermine software.

To ensure that wireless expenses were charged back to the right department and client, Sodexho wanted certain wireless account information to be verified by a server it calls a unit charge allocation system. Relevant data, such as employee numbers, unit and division, is scheduled to be exported to a text file each month and then uploaded to the chargeback system, which validates the data and then exports it to SAP financial software and the company's general ledger.

Overall, developing a wireless management policy, communicating it to employees, transferring liability and installing the software to get a near-complete and accurate inventory of wireless devices was very labor-intensive, Ingalls says, but there's a big payoff: The company has reduced wireless spending by 25% and has realized a 100% return within a year of its initial investment, according to Tocco.

And then there are the intangible benefits. Ingalls points out that the company now has an official wireless management policy, which includes guidelines for employees about how they should use their devices when traveling abroad, calling headquarters on the toll-free number instead of the local number, and whom they should notify if they lose a device.

In the end, Tocco sees telecom management as an opportunity for information technologists to step out and lead within their corporations. With a telecommunications expense management system, he says that information technology "is in a position to really select and manage various aspects of telecommunications in a way that provides [comparable] or better services, in what amounts to a pretty dramatic price reduction. I.T. should get on board with this."

NEXT PAGE: Sodexho Base Case

Senior Writer
Elizabeth has been writing and reporting at Baselinesince its inaugural issue. Most recently, Liz helped Fortune 500 companies with their online strategies as a customer experience analyst at Creative Good. Prior to that, she worked in the organization practice at McKinsey & Co. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College.

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