United Rentals centralizes cell phone expenses

A deal with a major equipment rental company has given a boost to Toronto-based Avotus Corp. in its push to offer a three-pillared approach to telecommunications management.


Rentals Inc., based in Greenwich, Conn., with 730 branch locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, has installed Avotus’s ICM Wireless Expense Management offering to manage bills for cell phones and other wireless communications devices used by its employees.

“”We did an evaluation of a number of products and felt (the Avotus product) had the best reporting structure for the people in the field, so it was easy for them to look at where all their costs were going,”” said George Cinquegrana, chief information officer at United Rentals. “”There are a number of products out there, but we thought the reporting aspect of this product was better than any of the others.””

The system will manage costs for wireless devices used by United Rentals field sales people and delivery drivers, he said. Regional offices can use it to monitor and analyse usage, forecast budgets and conduct quarterly reviews.

Avotus’ expense management system uses a combination of Web-based software and hosted services to bring customers’ wireless bills together in one place, helping them track their costs, spot improper or unnecessary use of services and negotiate better deals with carriers, said Alan Gold, senior vice-president of marketing and corporate strategy at the Toronto software vendor.

Gold said Avotus offers customers a range of options from installing its software on the customer’s hardware through hosting it for them to providing a complete expense management service. United Rentals is in the middle of that range, he said, with Avotus hosting the software but the rental company managing wireless expenditures internally.

The Avotus software can take billing data from wireless carriers electronically, either in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) format or by reading files over the Internet or via CD, Gold said. Where neither of these options is available, Avotus can process paper invoices and enter the billing data in the customer’s expense management system.

The system’s advantages include interfaces to corporate directory and human resources systems, he said, making it easy, for instance, to make sure that employees’ company-paid cell phone accounts are closed when they leave the company. Managers can track spending on individual accounts, helping them spot potential abuse, and can use data collected by the system to determine whether the company is using the best communications plans for its needs and to negotiate with vendors.

Avotus was formed about three years ago through a merger that included MDR Technologies Inc. – an Oakville, Ont., company whose software managed cost data from internal phone systems — and Switchview Inc. – a Waterloo, Ont., firm with software for managing private branch exchanges.

Gold said Avotus now promotes a three-pillar approach to telecommunications management, which includes managing the infrastructure, tracking and managing usage of the infrastructure and managing network expenses. “”Expense management is the newest of those pillars for us,”” he said, “”and the place where we’re seeing the most activity and growth right now.””

The United Rentals deal, while not the largest Avotus has ever signed, is important to the vendor for that reason and because of the potential for Avotus’s software to make a significant difference to the customer’s business.

Gold added that Avotus hopes soon to announce a deal with a sizeable financial services firm, though it will not be able to identify the customer, he said.

Cinquegrana said implementation took a little longer than expected but the Wireless Expense Management system is now up and running at United Rentals.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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