Ken King, director of telco & media convergence at SAS, discusses “Dialing into Telco Data” – a new report launched today. How much further do operators have to go to get their data management into optimum shape?

Ken King: Telecoms operators need to make data management a fundamental, and on-going, part of their business operations.

Getting your data management into optimum shape is a constantly evolving, rather than fixed, goal because telecoms operators are part of a dynamic marketplace.

What’s important is that the approach to data management is flexible, so that the operator can adapt to changes in the wider marketplace.

Data management needs to be a corporate priority, because customer data is, in many ways, the most important asset that the telecoms company has – it is the only asset that their competitors can’t duplicate.

What types of data present operators with the greatest opportunity to generate revenue?

First of all, information about usage patterns can help operators to build a picture of ‘communities of interest’.

By overlaying demographic information with behavioural analysis, operators can achieve much more sophisticated market segmentation.

Thanks to data about usage patterns, operators can investigate how their customers form these communities of interest, and can identify influential people within them: for example, someone who makes and receives calls from many other people might be more influential than someone who makes a similar number of calls, but to a smaller number of people.  

Factors such as duration of interactions and number of individuals interacted with help to enrich the operator’s understanding of the community’s dynamics.

This ‘Big Data’ analysis involves tens of millions of customers generating billions of call detail records.

This wasn’t feasible to do a relatively short time ago, because the processing power to just didn’t exist. With Big Data analytics, it is now something operators can accomplish.

Another type of data that operators can capitalise on is unstructured data.

This might be, for example, the text entered on a customer record when a customer contacts the operator’s call centre or IMs a customer support agent on the operator’s website.

In addition, external, unstructured Big Data assets, such social media, present operators with an unprecedented opportunity to understand the way their brand is perceived.

Bringing that data into the organisation, and complementing it with the unique data that exists within the business, is key.

Analysis of unstructured data is all about understanding the context and sentiment, and having this data available for use in business decision making.

What type of new services can improved data management open up?

Improved data management will help operators tackle margin erosion and current challenges by offering new services. 

A significant problem that mobile operators currently face is the exponentially-growing amount of data being transferred across their networks, as consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets increases.

The pricing tiers and usage caps that some networks have implemented to try and stem the tide of data on their networks have caused customer frustration in some instances.

By breaking down data silos within the organisation, and integrating data together network data with customer data, operators can better understand their individual customer’s needs and activities, and thus recommend ways in which those customers might use their devices during periods of peak data traffic.

Another great opportunity is mobile commerce, which is allowing operators to use the mobile device for targeted advertising and promotions.

Operators know the customer’s location, what the customer’s intentions are, and they have a history of the customer’s interaction that can be a very valuable source of market information.

This helps organisations and brands market to the customer in a much more targeted way.

How easy is it to build a business case for a data management programme?

There’s always one aspect of building the business case that is relatively straightforward: cost reduction.  

Every telecoms operator has core activities, and data management can help find a way to do it more cost-effectively.

But that doesn’t capitalise on the most significant opportunities: at that point, it takes a bit of a leap of faith.

It’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly the revenue you will get from many of the opportunities I’ve mentioned; however, the business case is helped if the operator can break it down and show how, by consolidating data across silos, they can retire older legacy systems and that is an easier to justify business case.

How important is data management technology to improving outcomes when weighed against the cultural and organisational changes that operators have to make?

The technology is available to do these things today, even when managing Big Data, but it’s much more difficult, and takes much longer, to make the cultural changes.

For example, one thing we see in many operators is that data was collected in a certain part of the organisation for a certain purpose, but hasn’t been made available to other parts of the business.

Sometimes this is an internal politics question, which is why data management needs board-level sponsorship: to show the entire organisation that it is necessary and that there is a wider corporate need to manage data at the enterprise level.

Want to learn more about Big Data? Click here to read our recent special report 

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