Big data has been a buzzword of recent years – everyone is talking about it as operators make steps towards embracing the big data they own. This year TM Forum saw the conversation broaden to focus on telcos’ digital transformation. Major CIOs all offered their view on ways telcos should find new monetization models and become more customer-centric as they move on in the digital age, with big data now seen as the fuel to digitization.
As a keynote speaker at TM Forum Live, I experienced the discussions around digital transformation first hand – but what does it really mean for operators and how can the digital transformation help telcos succeed in an ever competitive market?
At its core, digital transformation is about radically improving business performance with technology – through mobility, social media, smart devices and so on. By making use of the increased number of data streams, digital transformation can see the implementation of systems supported by real-time automated processes, forming the basis of a company’s data driven culture. By digitising, operators can increase productivity and customer satisfaction by ensuring faster time to market and the personalization of services.
The telco fear
While operators acknowledge the value of big data analytics, several challenges were made clear at this year’s forum. Most operators today have the power to harness their analytics capabilities but few have successfully brought about value-added services through their big data analysis. Indeed, many operators are almost “star struck” in the face of big data – they recognize its power for the future of their business, but aren’t quite sure how to apply this added prowess. Telcos’ lack of agility has also reared its head; the many legacy systems which exist today mean that operators have grown comfortable and are slow to change even at the risk of losing customers or revenue.
But if we are to see operators be successful in becoming digital service providers, mind sets and attitudes towards big data must change – the fear of breaking existing processes should become a thing of the past in place of productivity and increased marketing ROI. More importantly, telcos must realize that perceiving big data as a source of consumer insight isn’t enough. While being an important application for the strategy development, it will not provide optimal outcomes for the bottom line. Without directly using raw data for process and decision automation, the insight will simply act as a “window” into their big data with little means to act on the information gathered.
It’s all about automation
Telcos must adopt the correct tools to get the most out of their data; these will give operators a competitive edge over the market as they begin to use their data to prevent customer churn and improve customer experience. For this to happen, telcos must look to machine learning as a way of extracting real value from their data. Machine learning analyzes data to automatically identify underlying patterns, and make recommendations and predictions that would lead to the desired outcome – all at a speed, scale and efficiency that human analysis cannot envision, and with constant improvements in quality as the new data is generated. In practice, machine learning, allows telcos to deliver personalised services to improve QoE for customers and consequently, reduce churn. By replacing human analysis in favor of machine learning’s methodical approach, operators will see greater accuracy in their processes and ultimately increase their cost, time and resource efficiency.
Every time telcos talk about the need to deliver contextual experience, omni-channel communications, predicting subscriber intent and personalised services – they are in fact referring to machine learning. It is the only technology able to deliver these services through the smart use of data. Without new-generation analytics and, subsequently, automation, embedded in telco operations all these will be impossible.
TM Forum Live demonstrated the importance of digitization for operators, but to successfully embark on their journey towards becoming digital service providers, telcos must look beyond compelling online and mobile offerings and towards the power of their big data. It’s not just about insight, it’s about far more than that. By applying machine learning solutions to big data analysis, operators will be able to pre-empt and prevent the things which often correlate with revenue loss: customer churn and poor QoE/QoS.
Jane Zavalishina is the CEO of machine learning and data company Yandex Data Factory. Yandex Data Factory is a subsidiary of European Internet comany, Yandex, which operates Russia’s most popular search engine.