Using collaborative intelligence to grow the telecoms industry

A company’s success in the telecommunications industry is all too often dependent on cross-department cohesion

 
A democratisation of data will equip operators with a clearer view of the individual customer experience 

The telecommunications industry is suffering from growing pains. Revenues are declining almost worldwide, and whether communications service providers’ (CSPs) businesses are expanding or contracting, no one is quite sure.

A new report from the independent global analyst firm Ovum analysed full-year key performance indicators (KPIs) of 23 of the world’s largest operators, and concluded that this slow-down will last until at least 2018, especially among those with exposure to Europe and other mature economies. The only significant growth is taking place within emerging markets, particularly China.

Revenues from voice and SMS are both dropping, in part due to increased competition from over-the-top (OTT) players such as Skype and WhatsApp. Consequently, the traditional services provided by CSPs are being chiselled away by commoditisation.

Changing old for new services
As a clear sign that CSPs are re-evaluating old business models, we are witnessing the use of experimental new revenue streams, such as how CSPs are realigning their offerings by making voice and SMS services unlimited, while better monetising data consumption.

This pressing emphasis on data has been precipitated by the proliferation of it. 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated over the past two years alone, and Big Data has become a buzz word across most industries.

This pressing emphasis on data has been precipitated by the proliferation of it

The gold rush for meaningful data has dug up other problems. Without IT controlling the flow of information and technology, departments become segregated by different data practices. Databases, platforms and tools can – in turn – get trapped in silos, which isolate important information and lead to fragmented strategies. This is the area where contextual intelligence is going to play an increasingly important role. Whether CSPs are discussing the opportunities for leveraging and monetising Big Data, delivering improved and efficient IT and service operations or adopting modern and alternative IT paradigms (such as cloud-based systems), the topics can all be positively influenced by contextual intelligence and advanced analytics.

With this sophisticated approach, CSPs can best leverage all of the data at their fingertips, plus detect and analyse behavioural and historical patterns to make decisions that have important implications for their bottom lines.

Data that was once captured and collected in disparate operational silos now holds valuable insights that can be leveraged by others. When that data is consolidated, it’s possible to get a clear picture of each individual customer at a granular level – offering operators actionable intelligence that can be useful for every team across their organisations.

CSPs that can successfully extend those insights to include business-related data will benefit from the combined predictive and proactive capability of contextual intelligence. By focusing on automation and the use of real-time data across the organisation, CSPs can harness the power of real-time decision-making.

Contextual intelligence can eliminate silos by democratising data for every department, but only if CSPs can impose some sort of order on the wealth of valuable information at their disposal, and turn that information into action.

Self-service vs collaborative service
One of the biggest trends in data is the phenomenon of self-service. Tools like salesforce.com or Google Analytics are making data available to anyone with a working knowledge of the platform.

Sales staff don’t have to wait a week for IT to produce a new Excel sheet, because account managers can easily look up a customer’s status on their phones, iPads or tablet computers. Marketing can create campaigns based on very specific findings from automation tools, completely bypassing the IT process.

Marketing can create campaigns based on very specific findings from automation tools, completely bypassing the IT process

Yet for CSPs, there is still a rigid definition of who does what. The infrastructure that CIOs and CTOs oversee isn’t just software; it’s composed of complex networks often spanning long distances. When it comes to metrics, every number has far-reaching implications. Rather than self-service, CSPs need to think about how to collaborate instead. That means consolidating customer, network and service data to one central environment. A survey of APAC CSPs has confirmed that this is already beginning to happen, with nearly half (46 percent) saying that they are in the process of consolidating their OSS/BSS systems.

Imagine if mediation, policy and charging and analytics were all part of the same environment. How much easier would it be to foster smart decision-making from that data?

When the data is captured and available, the next step is to create a reliable and universal data governance strategy to avoid redundant or faulty information. Designating control of different data sets to different managers can help build transparency and accountability into the process.

Setting controls for whom can change what – and how he or she can share it – can also help secure the way that data is accessed and manipulated. Once CSPs have centralised data management and created a strategy for how teams can use it, it’s time to tackle the biggest obstacle standing in the way of contextual intelligence: the silos.

Building bridges between executives
If you ask a CMO and a CIO of the same operator what trends they’re seeing in the industry today, you’re going to get very different answers. CMOs may mention the market or consumer devices.

CIOs are more likely to talk about the effect of cloud or M2M on network performance. And, even though they are both responsible for the success of the same company, it’s likely that both executives will tell you that they have very different goals.

The CMO is probably going to say that his or her priorities are products, lead generation, conversion and churn. After all, that’s what he or she has been measured on when it comes to job performance. The person has to set his or her sights on goals based around revenue and reach, and make sure the team focuses on achieving them. Often, the CMO will focus so much that he or she gets tunnel vision – ignoring all of the other moving parts in the company.

The CIO will have tunnel vision, too, but he or she will be driving down a different highway. This person wants to know how he or she can improve network performance. How much data is being consumed? What regions could benefit from LTE or fibre deployment? At the end of the day, he or she will know that network problems are going to land in his or her lap.

The CIO doesn’t want to take his or her eyes from those objectives, and may end up overlooking the bottom line in favour of technology innovation and maintenance.

The CIO doesn’t want to take his or her eyes from those objectives, and may end up overlooking the bottom line in favour of technology innovation and maintenance

The same thing happens across all of the CSPs other departments. Executives are assigned responsibilities according to their roles, and those responsibilities rarely overlap. Underlying siloed organisations compound the effect.

Many CSPs may balk at the idea of coordinating a marketing campaign between the CMO, CTO and CIO, but the latest tools – and the democratisation of data – demand it. Data democratisation across CSPs is going to radically change the way executives interact. Thanks to the seamless integration of predictive analytics into OSS/BSS systems, Big Data can reveal customer trends across the network.

CMOs can decide which regions and at what pace different campaigns should be deployed, and analyse which marketing offers would most interest customers. They’ll be able to segment customers into more granular groups and figure out – in real time – how campaigns are performing.

If the CMO can see that customers are suffering from bad experiences in a particular region, then they will want to know how they can offer them something that improves that experience. This could usher in an age of contextually intelligent and highly relevant messaging to each customer – but to do it, they’ll have to go through their CIOs for guidance on device and network use. In this case, they’ll have to turn to the CIOs for guidance on device and network use. Likewise, the CIOs will need to know about these kinds of campaigns, so they can evaluate the impact of the campaigns on network performance.

Together, C-level executives can work on the most effective types of campaigns and implement new systems to build more personalised and targeted marketing. Custom marketing will be crucial to improving revenues in the future. As traditional telecoms services are commoditised or faced with an increasingly crowded market over the coming years, customer experience will become a premium differentiator for CSPs.

One study found that nine out of 10 consumers are interested in having a more personal relationship with their CSPs, which means that those making an effort to bridge their organisational silos could reap significant benefits.

By applying contextual intelligence to the data already available to them, CSPs can introduce an event-analysis-action paradigm that, for example, could pinpoint potential problems before they occur and help proactively address them, reduce churn and improve customer experience. In turn, this could help immensely in retaining high-value customers and building loyalty.

The trick is to measure customer experience, uniting every department and executive at a fundamental level. If CSPs implement a way of measuring their performance by how well customer experience is delivered – and how well departments work together to achieve that end – the silos within a company may finally be bridged. Therefore, contextual intelligence will be the building block.