Telco Big Data Conference 2012

The Telco Big Data conference ran from the 3-5 December in London.  This is the first time for this event, which was well attended, and packed with operator presentations on their experiences in using Hadoop clusters in conjunction with their existing business intelligence (BI) systems.  This is a key point, telcos are not new to mining their data, but the insights other service providers have achieved in mining their data is forcing telcos to step up their game.  Given the importance of existing systems, it was surprising vendors like Oracle and IBM were not presenting their experiences and solutions at this event.  However, Guavas, Civitta and Qifa Solutions gave excellent and practice-focused presentations on how telcos can improve how they use their data.

On the 3rd Dec I gave a one day workshop entitled “Introduction to Big Data and Real Time Analytics” to a full room, a sample of some of the slides is shown at the end of this workshop.  Though most of the attendees there were quite expert already, which was a little intimidating, we had many insightful and excellent discussions throughout the day.  With a number of introductions spawned from those discussions, which I hope generate solutions that help operators run their business better.  By 5PM everyone was still engaged and we could have continued the discussions well into the evening.

The main conference was packed with operator discussions, at the end of this article are just a few slides to highlight both the quality and richness of the discussion throughout the conference.  Most focused on how to improve existing business intelligence by taking a broader look at the data available within a telco.  The Telefonica presentation given by Richard Benjamins captured quite well the typical architecture most operators have implemented.  That is a Hadoop cluster in complement to their existing tools, and using Hive to gather data for analysis within their existing tools.

The presentations reviewed include:

  • Clearing the human road block: overcoming departmental silo mentalities, given by Wim Casteur, Business Intelligence Manager, Belgacom Group Strategy Customer & Market Intelligence.  A great case study on what it takes to consolidate the customer data silos in a telco to start to use big data effectively.
  • Big Data – Big opportunities – Big risks? Given by Dr. Richard Benjamins, Director Business Intelligence, Telefonica Digital.  Good introduction to Big Data and the issues facing Telcos on Big Data; this presentation was quoted throughout the rest of the conference.
  • Big Data: The Next New Big Revenue Opportunity for Carriers? Given by Kevin SooHoo, Sprint.  Excellent and quite frank review of the opportunities and challenges in selling customer insight.
  • Delta Engagement management, big data for big change, given by Peter Crayfourd, Qifa Solutions.  Example of the use of Big Data to review the customers complete experience to make better decisions, and importantly treat people as individuals not segments.
  • Big Data and Predictive Analytics what we can and cannot achieve with analytical BI tools, given by Rokas Salasevicius, Civitta.  Refreshingly frank review of the many failures of BI in delivering business results, and links nicely to the points raised by the previous speakers on customer all the data to build a better model enabling treatments to be experimented with and tracked
  • Moving from traditional to predictive business intelligence: Creating a consistent consumer experience , given by Dejan Radosavljevik Service Intelligence, T-Mobile Netherlands.  Excellent case study in using customer insight to better manage the network, spending the network investment where it impacts customer satisfaction.

Some of the themes that recurred throughout the event were:

  • It’s about people and process NOT technology.
  • Most telcos have problems in simply accessing their data with a single view because of organizational silos.  This is a major barrier to exist BI, never mind big data.
  • Privacy is being managed, but operators need to get ahead of the discussion rather that reacting to it.  For example in the US we’re likely to see much discussion in 2013 given some of the public communications mistakes.
  • Creating a data business is questionable, the consensus view is the risks outweigh the benefits.  We should focus on eating our own dog-food before trying to sell it through a 3rd party that takes most of the value.
  • We have only begun to scratch the surface on building better customer relationships, offering treatments that work, and better running our network.  Big data is essential, taking averages is not longer adequate, rather examining the customer’s complete experience with an operator.
  • The web service providers are encouraging telcos to step-up their game, and though big data is being used as an adjunct to the existing BI and DWH (Data Warehouse) systems we will start to see over the coming year greater experimentation with real-time analytics running on top of the Hadoop cluster.
  • Its great to see such an IT focused discussion happening within Telco as I’ve discussed many times our industry is going through an ITization.  Though young, this conference provides an important nexus across IT innovations, customer experience management and network operations.