By Rick Lievano, Worldwide Director of Industry Technology Strategy for the Microsoft Telecommunications Sector. 

A recent global study Microsoft commissioned with IDC found that the communications and media industry worldwide stands to gain more than $235 billion in potential value from data over the next four years— what we call the “data dividend.

From patterns in bandwidth use and latency, to trends in the demand for popular entertainment, to the most-used devices in the most frequented locations, the insights embedded within the big data that flows through network operators’ systems has the potential to transform every facet of the industry — from employee productivity to operational efficiency, improved customer experience and opportunities for new revenue.

But for most providers, the promise of reaping the data dividend remains elusive and challenging, largely because of data repository silos, fragmented technology platforms across the enterprise and unresolved issues around data governance.

While over-the-top providers have been more successful at responding in an agile manner to the big data opportunity, today no single service provider controls all of the resources necessary to deliver an actual service all the way to a customer using a device.

Typically, there are many stakeholders in each digital value chain. In fact, these value chains have become so complex and dynamic one can think of them as service meshes.

In the face of growing pressure to do more with data, operators may feel compelled to pursue aggressive data-aggregation projects and massive new technology investments. But that would be a classic mistake of tactics leading strategy.

Not all valuable data is “big” data, and not all data is necessarily strategic to a CSP’s business. By starting with a well-defined business objective, operators can zero in on the questions that are most important to them, then use the right data platform and cloud technologies to tap the power of data in a strategic manner.

Starting the data conversation in your organisation with some basic exploration can set the ball rolling in the right direction. Among things to consider:

  • Start with the “why” before the “how.” Being clear about a specific business objective and success measures for your data initiative before ripping your technology assets apart and pulling together “task forces” to tackle data is not only important for internal stakeholder expectation setting, it will keep you from eroding precious resources toward unspecific outcomes. A specifically stated business goal for a big data project is not only easier sell internally with the C-suite, but will also let you define success so that as each phase of a pilot project is completed, you can accurately assess learnings and move forward with confidence.
  • Data empowerment for all. With myriad different tools and technologies and interfaces, it isn’t surprising that many telecoms feel that lack of analytics “specialists” or data scientists is holding them back from capitalising on their data assets. But not all your data initiatives will require that level of specialised data expertise and not all your line-of-business managers will ever acquire that specialised skill set. Take a good inventory of not just your data repository silos but also all of the fragmented ways of visualizing and consuming data across your organisation; think about how you can streamline and unify that experience using the right technology platform and tools, so that a call center manager has the same view of a particular customer or business data set as a marketing manager or C-suite executive.
  • View technology as a strategic asset, not a bottleneck. Many telco companies burdened with fragmented legacy systems and data repositories find technology to be a bottleneck to their big data ambitions. Choosing a data platform that gives your business the right end-to-end structural framework to scale up is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make. With a multitude of mobile devices, multi-cloud delivery systems and complex developer ecosystems — just to name a few trends —it’s easy to see why the buzz around big data hasn’t translated into swift action among telcos. Translating your vision into reality hinges upon choosing the right technology partner and a data platform that can support your end-to-end service management goals.

Understanding what insight would be most beneficial to the different constituencies within your organisation and prioritising areas that will have the broadest impact to your business is the first step for telcos embarking on the big data journey and looking to capitalize on the data dividend.

Click here to watch videos from our third annual big data seminar, featuring BT, Orange and Telecom Italia.

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