Which data for what decisions?

All businesses are the products of courageous decisions but decision makers at communication service providers (CSPs) are very brave indeed, writes Nick Booth.

CSPs need to analyse hundreds of moving parts and millions of fickle customers in a market where supply and demand offer little room for manoeuvre. Any gains are hard won through fine tuning an impossibly complex automaton that can only survive if granted a powerful intelligence.

So the CSP’s choice of cognitive automation or digital decision making system is one they must get right.

These systems are essentially an amalgam of three well established and vital disciplines: business process automation, business rules management and advanced analytics. The data challenges identified by analysts can be described under three headings: customers, compliance and clunky systems.

The chief technical officer who makes the buying decision has to consider what information and where they get it from. The dearth of data available is a legacy of the CSP’s history – a telecoms company that kept its records independently in siloes. Extracting, digesting and acting on that information is the second hardest ordeal in the career of the chief technology officer – after the choice of a digital decision system.

The complexity is multiplied by the volume and variety of companies the CSP ingested to feed its growth. All those mobile operators, fixed line providers and content creators need their contents ingested, broken down and distributed across the body of the corporation. If not, the CSP will never energise its metamorphosis into an omnipotent and agile machine that can spot opportunities, use artificial intelligence (AI) to make a decision and employ robotic mobility to service it.

Analysts such as Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO of Beecham Research, warn that survival is about ‘expanding the customer relationship across the product set’ and ‘improving their experience’ as imperatives. In short, the CSP needs to identify the good customers, find something they’ll want and sell it to them at the right time. A crude example might be a system that identified the tastes of an options trader in the City of London and sends him a funny clip from The Wolf of Wall Street on his birthday.

CSPs in Europe address a market that is never going to get any bigger, so they need to service it better. That means making efficiencies in running costs and in the way they deliver the right content to the right handsets at the right time.

Once the diaspora of data sources is harvested and marshalled into some cohesive shape, the CSP has a variety of ambitions for what to do with the information. Unless these plans are all dovetailed and harmonised, the developers will pull the organisation in different directions. It’s great knowing who the customers are, how many calls and texts they make, what content they watch and what devices they need for all this consumption. But there are so many different areas that need to be attacked. The right digital decision system will offer so many options and the users must learn to prioritise. Do they concentrate on keeping the valuable customers happy or keeping pace with government regulations? Should they match their service to all the devices being used or do they take a punt on being first in emerging markets such as mobile money? These and more are all options created by the digital decision making systems.

In its New Wave digital decision platform report, Forrester identifies the vendors who can address each of these needs. However, it says only two companies can address them all and FICO is the market leader.

Once you have the system it becomes a question of which data you need. Your supplier should be able to exemplify how it’s helped other companies like yours.

This is vital because an avalanche of data cascades from your applications and infrastructure. A typical CSP wants to use the cloud to deliver services to customers in future, which means they have even more data available as a by-product of running the service.

At scale, this data can provide more insight into the impact that decisions make, but the applications and data themselves can run in silos. This leads to information gaps that stifle invention and demotivate decision makers, who live and die on continuous intelligence.

Closing those intelligence gaps is essential if you want to compete in the new world of digital business. This means changing the design of an app that customers use to access a service – developers need instant feedback on how well that change is meeting their objectives. If they want to make it easier for people to use a service, or to make the check-out process easier, they can see whether their changes made a difference.

There are three main groups of decision makers that need the power of a digital decision system: security, developers and operations. Security teams deal with entire networks, so insight into real threats is essential. All security teams risk suffocation from false positives but a digital decision with decision support can protect them.

Developers want instant insight into how customers choose which of their services they use. This improves app design and identifies potential problems in performance before they affect the customers.

Operations teams want to improve profitability and retain customers. They will want to scrutinise data from apps, operations and customer support at the same time, because it allows them to spot trends in how their services are being used. This uncovers both potential new service opportunities and possible customer losses. Most CSPs are over the days of ‘build it and they will come’ but they haven’t quite scaled the heights of digital decision making platforms. When they do, they will fly.

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