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Issue of November 2005 
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Extracting insights from BI

Rani Goel, Director of Telecom Marketing, Business Objects, talks to Kumar Dawada about the growth, benefits and trends of Business Intelligence in the Indian telecom sector

Rani Goel

What are the ways in which telecom companies are using BI for business benefits?

Getting trustworthy and believable data is the major issue faced by many service providers. This was also mentioned by the Yankee group. If you want to deploy a BI project, a lot of time and effort is spent on understanding and defining what the customer and the user want to capture. Currently, data integrity and quality are the major issues.

In both telecom and finance, BI is used to answer business related questions and provide greater insight into business issues and pains faced by a vertical. However, the business pains of the telecom and financial sectors are going to be different.

In both telecom and finance, BI is used to answer business-related questions and provide greater insight into business issues and pains faced by a vertical. However, the business pains of the telecom and financial sectors are going to be different

The telecom sector in the emerging markets uses less of BI because the operators there are still getting their systems in place. They are more likely to focus on operational systems. The first thing a communications operator thinks about is how he can sign up customers, provide services and bill them. He is more worried about having the proper network to provide the right services. A new financial services operator thinks in the same way.

As the business matures, the operator or company focusses on improving the quality. They now look at what customers they have acquired, what are they buying from the company and what more can the company sell to them, to which customer can it sell more often and which customers are likely to respond to advertisements, marketing campaigns or offers. This is where BI comes in.

What are the limitations of BI in telecom?

BI is not an operational application. It is an information management application. Human intervention is necessary to take proper decisions. As BI evolves, operational BI will help the user not only in making proper decisions in real-time but also helps detect trends.

Presently, BI provides for intelligent questioning where you can ask questions to gain insights. Even when it provides an insight, a human being is required to take proper decisions. As things move towards operational BI, apt decisions will be taken in real-time.

Are there any common mistakes that telcos make while adopting BI?

The value of BI depends on what can you do with the information you have put in the data warehouse.
It is about how you can provide the business users and decision-makers with proper intelligence so that they can make better decisions and run their operations efficiently

According to a study done by the McKinsey, a lot of energy, resources and focus was spent on constructing and implementing a data warehouse but getting information out of the data warehouse was almost an afterthought. The strategy was more about putting the data in the warehouse and not about getting it out.

The value of BI depends on what can you do with the information you have put in the data warehouse. It is about how you can provide the business users and decision-makers with proper intelligence so that they can make better decisions and run their operations efficiently.

There is a need for the overall BI strategy. For example, issues such as the tools and technology to be used have to be considered early on and not after getting the data warehouse.

How do telcos measure return on investment (RoI) made in a BI solution?

Not all results and returns are tangible. The best way to measure RoI is not to measure the size of a deployment or see how many reports the user is getting. Measurement should be based on how the BI is helping a person run his business better.

If a company has a goal to retain two percent more of high-value customers, then use BI to find out who these customers are. What is the movement of such customers? This can be based on the amount spent or the number of products and services used by them.

BI implementations are successful only if they help a company grow and understand the profile of high-value customers. It must help in increasing percentage of them. The measurement of BI must be aligned with the business value and the company’s objectives.

Can metrics help make BI solutions more successful?

The goal of a BI implementation must be decided well ahead. What you are trying to do with a BI application and what your long term goals are must be aligned with the corporate goals.

If a company deploys BI at the departmental level then it is aligned with one business unit. But trouble arises when the corporate wants that information and you want to implement BI at the company level. There may be issues related to scalability, lack of proprietary technology and platform compatibility.

In such a case, the company may be forced to throw away what is already done for one particular area and that is not a good use of its resources or investment. If the company lacks an overall strategy for BI implementation, then it alienates the users because they have to do the work all over again which is not productive.

How will BI evolve in the years to come?

BI is a nascent technology even though it has been around for 15 years. From the penetration point of view, we are still at the beginning of the curve. The IT budget of the communication service providers for BI is still less than 5 percent. There is a lot of growth in BI market but it is not saturated or mature by any means. Considerable focus has been on the reporting aspect in the past but not on high value BI or analytics.

The focus should be on complex questions which allow executives and senior level management to answer business questions and take proper decisions on a regular basis. Currently, the executive gets information whether his revenue fell or grew a month or even a week before or which service is more popular. Such information helps in changing the future but do not allow him to change what he is doing today.

From the BI perspective, we are going to see higher penetration as well as real time usage of BI. BI means access to information by people who need the information whenever and wherever, so that they can make right decisions. All pieces like ETO, data warehouse, metadata layer, reporting are part of the stack. The future will be dominated by higher value BI like analytics.

 
     
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