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Big data for telco begins to unleash systems of engagement

Firms are responding to changes in consumer attitudes by implementing systems of engagement. Such systems need to understand mobile user behavior in real-time at a very high level of detail, and guess who is sitting on piles and piles of this? Telecom CSPs.
Written by Brian Hopkins, Contributor
Big Data For Telco Begins To Unleash Systems Of Engagement

In Forrester's recently completed Q3 2013 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, big data for real-time analytics moved from the No. 3 most revolutionary technology to the No. 2 position, according to the 116 enterprise architects who participated.

This reflects the importance firms now place on turning vast amounts of data into immediate insight. And this trend is extremely important to telecommunication industry communication service providers (CSPs), who are sitting on a gold mine of data about what subscribers are doing on their mobile devices.

Let’s break this down a bit more.

According to the United Nations, there are about 2 billion mobile broadband subscriptions globally (about 28 percent of the world’s 7.1 billion people). That’s a huge number of perpetually connected people, using bunches of apps for both work and personal. This is part of what we call the mobile mind shift, and it’s not about smartphones and tablets; rather, it’s it's about the changing expectations created by pervasive mobile computing and broadband wireless.

According to a recent report, "The Mobile Mind Shift Index," we estimate 21 percen of the adult online US population now expects that any information is available on any appropriate device, in context, at their moment of need (see Josh Bernoff’s May 2013 blog Introducing The Mobile Mindshift Index). And this number is going to grow significantly over the next few years.

Firms are responding to this change in consumer attitude by implementing systems of engagement (see Ted Schadler’s February 2012 blog, 1 Billion Smartphones Require New Systems Of Engagement). Systems of engagement are built on big data concepts; that is, they need to understand mobile user behavior in real-time at a very high level of detail, and guess who is sitting on piles and piles of this? Telecom CSPs.

One of the challenges CSPs face is integrating basic subscriber data with detailed mobile app behavior data, which can be tens of billions of network events per day, in a near-instantaneous fashion. This is the biggest of big data problems, and solving it will be crucial to building the systems of engagement that every business front office is dreaming about.

Today IBM announced the acquisition of The Now Factory, which is a huge step forward in this area and a strong statement about IBM’s strategy around enabling customer engagement via big data.

The Now Factory is a mobile customer insights platform that allows CSPs, via an appliance that plugs into carrier networks, to gain a real-time view of mobile app behavior and correlate it with subscriber data at extremely high data rates.

There are all kinds of uses for this -- for example, one tier 1 CSP achieved a 400 percent increase in marketing campaign conversion by measuring data usage by app for high-volume prepaid mobile phone customers. The CSP then created a targeted campaign to upgrade the highest-usage subscribers to longer-term post-paid contracts.

With IBM’s existing stack of big data tools and existing relationships with big telcos, this acquisition positions it strongly against other big data analytics offerings for CSPs like HP’s Smart Profile Server. Expect to see a lot more movement in this hot tech sector in the next six to 12 months.

It also signals a further shift toward systems of engagement delivery, starting with the source of mobile engagement data, the CSPs. However, the benefits won’t stop with the telcos, which are also working on ways to securely share this information with partners like Medio that provide cloud analytics-as-a-service.

As these problems get solved, it will unleash a whole new wave of digital disruption . . . so hang on to your hat.

Brian Hopkins is a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research serving Enterprise Architecture professionals.

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