Big Data Difficult to Execute – Can You See the Pattern?

The similarities between ‘Big Data’ projects and large transformations are becoming clear. According to customer experience research house Fifth Quadrant, while the vast majority of large businesses are completely convinced of the benefits of mining big data to improve the customer experience, only 12 percent of companies actually believed their efforts were ‘extremely successful.’ Meanwhile over half admitted to getting it wrong.

Some of their findings are particularly relevant to the telecoms world. To a large degree success comes with maturity. In mature organisations, leadership and energy for data analytics projects comes from senior management. In less mature organisations – in customer service terms – the initiative tends to come from line managers and as such do not have the impetus that the top level can bring to bear.

A pattern for successful projects includes the use of multiple data sets. It also points to the use of both external and internal data, including social media channels. And not only do the successful organisations report better customer experience statistics as a result, but many will point to increased profits, better financial control, better targeted products and a reduction in fraud levels.

The less mature organisations blamed lack of skills, lack of the right technology solution and badly integrated IT as the scapegoats for the failures.

Leaving aside the debate about whether telecoms companies would be in the ‘very good at customer service’ category or not, the problem – as usual – is the business case. In the world of annual accounts and quarterly reviews by Wall Street, signing off multi-million, multi year projects is never going to be easy.

This explains why – at the excellent TM Forum Big Data event at the beginning of this year – the success stories came from Guerilla IT projects and small scale experiments that proved their worth and slowly got the right attention. In other words, success right now is going from the bottom upwards, hardly ever from the top down. As one manager put it, “desire goes from the top down, belief goes from the bottom up.”

While the patterns in big data slowly become recognisable as common sense, but on a huge scale, one thing is clear. If telecoms is ever to get into the ‘mature’ category in customer service then they must look to other industries for their ideas, examples and inspiration.

Related Articles:

Addressing Big Data? Start Small

Big Brother Likes Big Data

PRISM – Will Telcos See the Light, or Turn to the Dark Side?


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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.


  1. Exactly, good points Jim – thank you. It is ironic that an industry whose business is essentially IT is so trapped by IT itself. Most telco managers when faced with new ideas do not think innovation but ‘complexity’ and if I try and integrate that, the whole structure might collapse. Nice blog post by the way!

  2. Great points, Alex. Wow — just 12% find their Big Data projects of value. Might be a couple of issues working behind the scenes here. First, ask any telco manager whether his company has a Big Data solution and he fires back “You bet!” Look closer, however, and it’s really just an old-school BI platform incapable of integrating 100s of data feeds or producing refined insights in real time. Other issue, almost hard to believe: lack or historic data! Many comms companies either condense or throw away data every month. Why? High storage costs. When they turn on their Big Data Analytics apps, there’s nothin’ there. The data is either gone or stored in a format they can’t use, or that is not specific to the Qs they need answered. To work, analytics needs months of historic data. Check out this post:

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