Embrace Cloud Based Solutions

Telecom operators generally procure IT software in silos. This procurement process gets entrenched into weeks of discussions to arrive at the technical solution required as it needs to go through multiple steps like:

  • Agree upon professional services costs
  • Internal approvals from chain of commands
  • Hardware procurement, solution UAT
  • Finally end up structuring the internal teams to handle projects – commercials, execution, support et al – all coming out of one solution offered by a vendor.

This is how traditional businesses has been running in OSS/BSS space for a while. It gave a lot of opportunities to vendors to flourish and establish themselves. Unfortunately, it has also led to zoning of Telcos’ own data in proprietary systems which can’t communicate or freely share data among the systems to generate deeper insights or to leverage for specific business purposes.

On one hand, Telcos started to look for solutions or platforms to unify the data structures across the silos, derive customer centric insights – operational or strategic –  in order to generate much needed growth, customer retention and operational costs control. On other hand, Telcos are grappling with issues in solving specific business problems with vendor provided solutions which may or may not bear expected result at the end but consumes very bit of time, energy & money.

Many modern enterprises want to quickly evaluate and leverage low cost solutions to solve specific problems, transfer the accountability for the solution and at the same time partner with established vendors to bring value on the table. More importantly, enterprises are looking for low cost evaluation of the solutions and disown them gracefully if things don’t work eventually.

In this software driven world, agility in businesses are getting stressed upon in every business cycle. In the same sense, Telcos need to embrace this change and tryout innovative solutions offered that can bring value propositions, assimilate the value in day-to-day operations with appropriate checks and balances and reap benefits without worrying much on big upfront costs, vendor lock-in, in-house support processes and so on.

There’s way to do this. Many progressive enterprises across industries have already started doing it.

Embrace Cloud based solutions.

Imagine a vendor coming up with structured offering in a specific vertical – Telecom Fraud Management – on a secured cloud platform. Telcos who already have FM systems in place could evaluate new solution offered by the vendor based on new Industry trend without getting into long trenched contracts, evaluate the value quickly and either assimilate the new offering or disown it, with minimal pay-as-you-go monthly costs. For specific solutions like for instance Bypass fraud, Telcos can establish the business value proposition with agility using cloud offering.

Many innovative solutions are coming up in the market for which many Telcos are not sure how to bucket them in the traditional tool book. Such solutions not only promise significant operational cost savings but also influence in CAPEX savings, revenue generation and whole lot of other business drivers. Telecom operators need to be more agile in trying out these solutions, establish the business case with low TCO, lower overheads using cloud offerings and reap benefits on a continuous basis.

 

Sai Thilak

Sai Thilak has 11+ years of experience in engineering management, product development, solution architecting and customer deliveries in Telecom OSS/BSS space. Sai currently leads product management for Network Asset Assurance & Data Integrity Management products. He’s passionate about new age products, a voracious reader, biography & history buff, financial market student, cricketer & active blogger.

Trends Driving the Telecom Industry

Technology has put consumers are in the driver’s seat, demanding a seamless experience across all their devices.  The Internet of Things (connected living), Mobile Money, Video Streaming, Social Apps, VOIP and other OTT services are straining the network and operators’ ability to manage relationships with customers and partners in a profitable way.  With an increasingly convergent market as the background, Capgemini, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, has published its predictions of where the telecoms industry is heading by 2020.  Below is a summary of their top 5 predictions (in italics) with added insights from the industry:

Integration with content providers

The recent trend of telco’s acquiring or partnering with content providers (Comcast and NBC Universal, AT&T and Direct TV) may be overtaken by content providers predicted to be acquiring telecoms companies. Net Neutrality is increasingly at risk as content distribution and content providers join up and could control the content available to consumers.

Internet of Things: The next major trend that will impact is the explosion of connected devices

Also referred to as the rise of connected living, it’s predicted that IoT will drive data volumes into the realm of zetabytes per year. As Raj Talluri, a senior vice president of Qualcomm, has said

“I don’t think anyone really knows yet how big it’s going to get because the possibilities are really endless”

IoT is not just about connected devices, but about the analytics that makes sense of this tsunami of data. It is also the usefulness of the analytics that will drive the success of IoT devices.

IoT covers a range of different applications:

The Connected Home

For consumers IoT can help to save money by running homes more efficiently, improve security and provide entertainment. In an increasingly complex world IoT can help us to manage all the products and services we depend on by automating household administration and providing remote monitoring and control of devices.

Connected Health

Wearables are opening the door to great possibilities in health and fitness. While wearables have gained popularity amongst the health conscious, the potential of wearables is also being applied in assisting to provide essential monitoring and care for those in need.

The connected car

As cars are an extension of our homes so the connected car is, in part, an extension of our connected homes.  Cars now have entertainment systems that stream our favourite music, tracking systems so friends and relatives can know where we are and, of course, SatNav that knows current traffic and weather conditions. Connected cars can also provide automated diagnostics and reduce our insurance premiums through conscientious driving.

Gartner forecasts that 1 in 5 cars will be connected by 2020.

Mobility

While PC’s are still a popular choice for many tasks, the growth in mobility is being driven by the developing world, where mobile is often cheaper and more convenient than fixed line services.

Five big trends in mobility

  1. Wearables

According the Mashable 15 Mobile Trends to Watch the battleground for wearables has only just begun

  1. Mobile payments go big

Emarketer are predicting that in the US mobile payments will triple in 2016

  1. Security

Mobile and BYOD are major threats to enterprise security, so mobile apps need to ensure the highest levels of security are implemented.

  1. Mobilization of Enterprise Apps

As reported by 451 Research, 40% of companies are planning to prioritize development of business apps.  Many of these will be “companion apps” that augment, rather than replace, existing enterprise applications.

  1. Automotive and Transport will be a key vertical, according to Analysis Mason in the explosive IoT market for life automation

Market Saturation

A growing adoption of connected health and safety apps will ensure that even the latest of mobile adopters, the elderly, will eventually be getting connected, leaving that last remaining market saturated. This will drive the need for operators to differentiate themselves further through content.

Security

Beyond mobile device security, consumers are increasingly concerned about the security of their data held by enterprises, which will drive a demand for more secure systems and better data management processes.

The challenges faced by telecoms operators are immense. With such diverse forces pushing the market forward, operators need to adopt an efficient, robust and highly elastic enterprise architecture more than ever.  Managing different lines of business and marketing efforts with different departments is no longer an option, as customers expect companies to provide a seamless experience across multiple services.  Subex have specialised capabilities in helping telcos improve organisational efficiency for years, and now the latest version of the ROC product suite is more highly integrated than ever before, allowing it to deliver the insights and efficiencies that are essential for a telco to compete in today’s rapidly evolving market.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Customer Analytics: Walking in the Customers Shoes

In the first blog in this series on customer analytics, the technique of Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) was discussed as a way to follow how customers move from one touch point to the next, and track their emotional well-being during those interactions. In the last blog I described how using a persona to represent a group of customers would allow marketing to get a better understanding of customers. In this blog I will explore how Customer Journey maps can be created for persona to visualize an idealized journey for the group represented. This is now becoming a well-accepted technique for not only improving user experience in software design, but also in the design of products, digital and conventional marketing channels, architecture and many other areas.

There are two basic approaches for creating persona. One is to base the persona on in-depth research of the customers within a market segment, and the other is to base the persona on intuition, sometimes referred to as a provisional persona. In reality, it makes most sense to use a combination of research and intuition, and then verify the persona with those who have front line contact with customers. Generally customers belonging to a company’s biggest market segment would be targeted first and a primary persona is created to represent them. If the team creating the persona do not have direct knowledge of the customers in that segment then they will need to conduct research to understand the values and motivations of the group.

Once a persona has been defined then it’s possible to look at how the company would engage that persona in a sale, and the hope is that the persona would follow each engagement at every touchpoint, even long after they’ve made the purchase and are using the product. The framework for this is known as the Customer Lifecycle. There are many versions of this but they all share some basic stages, as described by Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler in a paper called “E-metrics, business metrics for the new economy

  • Reach: Trying to get the attention of the people we want to reach.
  • Acquisition: Attracting and bringing the reached person into the influence sphere of our organization. 
  • Conversion: When the people we reach or have a more established relationship with, decide to buy something from us.
  • Retention: Trying to keep the customers and trying to sell them more (cross-selling, up-selling).
  • Loyalty: We would like the customer to become more than a customer: a loyal partner and even a ‘brand advocate’ Moments of truth

This can be represented either horizontally or in a circular lifecycle type chart

The Customer Life Cycle – Source: E-Metrics Business Metrics for the New Economy by Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler

The persona journey describes how it’s anticipated that a particular persona would move through the lifecycle. It would describe the channels through which it’s expected they are made aware of a product, how it’s expected they would research the product and what would motivate them to make a decision to buy. Key points in the journey where customers decide whether to continue or abandon the process are known as ‘Moments of Truth’, a term coined by Jan Carlzon, the well-known CEO of SAS Airlines who turned the company around in just a couple of years.

Walking in the customers shoes in this way is not easy, and would normally be done as a workshop with representatives from across an organisation, but it’s an exercise that can provide many useful insights. Service quality gaps, cross channel alignment, ways to better engage customers and align internal teams are just a few of the many benefits that come from journey mapping. When idealised journey maps are compared with the actual journeys that customers take then many preconceived ideas about how customers see and engage with the company may get thrown out and fresh ways to engage, retain and acquire new customers be discovered.

In the next part of this customer analytics based series of blogs I will be looking at the security implications of big data and advanced customer profiling, and how regulators around the world are trying to protect an individual’s right to be treated equally by large corporations.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Customer Analytics : Meeting the Model Me

In my last blog I discussed how different generations are challenging marketing departments to meet them on their own ground. For one key demographic, the Millennials, that ground is the mobile and highly social world in which these digital natives live. For another, the more cost conscious middle aged parents with teenage kids, the battleground is through more conventional channels. However it’s not enough to just choose the right channel for marketing a product. The products, product branding, and marketing language itself needs to be appropriate for those customers as well. Different customers have not only different expectations of the products they use, but also different expectations of the way they like to be told about those products.

The one thing all customers have in common is that they like to be treated as individuals. Individualism is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history, although it could be said to have first really been expressed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), as Angus Jenkinson identified in his paper ‘Beyond Segmentation’. Rousseau says that truth is subjective, and that traditions and customs must pass the individual’s test ‘can they be authentic for me’. That is a test that consumers increasingly appraise every product with. Can it be authentic for me?

It may seem an impossible challenge to treat every customer in a way which is appropriate to them alone, but there is another approach which can help product designers and marketing departments have a much better understanding of customers, and that is through the use of persona.

The concept of archetypes and persona was formalized early in the 20th century by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, but it was the Angus Jenkinson who more recently defined the meaning in a marketing context. Jenkinson suggested that marketing needed to move beyond the top down reductionist approach of segmentation and take a more bottom up approach of grouping customers with similar attitudes and behaviors.

‘segmentation, as normally understood, represents only the first stage in response to the market (individualism) phenomena. It is the first breakdown of the monolithic market into smaller units. It is possible to go further.’

There are definitely strong similarities between the concepts of segmentation and grouping, but there is a fundamental, if subtle difference. It is the difference between gathering individuals into groups, as opposed to dividing the group into segments. As Jenkinson says,

It is much easier to think of developing a relationship with a group (of people) than a segment. How many segments do you personally have a relationship with? Do you want to be part of one? A group connotes…a community of individuals.

Consumers, as individuals tend to gravitate and have loyalty towards something. To change the corporate perception of customers from being part of a segment to being individuals in a group is a fundamental paradigm shift in building customer relationships, and it requires marketers to develop a much more personal understanding of their customers. Marketers have to understand customer goals and frustrations, their values and behaviors. It is with this new understanding of the importance of the individual that the marketing concept of the ‘persona’ has arrived. Personas are ‘model’ characters created to represent all the members of a group. The term persona as used in this context was actually coined in 1999 by Alan Cooper in his seminal book ‘The Inmates Are Running the Asylum’, in which he says that persona, among other benefits,

Provide a human “face” so as to create empathy for the persons represented by the demographics.

Not only do persona models give a detailed account of the emotional needs and values of that group, they often even include a picture of what a typical individual in that group may look like. This is not to say that segmentation is dead. Far from it. Segmentation is still an important tool to help identify the key groups of ideal buyers, but once those groups have been identified then persona need to be created for the segments to give them emotional characteristics and values that they can be identified with. Only by understanding what really motivates customers and providing products that fit in with customer’s lives can marketers grow brand loyalty and trust in a world where the customer is truly king.

In the fourth in this series of customer analytics blogs, Walking in the Customers Shoes, I will be looking at combining the concept of persona with customer journey mapping to understand how to deliver a better customer experience.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Customer Analytics : Gen X and Y and the Millennial Divide

We live in a world where technology is like a digital liquid that’s flowed around every aspect of our lives. There’s no doubt that technology can help to oil the craggy wheels of daily life, and while some find this enabling and liberating, others consider the intrusion to be more insidious. Working out where people stand on this issue is generally just a simple matter of checking their birth date. Many born before 1980 tends to view social and on line everything with suspicion, whereas those consumers born after that date, referred to as Generation Y, or Millennials, are far more comfortable with social media and sharing everything online. In a recent report from Pew research it was shown that the Millennials are much greater users of social media than their parents.

This is probably because Millennials are the first generation that have grown up entirely with the internet and mobile phones.  They are ‘digital natives’. It’s difficult to know exactly what effects this has on general culture, but one surprising change is that Millennials tend to be far more optimistic that their parents were when they were young. While Generation X and before are more inclined to have a cynical and pessimistic attitude towards the future, a recent report by the Pew Research Centre, Millennials in Adulthood, has found that, despite feeling detached from politics or religion and burdened by debt and recession, the Millennials are inexplicably much more optimistic. According to a recent Gallup poll, eighty percent of millennials, aged 18 to 29, feel positive about the future and say their standard of living is improving.  The reasons for this relentless optimism are unclear but researchers at Pew have pondered that it may be down to more nurturing parenting, or perhaps it’s because millennials always feeling at the centre of their own social network.

Another characteristic of the millennial generation is that, contrary to predictions that technology would free us all from work, they are now working harder and are more driven to succeed than ever before. In his book ‘Generational Teaching: Motivating the Minority’ Christopher Alan has also found that Millennials are ‘more polite and considerate’, ‘attentive and respectful’ and prefer to work in teams rather than in a hierarchy. Goldman Sachs also says that they are also more health conscious and savvy than earlier generations.   But, as ever, the picture is never that simple, because it seems that the Millennial generation is itself divided in two, as Pew Research has written

Just 40% of adults ages 18 to 34 consider themselves part of the “Millennial generation,” while another 33% – mostly older Millennials – consider themselves part of the next older cohort, Generation X.

This all has very great implications on marketing, and how companies should reach out to different generations. Connecting with customers is one of the greatest challenges marketers face, and capturing Millennials is now one of the key battlefields for competing companies. As Leah Swartz of Millennial Marketing says

‘When it comes to fashion and shopping, there isn’t a more important demographic for retailers to reach than millennials.’

Goldman Sachs have even put together an infographic dedicated to marketing to Millennials in which they identify several key things to consider when marketing to the ‘largest generation in US history’. In summary they are

  • Living at home longer
  • Marrying later
  • Sharing, not owning
  • Exercise choice in purchasing
  • More health conscious

From a non-millennials perspective it may seem that they are so immersed in instant messaging and playing computer games that they are oblivious to the real world, but, on the contrary, millennials are very much aware of the state of the world. It’s just that this revolution is a lot quieter than the ones before, taking place as it does silently from the screens of our phones and laptops. The silence is an illusion. The volume of noise is now measured in packets of data rather than decibels, and it’s loader than ever. If companies don’t engage with different generations of customers on their own ground then they will not be heard at all.

In my next blog I will look at how Millennials and other demographic groups can be better served by adopting a customer-centric approach to marketing.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

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