Could Analytics Pose a Life Threat to Large Tier Operators?

As we dive deeper into the world of analytics, more and more information and intelligence is being made available to operators, analysts, and other interested parties. But along this same progression of “seeming” advancement in the domain, there is also a growing, critical threat to large tier operators: Access.

Access itself is a big word. In the context above it simply means “access to analytics intelligence”. But the other meanings are where the problem exists for larger tier operators. When you think of “access” in terms of these areas, the problem becomes more clear:

1. Access to where your data is located – where is it? All of it?

2. Access to the group(s) who control that data – can you get to those people? Do you even know who they are?

3. Access to the data itself – assuming you know where it is and who owns, can you even get to it?

As history proves out again and again, these sets of questions become increasingly harder to answer as the size of the operator continues to get bigger. Taking the approach of a larger vs. a smaller operator, here’s what is all-too-often the case:

Where is the data? In smaller operators, data tends to be located in singular systems. Put more simply, they don’t have 4 billing systems for retail customers, 3 inventory platforms, and 6 order entry instances. They tend to be closer to one of each type. Obviously the younger the operator, the more advantages they have as well, simply because infrastructure and architecture are more simplified. If they are a larger tier operator, however, they are often quite the opposite. In addition to having multiple systems that are redundant or duplicated, they often have customers scattered across these instances with no particular rhyme or reason, as several system consolidation events have spread any given customer’s account in unusual directions. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is getting to a true “single view” of an account. Some of the largest carriers in the world have tried to get there – they remain unsuccessful, and ironically, they often don’t even realize it themselves.

Who controls the data? So let’s say you know where your data is. Can you get to it? Do you need a budget available to *pay* the internal group to get you your own data? But most critically: When you show the data owners what you need and why you need it, can you successfully escape the attempt by those owners to create the analytics for you? Many of these shops that own data also have lighter-weight analytics capabilities. They would love for you to engage them to build something for you. They would love for you to pay their department for their efforts. They would love for you to not use an outside expert, as this is often *perceived* as a direct threat to them (this is NOT the case, but they still respond like it is). They would love for you to educate them on what you want and how to do it. But most importantly, they’ll sometimes make getting your data so difficult and expensive, that it becomes more financially beneficial to just do it their way. This never gets you the result you expect, on time, anywhere close to budget.

Contrast this with a smaller operator. The smaller the operator, the more collaboration takes place. That’s not a judgement…it’s just the unfortunate truth (for the large tiers). Of all the operators I’ve worked on project deliveries directly with over the years, this has held true each and every time. When a finance guy needs a data dump from the accounting platform, he doesn’t make a phone call to a different region, through a path of 3-10 people to get to the right person. What he does do is walk down the hall, around the corner, into the IT guy’s office, sits down and has a few minutes of “small talk”, asks for the data at the end of those few minutes, and usually has it by the next day. Also – smaller operators don’t believe they can do it all. They already wear 10 hats during the day, and welcome an expert team in analytics to help drive immediate value back into their business, almost form the day they walk in the door.

The simple fact of the matter is this: Analytics is going to be a crucial differentiating point for operators’ speed (agility) of response to business and market changes. And when you cut to the chase, data access will make this practice virtually impossible for large tier, legacy operators to fully leverage when compared to the smaller organizations. This will cripple many large operators in some key, lucrative segments of their markets. How can we be so sure? It’s already happening…

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