Making the most of your assets

Date: Fri, 06/18/2010 - 16:25 Source: Clarity PR department

Tony Kalcina, Chief Product Officer of Clarity, discusses how operators can make the most of the valuable information they receive from their customers to ensure Quality of Service and Quality of Experience

Making the most of your assets Tony Kalcina, Chief Product Officer of Clarity

The emerging trend for telecom operational management is to move from network-centric fault management to customer-centric fault management. Until recently, simply understanding the bits and bytes of the network was the key focus for operators, but this process bore little or no relation to the customer experience. Today, operators are focused on understanding the customer experience and ensuring that the commitments made within Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are met in order to ensure customer loyalty and avoid customer churn. This trend is especially visible amongst mobile carriers, who have traditionally paid little attention to the assurance process of their business – instead, tending to focus solely on the uptake of new customers. This opinion is supported by Gartner, which agrees that there is a gradual shift from a pure focus on efficiency improvements toward revenue enhancements  and Yankee, which believes the operational systems and tools available to network engineering are not designed to provide readable views for business users .
As the penetration rate in the telecom market continues to increase, operators will no longer be able to experience service growth by simply increasing the number of their subscribers. Therefore, enabling subscribers to have the same service experience through the establishment of subscriber-oriented network and a quick launch of attractive services is now considered to be the best measure to enhance the ARPU and retain customer loyalty.
Currently, subscriber service data is scattered among different network entities. Each one is like an isolated information island because it has its own subscriber service data management method. These isolated information islands complicate the network and increase the difficulty for operators to utilize the information to develop value-added services or new services. Operators are facing more challenges in providing the same service experience in different networks.
Upgrading Subscriber Data Management (SDM) systems—which comprise elements such as charging, subscriber profiling, content management, applications servers and device management—promises operators new efficiencies and reduced operational costs. Upgrading the SDM also enables operators to better understand a user’s service habits and offer customised offerings including location-based services. Moreover, having consistent data simplifies and speeds up service introductions.
The key challenge in understanding the customer experience is creating a system that relates network behaviour to the customer experience. Traditional fault systems only tend to monitor alarms and the general performance parameters of the network. Unfortunately, much of the data collected for fault management bears no resemblance to the actual customer experience. For example, there may be no alarms or degraded performance in the transmission network, but the customer may still be experiencing high levels of pixilation. The only way to detect this degraded performance is through more intelligent probing technologies.
Research firm Heavy Reading insists telecom revenue growth will come from deploying subscriber data management technologies. These will extract more revenue from existing services and deliver the kinds of highly personalized digital services that business and consumer users are already starting to demand . 
Clarity has incorporated a Business Intelligence (BI) engine into its Unified OSS offering, currently in production for one of its operator customers in Indonesia. The engine was developed to overcome the performance management problem of a lack of aggregation. Clarity stores the information on the operator’s customers in order to execute their orders or fix problems. However, there is huge potential for this information to be used by product managers to drive the business forward.
The focus for many global operators is currently twofold – the profitability of the service and the level of growth that can be achieved. Mobile operators are trying to determine the importance of access to, and analysis of, valuable customer data. Indeed, they are becoming more aware of its value as the global recession bites. The purse-string holders want some intelligent analysis of data – what it means and why it’s important.
A recent analysis of the telecoms market by Gartner found that operators make the bulk of their revenue (approximately 85%) from SMS and voice but that neither is very profitable. The answer may lie in optimizing their assets, such as the network infrastructure, to make them more profitable.

Mining for Subscriber Data
Today’s operators want to understand their customer’s experience – and how they can make it a better one. One way of having better visibility of how the network delivers services to the customer or group of customers is by mining the data and analyzing it. The data available to operators through the OSS sheds light on the usage of products and services and the delivery of those products and services. This provides the operator with the ability to make informed decisions about their services.
This information can feed a real-time analytical engine that understands the behaviour of the network and the servers in relation to the customer. The analytical engine can provide fault management, performance management, SLA management and automatically orchestrate changes in the network.
The traditional way of viewing the customer experience is looking at how they have been impacted by faults and assurances, and how long it takes to fix a problem highlighted by a trouble ticket. However, smarter operators know they must look at how long it takes to provision a service. A good customer experience is also dependent on how well the network is built. If you start with an OSS that fragments that data in the first place it’s a lot harder to view the customer experience holistically.

There are several challenges when mining subscriber data:

1. Data integrity: Using a best of breed OSS separates the data into fragmented silos, resulting in limited referential integrity.
2. Data correlation: Relevant connections are essential. Storing data in a unified manner will ensure data is linked.
3. Legacy systems: Using the operational system for data analysis will slow down the function of the network. A data warehouse must be built to provide load the data. A free, open source reporting tool or dashboard tool is a low-cost reporting method.

Unlike a data warehouse, which starts with an analysis of what data already exists and how it can be collected in such a way that the data can later be used, the design of a data mart tends to begin with an analysis of user needs. Providers must think “what will people want to search customer information for?” The key challenge is having a framework that allows the design to be iterative. It’s very easy to think “today, we want x” and hard-code a data mart to populate a report that looks a certain way. However, to future proof such a service, it must be malleable, empowering the operator to create their own data marts.

Using data mining
Mining subscriber data to improve the network and customer service can only be done over a period of time. Performance must be monitored using the network structure to intelligently aggregate the data over an agreed period.
Clarity is aiming to take operational network data and turn it into something that a business can make use of. For example, it can look at a customer type and identify what kind of services they have and how the SLAs are being met. Operators can then calculate whether or not they should alter their products due to repetitive violation of SLAs.
In addition, data mining could identify what equipment has a history of faults and highlight that they require a better warranty contract.


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