opinion


Three UK talks data

Three is trying to navigate the sea of data

Arguably the most disruptive telco in the UK market today, Three UK is looking to leverage insights generated from its vast troves of network data in a bid to improve customer satisfaction and how the business caters to segmented customer needs, as well as derive incremental value from existing customers.

Stefan Grew, data management & information service manager enterprise information CIO tells Business Cloud News that the company is at the outset of a challenging yet rewarding journey that will ultimately keep Three ahead of other large UK telcos.

At over 8 million subscribers Three isn’t quite the size of Vodafone or O2 in the UK mobile market, but it’s a very respectable and sizeable chunk nevertheless – and one acquired in part as a result of its very favourable data pricing policies. It’s the only telco in the UK to offer uncapped data tariffs at competitive prices.  And as a telco, regardless of its size relative to incumbents, Three is one of the few types of companies genuinely facing a big data problem.

Grew says that two years the company agreed that it wanted to move away from being a price-led company.

“We wanted to focus more on customer enjoyment, give the customer something they wanted.  What was obvious was that customers wanted to use a lot of data on their devices. But moving from there it became about how we enrich the experience and give them new capabilities,” Grew says.

“The only problem with that is we didn’t really know enough about our customers, we didn’t have a consolidated view of that. The key question is, how we can deliver some value and pull together a 360-degree view of the customer?”

Grew, who is tasked with developing the data roadmap for Three and making sure processes and infrastructure is in place to support that, says that the company has already done a lot of work at the data warehouse level by integrating network data and customer / pricing data from its business support systems (BSS). That integration is essential for developing this comprehensive view of the customer.

It’s the first step in a long process that will initially see Three roll out business analytics to its various business units.

“I think part of the challenge comes back to good integration between operational support systems, business support systems and the data warehouse. I think we have latent problems there,” Grew says.

“As we mature and as we start to develop out new BSS capabilities, we need to have thought about that in advance rather than waiting for it to come and then dealing with the data side of it after, which we haven’t necessarily done so well in the past.”

But he says Three, the youngest telco in the UK market (beyond EE, which was really a marriage of incumbents), has done a lot of work to adapt its approach as it endeavours to build out not just an analytics platform, but a sustainable infrastructure that will support its big data initiatives in the future – which includes ensuring strong integration between BSS and the data warehouse.

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“We understand the changes we need to make. If we do that all in the right way, and capture the data at the start and think about how we want to use that data from the outset, we’ll be able to demonstrate our successes more effectively,” he says. “The challenge for us is to make sure we understand how the business wants to use that data.”

With business intelligence analytics being extended to new regions throughout organisations a very different approach to standard business analysis is needed, Grew says. Business leaders need information more quickly, and at the same time don’t always know what data they need in order to satisfy key business questions.

“Climate capture is still vital, so when you’re doing big structured deliveries you still need to have that very structured climate capture capability, but we need to complement that with something more agile. I think moving into an environment where from the data perspective we’re viewing it more transiently, working more iteratively, allowing users to prototype for themselves. The more we empower them to do that, the better.”

In June, Three launched the first internal pilot for its analytics and data visualisation platform. The company invited employees to bring one business question with them and, given certain data sets –service usage patterns, purchasing trends and network stats – the team was able to answer some of these questions fairly quickly.

Grew says the process reinforced business users’ ability to use the platform, which is often half the battle, and helped them think about how to connect the data the company has with potential business outcomes and actions. Self-service data analytics is where Three is heading, and the company hopes to be able to empower its users to direct these platforms towards other areas of the business in a bid to generate more incremental value from its existing customers.

“We already have the base data for usage, so bringing that up into that same mechanism so that we’ve got that additional flavour so customers start to generate incremental value to us. We think we understand what that really means in terms of how they’re using our services, and I think over the next 6 months or so we need to look at getting a good prototyping capability in place so that we don’t spend so much time building strategically only to find that we’ve not met what the business needs.”

“As we look at better ways of handling our vast amounts of network data, we’ll start to try and think about how we collect our customer sentiment information, how we interact with third parties around marketing and segmentation, use this information tonreduce churn and so forth. I’d really like to provide some of these things, but it takes time to get to step one”

“We’re really right at the beginning of our big data journey,” he says.

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