Q&A: Telecom formalizes work around big data

FierceBigData interviews Steve Cotton of the TM Forum
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This week in Orlando, the TM Forum begins to demonstrate what it has been doing and plans to do around big data. As the source for data management frameworks and standards for the telecommunications industry, the organization is incorporating big data into its best practices and vice versa. Steve Cotton, director of business assurance programs at the TM Forum, spoke with FierceBigData prior to the forum's Management World Americas conference, about how big data is being used as part of its mission to enable the competitive capabilities of telecom service providers.

How does big data fit into your business assurance efforts and why is it applicable?

The bottom line for service providers is to get customers trusting them so they will come back for more. The more accurate the data you use to measure performance and the customer experience, the more they can trust you. We have this enterprise-level scorecard view of information that percolates up out of this gigantic supply of big data from operations that we call business metrics. There are hundreds of them. We apply them across three categories: revenue and margins, operational efficiency and customer experience.

The big data theme, while it has all the technology behind it, is centered around serving better visibility into the customer experience and that is at the heart of the digital services philosophy. And the value we are trying to bring as we transform into the digital services era is to provide the tools to build the trust that translates into a willingness to pay. After all, it does all come down to money.

Is the forum focused internally on applying big data to its own frameworks or do you work with the wider community?

There is bi-directional communication. For instance, I attended a forum in November at the University of California's San Diego computational lab, which was co-hosting a conference on big data. So, the awareness and relevance of the technology and academic community isn't lost on our work. The question is: How can the TM Forum add value to the dialogue? We aren't trying to out-data warehouse the data warehouse companies or out-think the academic community on information taxonomy. Besides, our members are not all from the telecom community; we have major initiatives in eHealth, defense and the cable industry.

Have you formed a specific big data working group?

Yes. There is a big data management and analytics working group that has about 6,000 subscribers. We just finished our latest six-month work cycle and kicked off a new one in October. The group has three parallel projects going on. One is to develop a high-level index of customer experience for the enterprise, another is to study the impact and issues of data mining surrounding our Frameworx platform, and one is on identifying the components of key performance, quality and management indicators.

The forum already has initiatives around customer experience management and analytics, how do these blend with a big data initiative?

Big data is happening and spewing out petabytes of data a year. We are acting like the catcher's mitt at the other end of the pitching battery so someone is there to catch it and help make sense of it in these different areas of customer experience, performance and margins. If you wait until all the data is in one place, it could be too daunting to access. So the more you access it in real time, the better to take action during the actual service delivery. There are thousands of databases for even individual companies, and to get the data cross-correlated while at the same time managing service levels to pre-empt quality degradation takes real data management and scientists working together.   

For more:
- see What telcos think of, need from big data  

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