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Wading Through the Data Deluge – Is Agility Literally a Pipe Dream?
Being fast to move is key in an era of increasing collaboration between operators and OTTs

The announcement this week that Facebook is acquiring Pryte should make operators sit up and take notice. The communications landscape is evolving at breakneck speed and operators need to start shouting about where they can bring value, before they get drowned out by the noise.

Because bring value they certainly can. We all know how these partnerships should work in theory: operator brings their established systems and customer insight to the table, OTT brings its innovation and "cool" factor, as well as hoards of happy customers. The two parties "mash up" their services and the resulting revenue is shared between them.

The reality doesn't have to be far from that. Where many operators fall down is that they are not geared to rapidly respond to changing traffic patterns, new applications and user requirements. And that is a real issue. Because to grow revenues and market share in the new world order of the digital economy, it is not so much about survival of the fittest but survival of the fastest.

Failure to improve organisational agility is one of the greatest risks to operators, according to the ‘Top Ten Risks In Telecommunications 2014' report from analysts EY.

"Operators have moved from network-centric to customer-facing structures. Simplifying and streamlining these structures while driving new forms of interaction within organizations will be vital if telcos are to cope with a range of escalating trends."

Operators might not be prepared to nail their flag to the mast in terms of what form their OTT Partnership Strategy will take - with the market seemingly in a permanent state of flux, many are sitting back and waiting for the waters to settle - but they all know that in order to execute it, the business, both in terms of processes and supporting infrastructure, needs to support agility.

The three pillars of agility
Fundamentally, this means putting the customer at the centre of the organisation and ensuring that the whole business is geared to bringing them greater value: knowing what it is they want, creating innovative apps/ services that meet those demands and delivering these at the "crucial" moment.

This might sound like pretty basic marketing but the difference is that operators must be set up to act fast on customer insight, if they want to match the pace set by their OTT counterparts and remain a relevant value player.

From pipe dream to revenue stream
This is neatly demonstrated by third-party data sharing, a major emerging revenue stream that a number of operators want to capitalise on through their OTT Partnerships.

Without the systems in place that can sift through the data deluge, and offer real-time insight based on specific customer context parameters, the value of this data assest simply cannot be realised - or, at least, not to its full potential.

Ideally, operators would be looking now at systems that offer out-of-the box capabilities to mine data in real time, so that they can move fast in exploiting the growing demand from OTTs for holistic customer insight. Critical functionality is the ability to set up customer context parameters, and mine for those specific data streams in real-time. This enables Operator and OTT to define circumstances where a subscriber would be sent a relevant offer.

While campaign management tools are advanced, there are few operators who offer this high level data mining. Even fewer who can offer it out-of-the-box. But operators who are serious about monetising their customer data require detailed insight - now.

Partnerships in Practice
Beyond customer insight, operators must be in a position to create new services with the Over The Top (OTT) players and other digital service providers. Integrating on a case-by-case basis is cumbersome, and slows operators down in launching new market-ready services.

Operators are keen to form partnerships, in order to add value to their data bundles. The partnership model is a key tenant in reducing churn and protecting future revenues.

Those operators who are serious about this approach are investing now proprietary collaboration platform that can be directly integrated with the operator's BSS/OSS systems, providing developers with access to both network assets and to the operator's back-office systems (Billing CRM, Analytics) and supporting ‘mash ups' of operator/ OTT services. Unlike the inherent bureaucracy of industry-led initiatives, changes to individual deployments can be implemented quickly - essential given the rate at which this market moves.

In other words, being fast and agile is key to success in this new sector. Making investment now in the systems that will support this, and enable operators to turn their customer insight into a sustainable revenue stream, is critical to long-term success.

About Katie Matthews
B2B marketing professional working in the Cambridge technology sector, with specialist experience in telecommunications.

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