Looking forward to the Opening Ceremony!

Posted: July 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The emphasis, excitement and media coverage surrounding this Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games, is an imminent reminder of the importance of getting off on the right foot for any event or project. After all, the opening ceremony sets the tone, the atmosphere, the momentum and brings unity among the participating athletes.

Coincidentally, I am currently organising my own ‘opening ceremony’ in the form of a kick-off session for a major Europe West Comptel project. Whilst my ‘kick-off’ sessions are pretty tame in comparison to the blockbuster opening of the Olympic Games, they share similar objectives: team building, gaining credibility, marking the event and creating the drive and focus to succeed.

Of course, the Europe West services team believes in the importance of well-organised, structured and informative ‘project kick-off’ meetings, as well. And from our experience, an internal kick-off meeting should be followed by a more formal introductory meeting with the customer’s team. The ultimate objective for both of these meetings is to ensure the success of a project, by bringing the team together, outlining the project goals, and uniting everyone in the effort to achieve these. Based on this, I’ve developed a checklist for successful project kick-offs:

Basic introductions:

Introduce the customer to the project team, highlighting their needs and preferences. Establish the key stakeholders, walk-through the customer’s history with the company, and summarise their current technical architecture. In addition, such a session should include an introduction of the internal team members and establish agreements regarding the frequency of subsequent meetings and project reporting required.

Confirm scope and objectives:

When confirming the scope of the project, focus on what is to be delivered and what is needed to meet objectives. This is also an excellent time to answer any last-minute architectural or solution-based questions.

Align everyone to the plan:

The kick-off is the ideal time to share the overarching plan, in addition to project deadlines and milestones. Doing so is critical to ensuring the team members are aligned, driven and motivated to meet their deadlines. As with any good project plan, be sure to include identified issues and risks to prepare for any anticipated challenges.

Break the ice:

Remember, project kick-off meetings help break the ice, foster a sense of team spirit, and explain who is doing what and when! They also give the team a chance to ask associated product experts any questions that will enhance the delivery.

Hit the ground running:

Above all, the kick-off meeting is designed to enable the team to hit the ground running! With a good kick-off meeting, the team should begin on familiar ground with the customer and immediately understand the project details and their requirements.

This Friday, I will be watching the Opening Ceremony on television from East London, as the Olympic ‘project team’ officially kicks-off the Games. The spectacular event will only reinforce the importance of formally marking the start of a project — a sentiment that we share at Comptel and express through our project kick-offs.

And next week, with the Games in full swing, we’ll see what happens after the Opening Ceremony, as the project moves into full implementation! Furthermore, I am lucky enough to have a ticket to the Games themselves, so I will share my first hand experiences of events from London!

Conversation on CIQ4T with Heavy Reading, Part 2

Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In part one of our two part series, Heavy Reading analysts Ari Banerjee and Sarah Wallace discussed contextual intelligence for telecoms (CIQ4T) and how this type of approach, which provides advanced analytical insights for a holistic customer view, can improve engagement and elevate the customer experience.

Now, in the second and final installment, Ari and Sarah delve a bit deeper into what this actually means for service providers and explore some real-life examples of putting CIQ4T to work, such as monetisation, network resource optimisation and dynamic profiling with advanced analytics.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, the telecommunications industry needs to increasingly predict what is important to customers rather than simply being reactive – and analytics plays a key role in helping to achieve this. Ultimately, turning all of this data into actionable information helps to bring people close together and furthers our goal of making data beautiful.

Like last week, you can listen to the full podcast of the conversation here or read the highlights below.

Ari Banerjee: Can you talk a little bit about the use cases that Comptel is addressing today that are more customer-facing?

Sarah Wallace: One of the first use cases is obvious but also very important, and that’s monetisation. This includes upselling to the customer, offering them something that might be triggered through some type of complaint, or offering them a new service. Another aspect of this is cross-selling – identifying subscribers and offering something they don’t necessarily need but that fits their usage pattern. So, for instance, service providers could offer a device with its own hot spot to a customer who may travel a lot.

Then, of course, there’s the aspect of new customer acquisition when it comes to monetisation. This entails identifying influencers in the network that might have a lot of off net relationships and making them an offer that will compel them to spread it virally – subsequently acquiring new subscribers.

Ari Banerjee: Beyond that, there’s the whole element of network resource optimisation. As we all know, when it comes to wireless, bandwidth management and resource management become extremely critical. Looking at the evolving wireless industry and all of its networks, 4G rollout is happening almost everywhere across the globe with LTE as the preferred route that most operators have taken.

With this comes another element of how to use spectrum, bandwidth and network resources better – especially when we look at services that are becoming more popular to enterprises or to consumers. These are really services that are low latency – those that revolve around video content and media. How do you provide expected quality of experience? All of that, again, needs advanced analytics or use of CIQ4T in a much broader way. Therefore, an OSS/BSS vendor already in the network can provide a lot more value additions for service providers.

One of the things that we are seeing operators challenged in is around cell-site optimisations. As we know, 4G networks are challenging because of things like traffic load balancing, handing over traffic between cells, determining where to put small cells – all of these need much more contextual information. So if OSS information is joined with contextual information, such as user experience, location and so forth, there’s a typical pattern of user-behaviour that can be mapped out.

Analytics can show that reducing power of one cell in favor of another cell might improve the overall network. Also, it can provide intelligent analysis around experience of a small set of high value customers who are typically using demanding services at a set time during the day, and how this can be handled in a better way based on load balancing across different parts of the network.

Subscriber-centric wireless offload – this becomes very important – and any operators who are providing 4G services are talking about wireless offload. This is because you cannot keep a subscriber on 4G continuously, it must instead be offloaded. Can this be done more intelligently using analytics? Can decisions be made based on the profitability of the customer lifetime value? Is there an SLA attached to the customer? Are they part of an enterprise contract? All of these different dimensions come through and are brought together via OSS/BSS systems and then intelligent decisions can be made based on which subscriber to offload. Again, use of CIQ4T and advanced analytics plays a major role here.

Service control based on subscriber profiles is another area that we think CIQ4T makes a lot of sense. By augmenting network data with subscriber data, utilising behavioural patterns, matching subscriber preferences and so forth, services can be tailored according to different users on the same subscriber account. So, for example, giving a company’s directors priority service compared to other employees, or managing a parent’s business applications in a different way than the entertainment applications used by their children.

So again, advanced analytics can also drive policies, which can drive service elements in the network and these can be programmed into things like policy servers for enforcement throughout the network in a much more soft-ticketed fashion.

Sarah Wallace: Some other use cases in addition to that include real-time churn prevention. This means being able to examine behaviours in subscribers who are obviously going to churn. Various elements to observe are multi-SIM prediction, rotational churn, and even churn location (do they reside in an area that has a propensity for high churn?)

Another use case is the concept of dynamic profiling with advanced analytics. This entails examining characteristics such as their usage, interests, location, socio-economic class, influence in their network (SNA), overall propensity to churn and their relationship to off net users.

Then, of course, there’s SNA which is a sub-set of advanced analytics. It’s really just looking at social networks in the sense of relationships – looking at family, friends and co-workers – and seeing what kind of influence the subscriber has in their sphere.

The last use case is advanced offer management – enabling service providers to confirm which promotions and service bundles are successful to offer including loyalty points, event and rule-based promotions, traffic-based promotions and management capability based on data subscriber network usage.

Personally, it makes me happy to think that Comptel’s software can be – and is – a part of the lives of so many people. And as consumers have different expectations for quality of experience, one of my personal favourite use cases is defining how to provide the experience that is right for each customer. Which use case do you find most appealing for CIQ4T?

Q2 2012: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Posted: July 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Today, we announced Comptel’s financials for the second quarter of 2012 and for the first half of the year as a whole. This is a personal milestone for me, as it marks my second year fully immersed as CEO — and as you’ll see from our mid-year highlights, I’m confident in the direction the company is moving.

This past quarter, our order backlog rose to a record high, as we won a significant EUR 5.4 million project to consolidate the mediation systems of a leading operator in Western Europe.

The upfront investments in the customer interface have yielded results in our largest regions, Europe and Asia, and we won seven new customers globally. Although our net sales have not yet met expected levels, they stayed on par with last year’s numbers, EUR 20.3 million (EUR 20.0 million). And we are optimistic our investments will grow our 2012 net sales approximately 10 per cent from the previous year. Integration of the advanced analytics expertise acquired in February 2012 has proceeded exceptionally well, resulting in winning our first deal for Comptel Social Links software.

We continued to bring new products to the market as key strategic initiatives. The major launch of Next Generation Comptel Fulfillment 8 software this quarter was received remarkably favourably by the OSS/BSS industry.  We also unveiled our Contextual Intelligence for Telco (CIQ4T) concept this quarter, providing communications service providers a framework for bringing customer experience to the next level. This innovative approach truly differentiates Comptel in the market.

Our business mix of licence and services sales was impaired by the personnel, project delivery and marketing costs, causing lower operative results than expected. To remedy this, we initiated first productivity action by streamlining R&D in Norway and further cost saving initiatives will bring us approximately EUR 10 million on annual level. During the second half of 2012, we will realise EUR 3-4 million savings. These initiatives will secure our competitiveness, sustain the execution of our strategy, and deliver an estimated 0 – 5 per cent operating profit of net sales, excluding one-off items.

Beyond the figures, we also concentrated the first half of the year on executing our new strategy. We opened new offices in Istanbul and Cairo  and announced several major customer wins around the world. These included, Telefónica Central America’s mediation consolidation that enabled the efficient management of more than half a billion daily transactions, Thai mobile operator Real Move’s deployment of Comptel’s Fulfilment solution to gain customers from the 3G market,  Kcell Kazakhstan’s replacement of its provisioning and activation system with Comptel’s Fulfilment suite to support its 3G rollout, and Kuwaiti’s  Watanya Telecom improvement of its customers’ first use experience with Comptel’s Dynamic SIM solution.

We also launched a new portfolio approach with our Customer Engagement solutions and Comptel Services Portfolio, in addition to a refreshed Comptel brand identity at Mobile World Congress Barcelona in February. We shared a white paper regarding Contextual Intelligence for Telcoms at Management World Dublin and organised our annual Comptel User Group in Copenhagen with more than 100 participants from leading service providers and industry analysts. On top of this, our customer engagement solutions were honoured in Pipeline’s Innovation Awards and the 2012 IBM Beacon Awards as the best communications industry solutions — reinforcing our capability to bring innovative products and solutions to the market.

Overall, the first half of 2012 has been largely focused on executing our strategy, investing in bringing new products to market, winning new customers and developing our Services Business. As we move into this next quarter, we’ll continue onwards building on our stated strategy and remain confident the productivity programme will secure our competitiveness. And I’m honoured to convey, on behalf of Comptel, that we are looking forward to continuing to deliver on our promises to the market in the second half of 2012.

Conversation on CIQ4T with Heavy Reading, Part 1

Posted: July 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

At Comptel, making data beautiful means transforming the voluminous amounts of information that service providers have on hand into contextual – and digestible – insight. This entails moving beyond the simple collection of data and discovering the true applications of the information.

Heavy Reading analysts Ari Banerjee and Sarah Wallace recently discussed this very topic, exploring how contextual intelligence for telecoms (CIQ4T) can elevate the customer experience through many dimensions. In this conversation, they consider how, in order to fully maximise business opportunities, communications service providers require a holistic understanding of an individual subscriber’s usage patterns, behaviours and circumstances – and the benefits this provides. You can listen to the full podcast of the conversation here or read the highlights, from part one of our two-part series, below.

Ari Banerjee: Sarah, how do you define CIQ4T especially when it comes to dealing with the communications industry and telcos?

Sarah Wallace: CIQ4T is defined as being able to understand the uniqueness of a person, circumstance or object and converting that understanding into an opportunity. That translates very well into telecoms because providers are really trying to get a better understanding of their subscribers and then translate this into an opportunity to retain customers and further monetise their opportunities with them.

Ari Banerjee: Obviously advanced analytics plays a major catalyst role here. In our opinion, advanced analytics is a key enabler for CIQ4T. It helps to navigate through the huge amounts of data that operators gather to get a more in-depth profile of the subscriber and understand factors, like their preferences and usage patterns. Then, service providers can use that data with advanced algorithms to predict future behavior patterns.

Advanced analytics implementation typically involves the creation of architecture that enables the collection, storage and integration of data sets from a variety of systems. Then, applying correlation and analytic techniques to identify patterns of significance across these data sets. Obviously, this helps to provide a root-cause analysis and to become more predictive.  On top of that, all of these different processes or ways of handling Big Data help to facilitate the delivery of actionable intelligence and provide context-specific insight for end-users.

So Sarah, now that you’ve defined CIQ4T, can you talk about its key characteristics that you see in your research with service providers today?

Sarah Wallace: Sure. So in telecoms, one key aspect is the real-time capability – or being able to take all the data, process it and turn that into analysis to make offerings in real-time. And then you have the characteristic of prediction – or being able to predict subscriber behavior and allowing for optimal decision-making, when it comes to planning and designing for future offers. There’s also connecting with the customer at all touch points and having a contextual or deeper, granular understanding of those touch points to determine which action should take place next.

Of course, there’s also the ability to handle large volumes of data – for instance, combining the data from the network with other sources, such as CRM and OSS and other network elements. Then, being able to apply that data for real-time decision-making. There’s also the operational aspect of advanced analytics and CIQ4T, which based on the analytics, determines the need for action toward the customer, network and the feedback loop for machine learning.

Ari Banerjee: So what you’re talking about is being able to navigate through Big Data to provide a more predictive pattern of how someone, a network, or the subscriber will behave in the future and to understand the different parameters that make up a subscriber profile. This includes things, like his location, his action patters, and business life, how he’s using services during office hours, non-peak hours, family time – and how to basically provide more offers that are very focused on his day-to-day needs. This is a shift away from mass-market approach of campaign management to more of a focused, one-to-one approach.

Stay tuned for part two, in which Ari Banerjee and Sarah Wallace put analytics into action and discuss compelling CIQ4T use-cases that illustrate just how effective the approach can be.

Around The World

Posted: July 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why Are MVNOs So Hot Right Now? Thank the Carriers

The number of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) nearly died out in the past decade due to over-segmentation. Today, however, they are making an astounding recovery by reselling bundled voice and data services at affordable prices. According to GigaOM journalist Kevin Fitchard, “MVNOs are thriving because the big network operators are letting them.”

Historically, the larger operators made it difficult for MVNOs to take advantage of their data networks. They would charge prohibitive rates and force partners to pay for megabytes up front. But the market has recently changed, and operators like AT&T and T-Mobile are selling more airtime, while others are working directly with MVNOs to craft plans in exchange for a percentage of revenue. There are pros and cons to working with each operator, but it’s clear this shift is benefitting MVNOs.

The trend, however, hasn’t been as good for operators who risk losing their competitive advantage. The article points out that they, most likely, either feel forced to cooperate or are trying to reap the wholesale benefits of selling to MVNOs. Ultimately, these types of customised offerings and bouquet of service options benefit customers that now have more choices when it comes to selecting their network operators.

Moving Customers to Tiers

Data capacity and bandwidth constraints continue to be a major concern for communications service providers (CSPs).  According to Cisco, the consumption of over-the-top (OTT) video is predicted to quadruple by 2016, at which point more than 1.2 million minutes worth of video will be travelling through the Internet every second. Additionally, as smartphone quality increases so too does their use for bandwidth-intensive activity, like video streaming. And as users are increasingly becoming data-centric, CSPs must figure out the most effective method for implementing controls on usage.

Some operators, like Comcast, are offering tiered data services to manage the network. While this may be a viable option, it’s also likely that subscribers will push back on this change in plan. However, keeping customers satisfied could simply come down to the variety of tiers a provider is offering like charging based on the type of data used instead of the volume, or paying more for priority data during peak hours. Ultimately, CSPs have the ability to differentiate diverse types of data in ways that they never have before. This means more targeted services and the potential to really stand out in the market.

What options other than tiered pricing do you think can be effective?

Airlines & Telecom Companies Are Best At Facebook Page Customer Service

A recent study revealed telecom and airline industries are tops when it comes to providing customer service on Facebook. T-Mobile and Sony Mobile were the most active brands in responding to customers and prospects, while telecom companies showed their customer-centricity by replying to 60.4% of user posts between March and May of this year.

This is crucial as Conversocial, a social media tracking site, indicated in a recent study that 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies that ignore complaints on Facebook. It’s clear customer service should play a key role for CSPs not just on social media channels, but also as a standard practise throughout the business. For instance, CSPs can tap into the customer data they have on hand and determine – at an individual level – who to engage with, the right message to use, and the right time to do so. They can also monitor for issues within the network and proactively reach out to customers– before they head to Facebook to address the issue, the CSP has already responded. Now that’s customer service!

The Future of Mobile Business Intelligence

Posted: July 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There’s an interesting intersection between the popularity of mobile devices and the appetite for business intelligence (BI). Inevitably, the demand to display and interact with BI on mobile devices is growing and will continue to do so as more mobile technology supports this function. Already, we have tablets and smartphones with high-quality displays and interactive capabilities – but this is just the beginning, if you take into account the full potential for mobile BI.

Mobile BI is mostly relevant in the consumption of information, which is reflected in the need for simpler interactions in BI infrastructures. After all, nobody wants to be writing complex code, like SQL, on their smartphones. Rather, one of the key benefits of a successful BI system is the ability to show the same information to all users. For instance, dashboard reporting with drill down functionality and reports that scale easily across devices will be vital for success. And the more access points there are, the more important this standardization is.

Let me also say, however, that mobile BI will not – and should not – replace existing BI systems. Instead, mobile BI should complement existing systems by providing organisations with added speed and flexibility for consuming the available information. I also believe the move to mobile will give even more importance to more advanced analytical methods. For example, the ability to easily, effectively and accurately segment data based on certain attributes or to combine relevant information, such as churn predictions, into the revenue forecasts, as well as data visualisation approaches will come to the forefront. This allows for the information to be accessed – in a relatively refined form – across the entire organisation.

In other words, I see the advances in mobile BI being very much complementary to the other movements we are seeing in BI and analytics as a whole – bringing easier and more operational access, through complementary methods, such as predictive and advanced analytics. This, in turn, provides more refined data in a form that is easy to utilise across the organisation to maximise effectiveness of — not only the BI and analytical tools — but the people using the information generated. The latter point, being able to flexibly but securely access the information when and where it is needed to minimise “information lag”, is certainly a strong value proposition and will help mobile BI gain its foothold.

Comptel User Group Video: Q&A with Simo Isomäki

Posted: July 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Comptel User Group Video: Q&A with Simo Isomäki

Rounding out our series of videos from the 2012 Comptel User Group is Simo Isomäki, vice president of global business support at Comptel. In this video, learn why Simo was drawn to Comptel – more than a decade ago – and what he considers to be the most dramatic technological invention of our time.

The Results Are In: Analytics Play a Key Role in Customer Retention

Posted: July 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Results Are In: Analytics Play a Key Role in Customer Retention

This year’s annual Comptel User Group will be one to beat – with visits to the Carlsberg Brewery and the famous amusement park, Tivoli, where many attendees rode the world’s oldest wooden rollercoaster. In addition to the fun had around Denmark, there were also many memorable conversations at the conference, most of which revolved around the customer experience.

Like at past user groups, Comptel held an interactive voting session where we polled our audience of customers and partners to gain deeper insights on the topic of analytics. The survey focused on customer retention strategies, including when and how to engage with subscribers, and what techniques telecom professionals are employing to keep them happy.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they believe inconsistent service quality and poor customer service are among the biggest contributors to churn. To help manage this, 64% of participants said anticipating subscribers needs with proactive care is one of the best strategies for handling service issues, like dropped calls, low bandwidth or sluggish file loading.

Some audience members mentioned that, now, the simple reality is many operators wait for customers to complain before addressing an issue. But as Stratecast analyst Jeff Cotrupe commented, it’s always better to be proactive – communications service providers (CSPs) must take on that active role to provide better service overall. And ultimately to reduce churn, it takes predictive and contextual analytics and personalized customer interaction capabilities.

For instance, following a service issue, 46% of respondents said that they would issue an apology, opportunity to upgrade or special discount to subscribers to boost loyalty. But when it comes to keeping customers satisfied, especially after a service issue, Telesperience analyst Teresa Cottam noted that CSPs’ response should depend on what is appropriate for each individual customer and situation. While an apology might be right for some, it might irk others. This is why the actions that CSPs take following an event should be rooted in analysis of subscriber data. Just as you want to personalise services, personalising a response to an outage or fail is equally as important.

Supporting this and signaling how pervasive analytics are becoming in the industry, three out offour attendees reported using analytics daily, weekly or monthly. This isn’t surprising given that almost half also believe targeted services are critical in mitigating turnover – an area where analytical insights play a crucial role.

Timing and context were deemed among the most important aspects for realising improvements in customer interaction and business performance. Building on this, participants saw a variety of attractive applications for advanced analytics to support business needs.

We at Comptel are thrilled for the industry to embrace analytics and contextual intelligence, and to see the new opportunities that will emerge from this for churn prevention, targeted marketing and other business opportunities. Did any of the results stand out to you? What do you think will have the most powerful effect on reducing churn?

To download the full presentation, click here.