Master data has many uses but the obvious area for most businesses to consider master data is for the customer but there are others. Perhaps the customer is the primary focus because it is an area that causes pain and is often linked to so many high priority strategic initiatives such as becoming a customer-centric organization. It is probably the easiest area to identify potential value and perhaps the easiest area to realize that potential value. However, there are many reasons why a business needs master data. In this blog we'll focus on 5 uses for master data in telecoms. As it is the most common area, let's start with the customer.
- The CUSTOMER is a challenge in telecoms as it's easy to have many subscriptions. I have an iPhone and an iPad. My daughters' prepay subscriptions are also in my name. So I have 4 accounts and numerous tariffs, bolt-ons, etc. served by at least two separate business units. As more and more Communications Service Providers (CSPs) offer multi-play bundles it is not uncommon to also have fixed line, broadband and TV services. For me some are in my name and some are in my wife's name so I constantly get marketing for services I already own which just tells me how little my CSP knows me. When I call for support I get a different experience depending on which account I'm calling about. If I send an email or use online chat the call center has no knowledge of this. The CSP needs to be able to have a complete view of me as a customer across all my accounts, my household, my relationships, my transaction history, my interactions via the call center, online, email and in-store. Take insights from my network usage and behavior to understand my interests and add to this my data from social media sites such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. Now the CSP has a more complete picture of me as a customer. This profile can be used in many areas such as CRM, billing, network assurance and even fraud. When I update my details then the central profile is updated and all the other systems receive the updated profile.
- SUPPLIER data is another area of focus for CSPs. There are the suppliers of products, suppliers of hardware, software and services and the suppliers of non-stock items. These supplies could be for data centers, switch sites, distribution centers, retail outlets, call centers, regional offices or the headquarters. This often results in multiple buyers dealing with lots of businesses and sometimes even the same businesses but the contracts and transactions are not always managed centrally resulting in the same supplier being able to charge different prices based on business units or locations. Often the lack of standardization and control around the management of supplier data leads to new suppliers being added when existing suppliers could have provided the same product or service. Sometimes deals are negotiated with parent companies and not applied to subsidiaries due to no hierarchy. When companies are acquired many CSPs could benefit from improvements in prices and terms associated with the acquiring company but fail to take advantage of this because of problems with their supplier data. Imagine this problem across multiple countries where different suppliers define their products or components in different ways, suppliers have different brand names and subsidiaries are more likely. A CSP could be dealing with several suppliers providing the same thing instead of benefiting from economies of scale dealing with one or two suppliers.
- PRODUCT information can be really simple so why do CSPs often have hundreds or even thousands of products? It could be because products are added over time and there's no hierarchy so every product creates a new record for every variant even though the changes between variant may be something as simple as the color. Managing the entire chain from onboarding of suppliers and importing product catalogues to delivering product information to the various channels in a consistent way is not an easy task, especially if you're trying to do it manually. However, this is a task for multiple people spread across the business in different departments and is a complex process. Product Information Management (PIM) solutions help manage this process and all of the steps from onboarding to channel delivery. Digital Asset Management capabilities improve the onboarding of photo/video content. By centralizing the information, creating hierarchies, applying quality rules and an approval-based workflow it's easy to turn large volumes of product information into a manageable data set ready for the omnichannel environment of a CSP.
- REFERENCE DATA is used in many departments and many systems within the CSP environment. A common example is make and model of user equipment whether they are handsets, tablets, routers or set-top boxes this detail provides additional insights. The data is just numbers without the reference information. In the mobile world this could be the IMEI from which could be derived Make, Model and software version with an SV extension. Now this could be enriched further with data from the product information to extend the attributes. This extended reference data allows for more detailed analytics. Instead of analyzing dropped calls or data service usage and maybe comparing device performance the user would be able to compare 4G capable devices or identify trends based on additional attributes. Reference data comes in many other forms. Cell ID information, MCCMNC data, NDC ranges, retail and wholesale pricing data, IP ranges and point codes are just a few examples of reference data in the world of telecoms. This data is used in multiple systems and is often created and managed in isolation which is why it is so easy to ask the same question 5 times and get 5 different answers. By managing reference data centrally and then disseminating it across the various business systems creates a single version of the truth whilst introducing data management efficiencies. The knock-on effect is the business now has consistent enriched data sets for use in the CRM system for improved call handling, for use in the Data Warehouse for improved reporting and analytics, in the billing systems for better price management and in the network assurance platforms and data lakes for improved troubleshooting and insights.
- ASSET MANAGEMENT is another common use for master data. Assets take numerous forms from physical network infrastructure that carries the customer traffic to the inventory of user equipment needed to access the network. This information is critical to the business. Knowing the physical location of network equipment and associated attributes such as line type and speed can be useful for understanding what services are available to a customer. In the fixed line world this kind of information is the wholesale data that underpins multiple CSP offerings. Having a consistent view for everyone reduces errors and reduces breakage rates as customers are able to know exactly what services are available to them. It also helps the CSP provide an accurate view to the outside world. When the regulator asks questions they get a consistent and accurate answer. In the supply chain management area just having a consistent definition for item and location can help reduce inventory overstock as well as help with planning and forecasting, especially useful when dealing with multi-national locations.
Applying master data to your business is like taking a basic car and tuning it to perfection. Without master data the car will get to the destination eventually, it may brake down along the way and all your competitors will arrive before you. When a CSP spends millions on key systems like CRM, ERP, Data Warehouses, Data Lakes and network management systems it makes you wonder why you wouldn't spend a tiny fraction of this on supercharging the environment with a multi-domain Master Data Management platform. It seems a small price to pay to drive significant business improvements across the CSP environment.