Big Data comes to Amsterdam (just for two days)

I’ve just spent two pretty interesting days hearing what some of the biggest industry names think about what’s happening in Big Data analytics – an area with a lot of hype around the value it could potentially bring to those service providers who manage to get it right. If you didn’t manage to make it to TM Forum’s conference in Amsterdam last week, here are six takeaways:


I lost count of how many times I heard the word “value” during the conference– from TM Forum’s Rob Rich (whose definition of “Big Data” included a fifth ‘V’ for Value, in addition to the traditional Volume, Variety, Velocity and Veracity), to CenturyLink’s Matt Olson who urged service providers to start small with one project that demonstrates tangible value, and then build on it.

Big Data has been described as “a solution looking for a problem”, because companies often focus on the ‘shiny’ new technology and lose sight of the business reason for investing in it. So there was a lot of emphasis at the conference on first defining the problem (or use case) you are solving and the value it will bring, and only then building the Big Data infrastructure to enable it.

Loads of interesting use cases were presented at the conference, including:

*   Amdocs’ Dr. Eyal Felstaine explained about using proactive care, which is a key element of Amdocs’ new CES 9 portfolio release, to improve net promoter scores

*   Network planning to minimize interconnect costs (Stefan Spaar, Cricket),

*   Customer care for IPTV, and Set Top Box fault detection (David Murargi, Portugal Telecom)

*   Fraud detection (Steffen Scheller, T-Systems),

*   Mobile web usage analysis, and sentiment analysis (Mariusz Jazdzyk, Orange Poland),

*   Service provisioning (Matt Olson, CenturyLink)


Personally, I liked how Portugal Telecom’s David Murargi summed up Big Data with this quote from Facebook’s Jay Parikh:

“If you aren’t taking advantage of Big Data, then you don’t have Big Data – you just have a pile of data…”

Capgemini's Edwin Steenvoorden moderates the discussion on Using Big Data to create an “actionable reality": Amdocs' Michal Henn, CenturyLink's Matt Olsen and  Teradata's Jose Marques

Capgemini’s Edwin Steenvoorden moderates the discussion on using Big Data to create an “actionable reality”: Amdocs’ Michal Henn, CenturyLink’s Matt Olsen and Teradata’s Jose Marques

 And service providers are holding a huge  pile of customer data, coming from mobile applications and browsing, CDRs, geo-location, digital content, M2M sensors, digital home, cable set top box, IVR, unified communications, and more. The problem is that they’re not really tapping into a lot of it yet. Amdocs’ Michal Henn recommended to start off by monetizing internal data assets such as network usage data and CSR text logs as they are much more valuable, before moving on to external sources such as social media.

 3. Connecting the Dots

The term “Big Data” doesn’t actually refer just to the massive quantities of data being generated – it’s about “connecting the dots”. 

Amdocs' Dr. Eyal Felstaine explains the importance of proactive care

Amdocs’ Dr. Eyal Felstaine explains the importance of proactive care

This, explained Dr. Eyal Felstaine means correlating different data sources together (and not just the usual transactional data, but also including unstructured internal data and external data too) to identify patterns and pull out actionable insights. In this way, service providers can anticipate what customers need and address them proactively in real time.  Splunk’s Tapan Bhatt echoed this need, emphasizing that valuable insights can be obtained from sources which have been traditionally overlooked such as logs and machine generated data.  


This need for “one-to-one customer engagement” was repeated by Peter Crayfourd, formerly France Telecom’s Group Head of Customer Lifestyle & Experience. He recommended that service providers should shift from looking at “average customers” (e.g. ARPU) and using average KPIs (which often mask problems with network quality or poor customer experience). Instead they should move to using integrated customer-centric KPIs that are cumulative across all the service provider’s lines of business.


Google and eBay presented at the conference and demonstrated that they are far ahead of service providers in leveraging data and Big Data analytics, being part of what Unbound ID’s Andy Land described as the new ‘Identity Economy’. Boston Consulting Group’s Dr. Erik Lenhard went on to illustrate this with actual revenues:

The value of a Facebook user is $12.60, the value of a generic Google ad click is $0.80, while an ad click with Google Wallet is worth $8.
In fact, knowing who the customer is increases the value by ten times

But it’s not just Google and Facebook who know their users well. When you consider the huge amounts of customer data that service providers are collecting, processing, storing and utilizing, it’s easy to see that they have a potentially very valuable asset that’s unique to them.


Without a doubt, there has definitely been a lot of buzz about Big Data analytics but whether it was eBay’s Tom Fastner or Google’s Matt McNeill, most seemed to agree that it’s not just hype: it’s real and it’s here to stay. Telefónica’s Daniel Rodriguez Sierra described it as “the hope and the hype” because if you look past the hype around Big Data, it really offers a lot of opportunity.

But service providers do need to invest intelligently and focus on the data that will hold the most value for them. Judging from what I saw and heard in this conference, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how this area is going to move forward in the next two years.


FIND HER ON TWITTER  @yifatkafkafi 



  1. rob rich
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Terrific blog, and a great summary of the conference! I think that by beginning and ending the blog with the concept of value, you really put Big Data into proper perspective.

    I think there’s one more thing we should add to the list, though it was delivered throughout the conference in a more subtle way, rather than by one speaker. It’s the “people factor”. There are at least three important areas here, and some of them were referred to by Wim Casteur from Belgacom, Steffen Scheller from T-Systems, myself and a few others. These areas include

    • Senior management- who must understand and accept the potential of the data to add value, support the intitiatives, and ‘walk the walk” in incorporating the results in decision making.
    • Business and IT management, who must find ways to organize and work together to extract value (Wim spoke a lot about this in his talk). They must also find ways to source, train and retain a highly skilled group of analysts.

    • The analysts themselves, whose skills and attitudes are critical to success in Big Data. This also includes the outside help that many service providers will likely bring in to help jump start their big data efforts, as there just isn’t enough talent to go around right now.

    In my opinion, the “people factor’ is always important for success in IT-related initiatives and Big Data is no exception. This is why one of my slides was titled “Don’t Forget the People!”

    Again, thanks for a great blog, as well as the support from Eyal, Michal and you at the event.

  2. Posted February 7, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Rob, thanks for mentioning another important theme from the summit. I especially connected with your remarks that with today’s fierce war for talent, the best way to retain data scientists and analysts is to challenge them with interesting projects to work on.

    Thanks to you and the rest of the TM Forum team for a great conference. I’m looking forward to the next one!

  3. Kumar
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Interesting…Yifat, I have one question here for you. Do you use Semantic (Web) technologies too in combination with big data in any of your project? I think Semantic Web Technologies provide real intelligence and inference layer.

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