Differentiating real-time from traditional BI

by Ashutosh Desai    Aug 18, 2010

The customer has always been considered to be the king. Then one can also label the amount of information one generates from customer spending patterns and usage trends, as a veritable treasure trove. Businesses that need to reach out to a large group of targeted people do not need to look far because the mobile operators (apart from the BFSI sector) are the ones with these demographics. How a business goes about using this information to create potential avenues of revenue generation is the main question. Real-time customer intelligence can be one such solution. In a discussion with CXOtoday, Dr Vinod Vasudevan, Group CEO, FlyTxt explained the need to differentiate between real-time and traditional BI. Vasudevan also shared his views on how media companies are still not leveraging the information mobile operators have to conduct advertising campaigns with the aid of real-time customer intelligence.

Could you elaborate on the application areas of business intelligence in the telecom space?
Business Intelligence (BI), is just one part of trying to understand customer behavior and how changes or modulations in their behavior, consumption patterns, profiles, will impact and influence your business and business decisions. BI can be used by every business for a variety of things. In many industries and in most situations when you consider marketing or direct marketing, or advertising kind of activities — all the customers’ actions and behavior (or events); their value increases exponentially over time. But the value of the intelligence or value of the consumer insight is the highest when it is in real-time. And as time goes by, its value decreases.

FlyTxt solutions are basically a complete, close loop real-time solution. We use real-time customer behavior analytics and customer profiles, intelligence, to drive marketing and advertising campaigns. The ‘closed loop’ means even their behavioral responses towards these campaigns themselves constitute additional insights into the customer behavior which can again be used in a real-time fashion. That is one of the applications of business intelligence and one that is a key application.

How different is this from traditional business intelligence solutions?
The traditional business intelligence solutions perform complex analysis of data to come up with predictions, classifications or segmentations that are kind of long term. Using Neon, a mobile operator can target segments of subscribers who have done something in the immediate past (as recent as in the past few minutes) and take some actions on that. This is based on real-time analytics.

The traditional cycle would be to talk about customer behavior over the last six months or more. An operator could study their subscribers’ movements and behavior to plan where they should set up their next base station. This is a three-four month activity. Alternatively, they could study customer behavior, use BI to plan where they should have their next retail outlet. These are long term decisions and you do not need to have real-time intelligence or predict what things like what their future earnings might be. Modulating customer behavior through promotions, campaigns, advertisements these areas require real-time analytics and real-time customer intelligence.

Are media companies leveraging these solutions as much as they should be?
Media companies today are looking at the mobile channel purely as a delivery channel. They have a different kind of understanding which I would call as limited compared to what operators have. A lot of these media programs are linked to the mobile (Kaun Banega Crorepati, for example). But most of these are based on sending a short text message.

They are not taking into account the fact that the mobile operator has a lot of subscriber information and subscriber inventory, which they could leverage. Currently, that is not being leveraged. This is not only in India but also a fact across the world. Even mobile advertising companies do not use the operator data or inventory and they are limited. That’s a big reason why despite their flashy names, they are still a blip in the advertising landscape.

How do you go about trying to change this perception?
We have approached the operator market with our product. Neon just helps them do their own marketing measurably and generator incremental revenues. Essentially, it transforms how the operators do advertising and marketing of their products. The next step would be for the operators to extend this capability to outside entities. Operators lack the technology to gain real-time subscriber insight based marketing and advertising. They develop the ability to do campaigns themselves based on real-time subscriber information. Then the next step is a matter of extending this to the outside world in a secure, accountable manner, taking care of all privacy laws and frequency considerations, etc. That is what will spur the growth of mobile advertising beyond the small blip that it is today.

Real-time consumer intelligence will help change this. We need to distinguish between real time BI and traditional BI because the cycle times and the consequent business decisions that one could take are very different in both cases.

What sort of databases are uses since the number of user profiles can be quite large?
Typically it’s our intellectual property. In our solutions we use Oracle as our base layer but what we build on top of that is where the secret sauce lies. We have installations that handle over hundred million data both behavior and even profile at our customer’s. We deliver targeted promotions to several million subscribers per day.

Is the solution hosted by FlyTxt?
Since there is a huge volume of data that keeps changing every moment the systems are deployed within our customer’s infrastructure. The data does not travel outside. We provide a complete managed service, which is based on the SOA architecture.

What is the next level, with respect to the real time intelligence?
In terms of real time consumer insights…today they are being used by a section of mobile operators to drive marketing and advertising activities. I think any enterprise can use real-time consumer insights to drive marketing activities — particularly mobile marketing activities. This is because it needs to be immediate and in real-time.

In the next stage, I see operators extending the real-time consumer insights for other enterprises to use. That basically means retail outlets could use real-time consumer insight from operators for running their direct marketing and advertising campaign. All in all, customers will not receive spam — they will receive what they would prefer to receive. And that would make marketing and advertising more effective. As a result, this will drive mobile advertising to become a significant part of the total advertising business. This is what I see in the next two to three years time frame.