The story of telecom today is inexorably tied to 5G. And what a compelling story it is. Who can resist the allure of 5G’s ultra-low latency, blazing speeds, extra-large bandwidth and fail-proof reliability powering robotic surgery, autonomous driving, self-maintaining factories, 3-D video streaming, virtual-reality gaming and more?
But what makes 5G so captivating isn’t just the network itself but what’s traveling over the network: the bits and bytes of data that need to be secured, tamed, managed, monetized, analyzed and shared. It’s the real-time insights derived from this data — not just the networks themselves — that will guide the car, the robot, the game, the machine.
That’s why, for communications service providers (CSP) to succeed with 5G, they need to focus on something far less flashy: master data management (MDM). MDM not only brings different systems and information together; it also creates a single version of the truth. It provides the boost CSPs need to drive improvements, efficiencies and ultimately business growth to succeed with 5G.
It’s all about the data
For CSPs, the 5G opportunity goes well beyond providing network services. Instead, they need to take on a new and more strategic role of creating and providing 5G business services. We see this taking three main forms:
- Delivering precisely tuned solutions that make vertical use cases like remote healthcare possible
- Partnering with adjacent industries to create joint solutions for connectivity-enabled industry services
- Enabling value-chain players, third-party platforms and devices to connect and exchange data
For any of these opportunities, the centerpiece is data — and the need to share that data across partners, services, applications, customers and systems.
Taming the tsunami
Of course, CSPs already manage colossal data volumes. And as they strive to paint a highly detailed picture of who and where their customers are, they’re also tapping into new types of data – including on social interactions, behavior, sentiment, buying patterns, payer type, media content, network data, transactional data and more.
The challenge for many CSPs, however, is dealing with all this data — generating the right kinds of insights, making sure it’s trustworthy and secured, and ensuring it can be shared with the right ecosystem partners at the right time in compliance with country laws and regulations. Many CSPs struggle with issues around data quality, including inaccurate or inconsistent customer records, as well as the inability or difficult of accessing valuable data, like network activity. Other challenges include:
- Islands of information: Because information is scattered throughout the enterprise on disconnected networks, systems and business segments, there’s no single source of truth. Knitting together the information into a cohesive story is time-consuming and is rapidly outdated.
- Data “noise.” Because many systems create a very detailed transactional footprint, data volumes become too large to handle. Creating easy-to-consume insights in a timely manner consumes too much time and manpower.
- Inflexible legacy systems. Scaling up capacity on existing systems is costly and time-consuming and adds to data complexity. Adding new data sources or developing new data marts or subject areas can take months.
All of this presents a real challenge, particularly as CSPs are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed analytics and insights. AI can only be effective if it’s based on data that is clean, secure, correctly organized, democratized and made available across organizational segments.
Looking to MDM
This is why MDM is the first hurdle for CSPs to clear to monetize their 5G investment. They need to tackle issues like data visibility, ownership, privacy, security, governance, regulatory compliance and deletion of the data flowing through their infrastructure from households, businesses, individual consumers, governments and entire industry segments.
We’re helping CSPs build MDM solutions that consolidate complex customer, product and site data into a single version of truth through a modern data platform that ensures consistency, scalability, security and efficiency throughout the data lifecycle process. These platforms enable data and insights to be delivered to business stakeholders, partners, households and enterprises by incorporating the following elements:
- A data catalog and reference model that provides the classification, format, structure, serialization and compression of data that enables business-friendly access
- A unified data lake that provides interoperability, real-time data acquisition/consumption and bulk uploads/downloads
- A data platform that eliminates organizational data silos (such as mobile, fixed, broadband, data, field service management, device management, fault management, etc.)
- Data policies that ensure compliance, traceability and explainability for all types of data assets
For instance, we worked with a major CSP that struggled with poor operational efficiency because of its multiple data silos across the business and reliance on legacy systems and applications. The company needed a data platform that could manage the much larger volumes of data associated with 5G with zero downtime as well as in monetization of 5G.
We created a unified data hub by migrating seven Teradata systems and a data lake on Hadoop to a Snowflake/Azure cloud infrastructure. By doing so, the CSP improved productivity and time-to-market while reducing the total cost of ownership of its applications infrastructure.
We also worked with a UK telecom provider that struggled with duplicate legal entity information, poor data quality, inability to support real-time decision making and a lack of governance processes. By implementing an MDM solution with a scalable architecture, centralized and federated data governance, cross-application security, privacy by design and ML-based automation, the CSP has aligned its business, process and system design and sped its decision making.
Master data management may never have the sizzle that 5G does. But as all of us —businesses, consumers, partners and CSPs themselves — move closer to a 5G-driven world, it will only become more clear that full-fledged participants will be those that master their data.