Advanced analytics, growing off a foundation of effective Business Intelligence (BI), presents unprecedented opportunities for business. Where traditional BI delivered an historical view or trends in customer behaviour, sales, products life-cycle or market forces, advanced analytics is predictive in nature, prescriptive and rides on the output of traditional BI.
Traditional BI is built around a formal set of key performance indicators, how they are to be presented, and their tracking time intervals (i.e. template and a periodic format); whereas with advanced analytics, the process starts with a gut feel/doubt/question/hypothesis, then a model and set of methods are put together to enable the user to test/collect/process or validate as needed. Therefore the work of technology is to provide a platform than a set of KPI/KPO/KPAs.
In traditional BI, the data used is mostly structured data, while advanced analytics uses a mix of structured data and unstructured data (social comments, YouTube videos, images).
With the right combination of tools and techniques, advanced analytics allows us to expand our reach far beyond just exploring data – it allows us to discover the hidden relationships within the data, infer trends, understand the ‘why’ behind patterns and predict future patterns. It encompasses a descriptive component (show me inherent relationships in even unstructured data, to understand ‘why’) and a predictive component (what will happen if this trend continues? What how will the market react to this new product?)
Advanced analytics offers almost unlimited potential to improve how services are designed, delivered, how people live their everyday lives, and how businesses are able to meet demand and grow. It presents us with the possibility that in future, artificial intelligence will come closer to the human brain in its ability to learn and predict possible outcomes.
But harnessing all the data necessary for making accurate forecasts depends a great deal on the connectedness of everything. In an Internet of Things future, every ‘dumb’ object will ultimately be connected and so, every object will add valuable data to the vast pool of data (structured and unstructured) we already see, which can then be tapped into and analysed for relevant insights. In emerging markets such as Africa, smart device uptake is still in its early growth phase. Many areas are still unconnected. This is where telecommunications companies come in.
To enable innovators across the continent to harness advanced analytics, we need ubiquitous, affordable and reliable connectivity to be available. The challenge here is that Africa’s telcos are facing declining ARPUs and increasing costs of doing business. This may hamper their ability to roll out infrastructure to remote areas and bring down the cost of connectivity to the consumer. Interestingly, advanced analytics can help telcos address their challenges. Therefore, advanced analytics and telecoms are potentially a symbiotically powerful duo that can work together to revolutionise the way in which Africa’s people live, work and play.
Advanced analytics can be harnessed to help telcos detect patterns in usage ahead of a customer churning, and identify measures that might incentivise the customer to stay. It can help telcos drive down the costs of infrastructure roll-out by identifying appropriate alternative delivery mechanisms that make it cost effective to serve (e.g. delivering data services for remote areas). It can be harnessed to manage data traffic so that the most cost effective routing is used at the appropriate times. They can assess a range of metrics to get as close to truth as possible and test and simulate outcomes quickly and cost effectively.
So by harnessing advanced analytics to improve the reach and affordability of connectivity, and so create an environment that lays the foundation for widespread use of advanced analytics, the service provider, business, governments and people all benefit.
Telecoms is a vehicle not just for communication, it is also a vehicle for service delivery to every sector, from banking to agriculture and public service, and it is also the vehicle for enabling advanced analytics. As telecoms progresses, the more advanced analytics is enabled and the more advanced analytics is applied, the better telcos can perform in this two-way beneficiary process.
However, telcos can only lay the foundation for advanced analytics across Africa. What is also needed is a mindset shift; a preparedness and capability to harness advanced analytics. This capability has to be built into the hands of the end users – those who will be asking the questions. Unlike traditional BI, advanced analytics will become a language of business and everyone will use it to ask question data, slice and dice and make forecasts. There will have to be a new operational approach that embraces advanced analytics, starting by asking: How will the data be gathered? When is the time right to strike?
Africa is not making effective use of advanced analytics yet, but the wave is starting, informed by the fact that we as a continent don’t operate in isolation. As bandwidth costs come down and smart devices become more affordable and readily available, this wave will grow and we will see revolutionary and beneficial change in business, service delivery and our own lifestyles.
By Ayanda Dlamini, Business Development Manager at LGR Telecommunications