This article was first published on 1 Oct 2013 in the BT Let's Talk GTM Blog
Imagine for a moment how much data flows around any major city, in either a developed country or a developing one.
It’s difficult to estimate a precise figure, but I’ve heard analysts talk about terabytes of data per day per square kilometre in urban areas. Whatever the exact number, it’s an electric soup of information, too much for anyone to digest, too big to analyse in a single breath.
Or is it? The pioneers of the Big Data revolution would have us believe that we’ll soon be rich in both information and data. And therefore able to make the most astute decisions based on understanding complex patterns of behaviour within the data. Good luck.
We do know, thanks to the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, that the data presented across a city straddles three major areas:
- Systems to help manage city planning;
- Infrastructure systems such as utilities, telecoms, transportation;
- And human-services systems like social programs.
It’s the data related to infrastructure which, as telecoms operators, interests us most. Telecoms operators the world over form part of any country’s critical national infrastructure: The fibre they have in the ground, the mobile macro-cell network, exchange buildings, network-operations centres, data centres, landing stations for subsea cable systems, the list goes on.
As we all know, however, having the assets that make up the infrastructure is one thing. But it’s the people and the processes around the asset that bring it to life.
What’s the point in showing off an amazing access network composed of fibre to the home or the latest 4G deployment, if the engineers aren’t in the right place at the right time to service customers? Or if parts end up shipped to the wrong location for installation, or processes are so archaic that customers give up and just hope for the best? In these cases, the asset really becomes insignificant, right?
In MEA, our operator customers face the daunting prospect of Big Data running out of control, whilst most of their engineering and back-office processes still rely on paper. In many of these markets the customers themselves are using technology to automate their lives. Take the example of social media across the Middle East or mobile money-transfer in Kenya.
But most operators haven’t quite caught up in terms of automating their business processes to keep up with customer demands, to match the experience their customers want and the experience they get. There are exceptions, as in the case of Safaricom in Kenya with its M-PESA payment service.
In BT when we faced the challenge of making sense of enormous data flows and trying to achieve great customer experience, we decided to automate the entire field-engineering process end to end. We did it by building our Field Force Automation solution.
BT manages more than 18 million engineering jobs per year, plus 25,000 customer-facing and 3,000 exchange-based engineers. These engineers undertake installation, repair and preventive maintenance of BT products and services.
As a result, BT has gained significant knowledge and practical experience in developing, procuring and deploying a complete work force management (WFM) solution. Through the introduction, which included transformation of processes, systems and working practices, it was able to achieve:
- Productivity improvement of 28 per cent,
- Operational cost reduction of approximately £175 million a year
- Primary control-site reduction from 100+ to seven
Until then, keep trying to imagine how much data we generate in our cities. Maybe you can hazard a guess at the precise number of terabytes per day per square kilometre in urban areas. Because let me assure you, your estimation will be as good as anyone else’s.