Speaking a Common Language

How big data analytics helps C-level executives in the telecommunications industry align their business unit objectives

Understanding where a significant proportion of spending is taking place on innovative technology inside organizations is getting increasingly difficult to guess. A decade ago, the obvious answer would have been the IT department, but that result is rapidly changing. In fact, the eventuality that CMOs may end up outspending CIOs on IT in the coming years has been widely reported. In many industries, marketing has become intricately interwoven within the realm of software and hardware. The CMO is always pushing to improve the bottom line, and today big data analytics tools play a strong role in that endeavor.

This arguably radical shift is easy to see firsthand in the telecommunications industry. In many ways, telecommunications offers a microcosm that reflects the changes within marketing and IT across the board. Few industries have such a close relationship between hardware, software, infrastructure, and profit margins. Yet, even as big data and analytics continually provide new opportunities, communications service providers are struggling to align departments and, consequently, business goals.


Understanding the C-level disconnect

Organizational silos offer an important way of allowing a business to function smoothly. Employees can streamline the tasks within their departments, and managing objectives can be centralized. The problem, however, is that focusing the energy of each department on a different set of goals means that executives prioritize the completion of those goals over all others. After all, that’s the job they were hired to do.

The CMO and the chief executive officer (CEO) are concerned with increasing revenue, retaining customers, and gaining new business. The CIO and chief technical officer (CTO) are thinking about the latest technology that can impact the organization’s processes and infrastructure. In the telecommunications industry, all one has to do is listen to the conversations to understand the depth of this disconnect. CIOs and CTOs are going to be talking about the impact of cloud computing, and machine-to-machine (M2M) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) on communications service provider networks. Meanwhile, CMOs and CEOs are expected to focus on consumer devices, apps, and advancements in the market.

As a result, C-level executives have come to speak a different language that is particular to their respective departments. As they all pursue separate goals, there is little chance for alignment. But as technology becomes an increasingly powerful tool for business development and sales, maintenance, and processes, that alignment is going to change. Big data, by its very nature, spans the entire organization, and executives need to break out of this traditionally siloed structure to leverage the benefits it can provide.


Predicting the future

One solution for communications service providers that utilizes big data and bridges different silos is predictive analytics. When predictive analytics is applied to the information traveling across the organizational network, CMOs can discern trends that may have important implications for sales and marketing. These trends may also shed insight on how consumers are using their data plans and what new offers or products may interest them. Yet, the CIO usually controls all that data, so CMOs will need to bridge that gap.

The future of marketing is networks, and the future of networks is marketing. As networks expand and markets change, CMOs are going to have to learn more about network optimization, and CIOs and CTOs should start thinking about marketing and service personalization.

When predictive analytics and contextual intelligence are applied to network data, CMOs can create offers that are precisely targeted for an individual customer’s needs. Each offer, of course, will hinge on the ability of the networks to deliver a timely, high-quality, and personalized service. CIOs and CTOs need to track the impact and performance of these marketing campaigns across the networks and infrastructure. As real-time marketing becomes more of a reality than it is currently, it is expected to necessitate the integration of marketing, sales, and business development with technology, infrastructure, and data.

Fortunately, IT departments are already moving in this direction. In CIO magazine’s “2013 State of the CIO Survey,” the most commonly cited activity was alignment. Many CIOs—63 percent—said that the majority of their time was spent aligning IT initiatives with business goals.1 There is pressure from within—and outside—the IT department to transform it into a business unit that bolsters business growth. And the first step is to overcome the language barrier.


Aligning common goals

Because C-level executives are all pursuing the individual goals of their business units, their success is measured against different standards. As long as that situation remains the case, there will still be language barriers between executives. They may look at the organization as a whole, but at the end of the day they’re concerned with fulfilling the objectives by which they’re being measured.

To take advantage of the big data at every company’s disposal, a common goal should be set. CIOs and CTOs should not be concerned with just operations, security, and network infrastructure. Likewise, CMOs should not be looking only toward the next campaign.

The one goal that can unite every silo is the optimization of the customer experience—enabled by predictive analytics technology. Communications service providers can track those statistics by measuring customer service feedback, network performance, and the success of marketing offers. These three factors can be combined to indicate how well business units are aligned with one another.

Communications service providers and other businesses that are struggling to integrate new technology and streamline operations between silos should start by examining which metrics are important to which department. As long as executives are striving to fulfill different agendas, alignment can be challenging, if not impossible. But every organization places a priority on customer experience, and by making that experience the cornerstone of any new project and leveraging big data analytics, growing beyond silos and getting executives speaking a common language may be possible.

Do you agree? Please provide your thoughts in the comments.

1 2013 state of the CIO survey,” Exclusive research from CIO magazine, January 2013.