EngageIP Billing by its nature, being a system that collects data, is only as good as its data sources. Its sources may be from hardware switches, routers, traffic management devices or data entry clerks. However the platform strives to be one step ahead of its data sources by providing many methods to validate and cross check the data being delivered to it to help improve workforce productivity.

One of these processes is related to telecom data imports where we check for valid data first of call, and then also check for duplicate records. The interface it self provides advanced validation logic per data field based on the type of data its collecting, for example if you enter a phone number, it doesn’t allow you to enter a customer name. Simple validation like that goes a great distance in ensuring the integrity of your data and through that, decreasing the amount of ‘junk’ legacy data that is often collected in other systems. These sorts of things are key to data reconciliation, and system performance both for billing runs and for day to day GUI processes.

The most basic method to import data though is by hand and its not a method that will go away soon since there will always be data issues to correct or adjust manually. EngageIP does an excellent job providing flexible billing and payment options to minimize manual data input however there are times when this is needed.  Things such as applying payments manually for customers when they call in fall into the manual data entry category and this relies on the employee to enter the data correctly.

LogiSense recommends that written processes are in place for your business Рand they will be highly specific to your own business processes. We recommend step by step instructions for each process you may have such as applying a payment on a customer account, adding manual transactions, how to bill accounts etc. LogiSense also has some excellent resources to detail these processes however inevitably there will be some part of that process which will be required specific to your organization. Examples could include printing off a receipt manually for a customer, or updating an inventory system if its not integrated currently with EngageIP.

For business processes, LogiSense has a series of great training articles in our customer KnowledgeBase that you can print out and provide to your employees for the most common processes such as ‘How to add an account’, ‘How to apply a credit card payment’. Starting with the recommended processes from LogiSense you can keep the knowledge and skill level of your employees updated to ensure you’re doing things in the most efficient manner as well as making use of any new features that may make your workforce more efficient.

Imbuing CDRs with network data gives operators a powerful business intelligence tool. Chris Brown Director of Technology discusses Enhanced CDR capability in Xchange Magazine article

xchange Magazine – (September 2009) – In the past, call detail records have been used for billing and settlement – and then sent to a data warehouse to sit. But operators are increasingly putting CDRs to work as business intelligence tools by enhancing them with information from every network element that a call touches.

The result? A granular, 360-degree view of the customer that can be used for everything from creating targeted marketing campaigns to determining a subscriber’s profitability. These enhanced, or unified, CDRs are a valuable enough proposition that they will help push the overall subscriber data management market to $853 million by 2013, according to Infonetics Research.

“I think telecom has been far less mature than other industries in terms of mining the data that they have,” said Shira Levine, directing analyst for next-generation OSS and policy at Infonetics. “They have a phenomenal amount of data available to them from the network, which is an amazing asset that hasn’t been fully leveraged until recently.”

To leverage the network’s information, operators must be able to extract, normalize and analyze data, she said, but to do so requires a platform that can pull that data together and act as a centralized repository. Some companies are finding that CDRs could be the perfect tool to act as an anchor for the info.

Jim Hayden, executive director business intelligence at revenue assurance and cost management vendor TEOCO, said the unified CDR approach hinges on data warehouse appliances. In TEOCO’s case, the software integrates with various OSS elements – mediation gateways, provisioning systems, content management systems and so on – to extract specific data relating to a billable event and automatically unify it within a CDR. Its SONAR large-volume analytics platform, built on appliances, then enables carriers to ask questions of the data, run reports and perform on-demand analysis and decision- making via a secure Web portal. The information is housed in TEOCO’s data centers and is accessible and searchable for two years.

“It’s a lot,” Hayden said. “We log in a billion call events a day, which translates into hundreds of terabytes of data. It’s the idea of having all the data relating to a subscriber in one place and being able to analyze it by every single attribute, including calling behavior, geography, what features they use or what handsets they have.”

Slicing and Dicing Having all of that information available at one’s fingertips is useful for a variety of scenarios, from simple churn management to crafting smarter upsell strategies.

“Churn management is an immediate use for this,” said Levine. “It’s always an issue, and if you can understand who’s more likely to churn, because they have a lot of dropped calls and make calls into the call centers, you can make some decisions. If someone is calling once a week to complain but their ARPU is low, you might not want them to stay anyway. Not every customer is a customer you want to keep, and that’s a big shift in thinking for operators.”

The idea of profitability doesn’t stop there: Having cost and revenue information on one CDR gives carriers the margin for the event, so they can see which users are the most profitable and treat them accordingly when they do call into the call center, or with rewards perks and other retention strategies.

Some carriers are using an enhanced or unified CDR approach to understand the value of handsets to consumers. Being able to see the number of calls completed vs. calls attempted and the average length of call can give insight into what kind of an experience subscribers are having when using various wireless phones with embedded antennae. Similarly, being able to detect patterns such as which handsets consumers use the most for texting or browsing can give clues to the marketing department as to how to promote various form factors. Or, they can examine whether “Nights and Weekends” customers actually do most of their calling on nights and weekends.

The data also can be used to manage bandwidth hogs. For instance, carriers charge MVNOs for every kilobyte of data consumed. So if it’s offering an unlimited data plan, the reseller needs to identify the subscribers that are abusing that, by, say, downloading high-definition movies around-the-clock. Or, if implementing a usage cap, such data mining allows carriers to alert users if they’re close to their limit.

And of course, knowing what services subscribers are consuming lets operators focus on developing relevant cross-sell and upsell pitches, said Chris Brown, director of technology at billing provider LogiSense Corp. LogiSense offers the EngageIP Rating and Mediation engine, which integrates with a number of industry-standard switches, and can trigger customizable workflows and/or alerts based on data extracted from the enhanced CDR output from those devices. Then LogiSense offers ad hoc post mediation data mining layered on top of the data mining.

Brown said the marketing-related questions carriers are most likely to ask of the data are things like, how are the services/ features being used? Are customers fitted with the right packages? What areas are there for market growth? What up sells are available? What other services should I be offering that my client base would have a need for?

Eventually things like using location information to co-market offers with travel agencies or local businesses to a specific customer segment will become possible. “Although adoption rates of this technology have been somewhat low to date I think the possibilities are bounded only by the providers’ imagination,” said Brown.

Becoming a Requirement It’s clear that this type of information management will increasingly become a requirement thanks to underlying changes happening in the industry.

“This is very much an emerging area,” Levine said. “The North American operator is much more reluctant to implement this right now, but I think that will change quickly because it has to, really. Operators are looking to differentiate themselves, and with the network becoming more and more of a commodity they’re moving up the stack. If you’re going to make that shift and maybe even outsource the network, it becomes more important to focus on the IP layer and the creation and delivery of services.” And that, she notes, takes subscriber data management to do effectively.

Or competitively, for that matter. “With the widespread adoption of telecom technologies such as VoIP, the barriers of entry have substantially decreased, thus increasing the number of competitors in each provider’s market,” explained Brown.”Factors such as these have increased the need for creative use of available data in capturing additional market share and increasing ARPU. The fact that the concept of enhanced CDRs is now gaining momentum in the industry confirms the vision that the billing and rating components of a service provider’s back office are critical marketing tools that need to be embraced.”

The explosion of third-party applications is another big driver. “Third-party apps are a key driver here,” said Levine. “Carriers can take that enriched CDR data and make it into something that can be monetized as a reusable asset to present a unified view of the customer to third-party content providers.”

Hayden said that carriers will also simply get more nimble as they implement such strategies. “I think you’ll see carriers making quicker decisions,” he noted. “Today, they spend all of their time gathering data, then 30 to 45 days after starting the gathering process they’re making a decision. Whereas if the data gathering is automated and done the same day, then they can spend their time analyzing and making decisions on it. They can see if they can change a rate on an unprofitable business. It’s timeliness.”

All of this taken together shows a clear benefit for operators, which is why Infonetics expects that spending on subscriber data management solutions like enhanced CDRs will actually increase, even as overall capital expenditure budgets for 2009 and early 2010 are being lowered. In fact, Levine expects worldwide SDM software and integration services revenue to grow at an average annual rate of 41 percent through 2013.

“The whole concept is visibility,” said Hayden. “The more visibility into the business, the more you understand it, the more data you have and the quicker you can make smarter decisions. Carriers have wanted that for a very long time and now they have it, and it will become fundamental to their business.”