What is this training about?

Hadoop is an open source distributed storage and computing framework for big data of petabyte scale. Hadoop provides ready tools and APIs to store, retrieve and process large data using clusters of commodity machines, thereby reducing the cost of processing drastically while ensuring enterprise grade scalability and fault tolerance. Hadoop provides a MapReduce based programming framework to enable users to provide computing logic as well as distributing and controlling jobs over cluster nodes. Cluster nodes both compute as well as store data chunks to create an efficient distributed environment.

Nectar is a collection of building blocks to create high-performance and massively scalable business analytics solutions working on big data. Business analytics solutions, be it customer churn prediction, behavior analysis, fraud prevention etc, rely on techniques from statistics, mathematics, machine learning etc to discover and present insights and recommend actions based on complex, sometimes not very intuitive, analysis. The complexity in developing such solutions typically arises from two factors:

Worldwide subscriber base for communication services are increasing continuously and we all expect this to continue for considerable time in future. In order to improve revenue and profitability, operators have tirelessly attempted to standardize the core fulfillment and revenue management processes so that they become predictable and does not require additional investments as number of subscribers increase. However, managing cost of operation is one thing and ensuring customer satisfaction is another. Conventional thinking urges us to ensure customer satisfaction while keeping cost of operations low.

The debate is old, however finding appropriate answer seems to be an interesting pursuit. We can approach the issue systematically.

I was reflecting on recent progress made on open standards vis-à-vis current state of off-the-shelf billing and customer management products. Probably, we all tend to agree that softwares with open interfaces are preferable in the sense that they can be inter-operated with other softwares without involvement from vendor. Thus, life of expensive software can be elongated even when the eco-system has changed substantially. Open interfaces also enable service providers to use their in-house software development resources and minimize maintenance cost.

Recent rate of mobile subscriber growth in India has been really astonishing; very few would have thought this till few years back and we really cannot predict even now how long will this sustain. Admittedly, there has been a steady decline in ARPU. This brings us to a question: How CSPs will satisfy the additional demand with only marginal increase in their operating expenses. We all agree that CSPs will definitely need to continue to provide even better overall customer experience if they have to run for long. Another aspect of this subscriber explosion is that very soon there could be huge demand for high-end services like mobile internet and TV. This follows from the simple principle that once basic needs (voice communication and text messaging) are fulfilled, people look for so-called ‘luxuries’ and slowly ‘luxuries’ become basic needs. Both of the above facts, increased subscriber volume and additional demand for newer services, have one thing in common. They both imply capacity of underlying network which provide the services as well as operation and business support systems should provide infinite scalability at marginal increase of cost.

I was thinking on current state of off-the-shelf billing products vis-a-vis plethora of innovative services Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are planning to bring to market. Few things came in mind.

First of all, we all understand that billing is critically important for any CSP. Majority of the times, bill is the only item with which CSP connects with a customer. Probably, nobody denies the importance of accurate and timely bill. We all also agree that sound customer interaction management strategy and tools are equally important and billing and customer management should move hand-in-hand most of the time.

Secondly, billing systems typically encompass a broad portfolio of activities, not just billing. They address customer acquisition, trouble ticketing, provisioning, pricing, credit control, payments, work force management, settlement etc. The implication of this is that substantial time, risk, investment and learning will be involved in operationalizing a new billing system.