During the integration of three separate groups of Swiss telecoms provider SwissCom, the business intelligence (BI) function was the only place to get a view of the whole organisation.
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Following its decision in 2008 to converge groups dedicated to fixed line, mobile and business services into a single company, with divisions serving consumers, SMEs and corporations, SwissCom’s IT team was locked into protracted integration of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and billing systems, says Jean-Marie Fiechter, SwissCom’s head of BI governance.
Business intelligence was the only team to get a good view of the whole business at the time. “We helped the company survive,” he says. “In the first year we were convergent, BI was more or less the only place where we could get data and do some of the reporting for control and management in a more or less convergent way.”
Combining BI teams from business and IT
Prior to the company’s convergence, it had a BI team in IT responsible for extracting data from operational systems and storing them in the data warehouse. It also had a BI team in the business responsible for selecting data from the data warehouse and bringing it into analytics applications, says Fiechter.
“There was always conflict between the two. Business teams would say IT extracted and loaded the data in the way that was easiest for them, but more difficult for the business BI team. They would say it is not usable for the business, and so on. The friction was extreme,” he says.
SwissCom decided to create an integrated BI team, reporting to the CFO, to run the data warehouse, manage ETL (extract, transform and load), develop applications, control governance and embed BI in the business.
Sales agents can all draw on the same data and all get the same results
Jean-Marie Fiechter, head of BI governance, SwissCom
“Now there is no more finger pointing. We cannot say, those bad guys in IT did not bring the data correctly. We are all the same, but the developers who used to be in IT still have good contacts with the IT team,” says Fiechter.
The integrated BI team’s mission is to create high-quality, stable applications. It includes people dedicated to propagate BI as a service and see the users’ points of view.
“If you only build [data warehouses and applications], there is a risk that it is like IT, where there is a five-year plan and in five years you get what you need. The business will not wait for that. On the other hand, if you only have BI as a service and you don’t have governance and people to create stable apps, you end up with silos. Everybody has a small server under the desk and that is chaos,” says Fiechter.
Sales teams gain tariff intelligence
One of the first tasks of the integrated BI team was to create tariff simulations, to help sales teams price new converged service packages such as Vivo Tutto, a combination of TV, DSL, fixed-line and mobile services which launched in 2011.
Although data from fixed-line and mobile packages still resided on separate operational systems, the BI team was able to recognise which subscriptions were part of a converged bundle and use that data for the tariff simulation.
“BI is the only system in the company that can see and recognise these bundles,” says Fiechter.
SwissCom replaced eight tariff simulations for separate offerings with a single application able to handle converged packages, based on data from its Teradata data warehouse, with help of specialist analytics supplier Clintworld. SwissCom also uses MicroStrategy for reporting and SAS for data mining and in-depth analytics.
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“With all the simulation from one data warehouse, there is a consistent message,” says Fiechter. “All the transformation to and from simulation application are done from one place.”
The new approach has cut costs by 40%, but the main benefit has been the effect on the business.
“Sales agents can all draw on the same data and all get the same results. Because we already had the data in EDW, the implementation effort was reduced,” says Fiechter.
Sales teams have requested additional use of the application, as well as new functionality – a mark of its popularity in the business, he says.
Business intelligence helps drive business strategy
With its approach to BI, the telecoms operator, which serves 7.8 million residents in Switzerland, was also able to simulate the tariffs for its new converged offerings based on data speed, rather than monthly data limits.
By proving its worth in this way, BI has become more deeply embedded in business strategy, according to Fiechter. It is now supporting the roll-out of SwissCom’s fibre optic network, an investment worth CHS1bn (£667m) a year, around 10% of revenue.
“Planning the roll-out and looking where we get the most bang-for-buck is very important,” he says.
The equation includes balancing cost with the demographic residents or businesses and the presence of competition, he says. “It is very difficult, fact-based analytics, and we have helped the management with those decisions.”