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How Dirty Is Your Data?

Carol Wilson
3/27/2014
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For all the talk about "big data," in telecom and elsewhere, we haven't heard much about "clean data" -- what it is, what it takes to create, and what it can power.

But as tw telecom inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC) CEO Larissa Herda told me last week, taking the time to create a single "clean" database of customer and network records has enabled her company to move faster than its competition to offer new products and services to its customers and, in the process, drive revenue growth. (See Doing the Dirty Work Pays Off.)

It's hard to imagine a single telecom network today -- other than those run by the very smallest rural carriers -- that isn't in some way a combination of multiple companies, assembled by mergers and acquisitions. In each case, the merged companies each have their own disparate systems and disparate data, all of a different age, quality, and format.

What tw telecom chose to do was take the risk that a brief period of downtime would pay off in the long run, if it was able to create truly clean data in the process. Other companies are making or struggling with that same kind of choice, weighing in the process the near-term pain versus the longer-term advantage.

Some of those companies probably face a different set of challenges to those faced by tw telecom -- maybe they are assimilating older companies, more local exchange records, or very old databases. The cost of creating clean data isn't going to be the same for every player.

But the advantage of having that data at hand in the era of on-demand services, mass personalization and virtualization is clear for every telecom service provider going forward.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/28/2014 | 4:24:54 PM
Re: Dirty Data
I'll see if Jennifer Grey is available. 
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 8:18:47 PM
Re: Costly
No it was impossible to move my house or our neighbors...so we remained!  I am enjoying reading the other responses to the "dirty data" issue...NSA reading this?  How clean is their data?
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 7:08:28 PM
Re: Costly
Sorry for that forced reactive response. I hope they fixed your records at least and that you didnt actually have to relocate to your assumed location :)
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/27/2014 | 6:40:41 PM
Re: Dirty Data
Hmm, it would take quite the screenwriter to make data cleaning into something anyone would watch for more than five minutes -- Mitch, maybe you are up to the task? 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/27/2014 | 6:38:48 PM
Dirty Data
Drtydancingsoundtrack

What do you think? Hit sequel?
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/27/2014 | 6:12:51 PM
Re: Cleaning data
i think every network operator makes an effort to clean up their data, but in my experience, they do it incrementally, as needed. Way back in the '90s when the telcos launched DSL, they had to update their data on where their networks had bridged taps and other things that would impair the DSL service -- and they had to determine which customers were close enough to a CO to get the service. 

I think similar "data clean-up" efforts have occurred at other times. What tw telecom did was actually bring things to a complete stop to undertake a massive company-wide data clean-up. Granted, they had less to clean than an incumbent telco but it was still a significant effort. That's what's differnet here in my mind. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/27/2014 | 6:01:42 PM
Cleaning data
Is cleaning data realistic for most carriers? Or will dirty data be an insurmountable barrier to Big Data adoption?
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/27/2014 | 6:00:04 PM
Re: Dirty Data is Worthless
sam masud - Good point. If carriers are struggling with data volume now, their problems will escalate by orders of magnitude with the Internet of Things. 
t.bogataj
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t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 4:09:38 PM
Re: Naitiv spikrz
Very true, Dennis. Including my English spelling at 9 PM.

T.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 3:58:47 PM
Re: Naitiv spikrz
Imperfecta autem est mundus.
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