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Subscriber Data Management

How Dirty Is Your Data?

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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Kruz 3/27/2014 | 9:39:48 AM
Costly Dirty data in the big data era generates certainly unnecessary costs: Data that is not clean can be nasty as it might involve your company in a misleading or ineffective marketing campaign. 
Phil_Britt 3/27/2014 | 9:03:28 AM
Dirty Data is Worthless You're right that clean data is essential. Just a .01 percent error factor becomes huge when you consider how much data the telecom companies, financial services firms and other users of Big Data handle every day.

Data scrubbing needs to be an ongoing process, otherwise once there's an error in data collection, it stays forever. I still get mail and some phone calls for my father, who died 13 years ago. 

It's also important for consumers to ensure the companies keep data clean (by inspecting bills, statements, etc.) because any errors can hurt credit scores -- as in the case of a delinquent bill under William Anderson rather than William Andersen.
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