“Self-Service Data” Approach, the Future of Data Analysis – Interview with Arturo Canales, Telefónica

This blog post is part of the Big Data Week Speaker interviews series.  Arturo talks about the challenges and the impact of big data in the telco industry, also offering a sneak peek into his talk at the “Big Data in Use” Conference | Big Data Week 2016.

  1. Why is it important for businesses in your industry to be more data driven nowadays?

In telco, as almost in any other industry, data is becoming one of the most valuable assets for both companies and individuals. Making a wrong decision can mean a huge difference or impact. This is why decision makers need to be able to access any insight that can be derived by looking at the company data, and understand what is really going on, so they can really act as appropriate. Intuition decision making is not any more the best (or only) way to solve an issue, and companies in the telco sector that do not really leverage their data are probably going to face very serious problems in the very short term.

  1. What are the main challenges a company encounters when trying to leverage their data?

First challenge is the data sourcing. Although this is basically a technical issue, many times the way of solving it is not only technical, but also involving a cultural aspect, changing the culture of the company. Making senior management aware of the real value of the data can really solve many problems and translate into better mechanisms and technologies to not only source the proper data, but also analyse it and use it in the company processes.

Second challenge, of course, is making the data actionable. We’ve seen many companies actually storing data and putting together complex big data architectures, but then failing to really generate value from the data or translating it into profitable use cases.

A third challenge is around privacy. For our company, the owner of the data is the customer. He is the one that generates and owns the data, and we are making a priority on making our customers aware of it and planning to create tools so they can really understand what their data means, which data they are happy to share, so we can improve their user experience, and which data they are reluctant to share.

  1. How do you see the impact of big data in the entertainment field?

I think data in that field cannot only be used to help users select the next entertainment activities (like with recommendation systems), but also to understand general patterns, likes or interest for a population or sector, in order to really create content based on that, in order to minimise risks of new products failures – as for instance Netflix is doing when generating their own content.

  1. What do you foresee as being the growing big data challenge you will face in your role over the coming 3 years, and how are you preparing to face it?

At this moment, we have a clear separation between the teams that work with data, wrangle with it, mine it or generate insights and models from it, and the rest of the company, that are in the end the ones that will be exploiting that work. I believe that this sort of separation is not going to be clear in the future: analysts in any company unit will be more and more data-centric and increasingly capable of dealing with data, becoming “more data scientists.” So, for this reason, our role as data scientists will probably be to enable those guys to make the “self-service data” approach possible and not to be in charge of any data analysis in the company, but just supporting the data scientists in those units. One of our unit’s goals is to make this happen as soon as possible. This is why we are running many training sessions in different business units, looking at and testing tools that can reduce this gap, so that analysts on those units can really leverage big data directly.

  1. Can you give us a sneak peek into your talk at the “Big Data in Use” Conference | Big Data Week London 2016? 

John and I are still discussing the topic and the specific use case we want to take to the conference. One thing is for sure: we will focus on one successful story of the application of big data in Telefónica, very likely the way we are using big data to deploy new network capabilities, optimising ROI, and how it has changed the traditional planning processes.

  1. Who do you think should attend your talk at Big Data Week? Why?

Anybody interested in learning how a telco, or actually any company owning infrastructure can leverage data usage to improve or extend their infrastructure. In this talk we will show that big data is not about the technology, but about the application and exploitation of data, enabling organisations to transform a big data source based on billion of records into direct actionable insights.

Come listen to Arturo on the Big Data Week Stage. Book now and grab the one-time 25% discount on top of the Early Bird price, using the code: BDW25.


Arturo-Canales-600x431Arturo leads the analytics team in the Global BI & Big Data unit at Telefónica. Arturo has been involved in the creation of many data products for internal BI teams across all the countries where Telefónica operates, from a social-network-analysis-approach product to better understand the clients, to different models exploring mobility patterns or web navigation. He was also central to the creation of the new business development of data monetization derived from the creation of Smart Steps.


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