Australian businesses must prepare to share more information with customers as business intelligence (BI) evolves, according to software company Teradata.
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Teradata's San Diego, California-based chief technology officer, Stephen A.Brobst, who was one of the speakers at the Teradata Universe conference in Sydney this week, exclusively told CIO Australia that businesses need to start thinking about what he calls "customer intelligence" (CI) rather than BI.
"Largely we build data warehouses to help business decision makers make better decisions," Brobst said.
"Increasingly, leading edge companies are building data warehousing and then providing access to that data for their consumers."
"For example, Lloyds Banking Group in the United Kingdom have what they call 'personal support decisions' where customers can track spending patterns online, such as how much they spent on groceries versus petrol and see how much money they are saving over time.
"Basically, their customers are accessing the Lloyds Banking Group data warehouse."
However, Brobst was quick to point out that the data Lloyds' customers see in the personal decision support systems was no different to data already available in online statements or credit card bills.
"It's not new data per se, there are new tools for manipulating the data that are much more consumer orientated," he said.
Teradata's local customers include the big four banks - National Australia Bank, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac - telecommunication companies such as Vodafone, and logistics companies including Sydney-based Star Track Express.
According to Brobst, CI was about pushing the value of some of the data stored by businesses out to the consumer.
"The Australian [banking] market is still in the early stages of thinking about it for the most part," he said.
"Historically, the Australian banks have been pretty innovative because there is a fair amount of competition.
"The banks also fared pretty well due to the 'non-Australian' global financial crisis (GFC), and so they are in a good position to make those kind of investments."
When asked about security concerns in the wake of the Sony Playstation Network data centre breach, Brobst said banks are in more of a position of trust than the likes of Sony.
"They (banks) have to pay a lot of attention to preserving the integrity and privacy of that data," he said.
"Knock on wood. We've never had a customer in a Teradata warehouse that has an exposure of data, at least to my knowledge."
Further on the subject of data breaches and disclosure, Brobst agreed with recent comments from local security vendors such as McAfee that Australian law should be changed so that if a data breach occurred, the company was required to disclose the incident.
"Consumers want to know if they are at risk and they have a right to know," he said.
"On the other hand, there is a cost to making such an announcement and you have to balance that out.
"In the US, where disclosure laws require companies to announce they experienced a breach, there are a whole range of reporting options.
"The question is, do I need to make it public or do I just report to the individual consumers who are at risk?"
"To me, a reasonable compromise that gets everyone what they need is if I'm a consumer at risk I should be informed.
"Do I need to announce it to the media? Probably not. But I do believe in a large amount of transparency and if you tell consumers, it's going to leak to the press anyway."
One Australian customer who has embarked on this is logistics group, Star Track Express.
"We've helped them capture a record for packaged shipments because when the package is picked up, it's scanned, then it goes onto the delivery truck and it is scanned as well," Brobst said.
"The value proposition is not just shipping the package on time, but being able to track the package and optimise the whole flow. That's one of the key propositions of why Startrek Express chose Teradata."
Brobst, who joined Teradata in 1999, is no stranger to Australia and used to work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Melbourne from 1988 to 1989 as a computer scientist analysing weather prediction data.
"I've always been focused on big data, but originally it was high performance computing," he said.
"Then when I went back to California, I got involved with trading systems and working with Nielsen. That evolved into data warehousing, so my focus has always been on very large data sets and high performance computing around that."
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