Ghanasham Apte, Head of Data Science at BT, is in charge of a global team of data scientists tasked with modernising the company and transforming it “from a telco to a techco”.
At this year’s IRX @ DTX + UCX, at ExCeL London on the 4th & 5th of October, he will speak about using data and artificial intelligence to personalise the customer experience.
Here, Ghanasham shares some insights he will be discussing at the event. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What initially attracted you to BT Group in October 2020?
BT is an iconic, old company – its history can be traced back to 1846 – and has a strong legacy. And with that legacy comes lots of baggage to handle when going through digital transformation. I was excited to help realise the CEO’s vision of transforming BT from a telco to a “techco”.
And three years later, we are in the midst of transforming our digital legacy. We are also modernising the customer experience and touchpoints.
The idea behind transforming BT into a techco is to become more of a marketplace for various services that companies can offer their product services. We are also trying to become a much more modern brand and update perceptions. We want to win over households and businesses with our modern infrastructure and not be seen as just another broadband provider but an organisation that adds value to day-to-day lives.
Q: What is your remit as Head of Data Science at BT?
I’ve been in this role since July 2021, leading a team of 25 data scientists. We are very much a global team. We have people across the UK, India, and elsewhere in Europe.
We work across the business, and my remit is curating interesting high-value use cases where machine learning or AI can be applied and helping my teams deliver these programmes. This role affords me an end-to-end perspective, from curating the use cases to completing and delivering the solutions for business.
We have started applying modern AI techniques in marketing, and that can be from identifying the right segments, needs, and requirements for customers and also customising our messaging to personalise the offers that customers receive from EE.
Q: What is the utopia of personalisation?
The utopia of personalisation is a very fluid and evolving picture. We cannot put our markers in the sand and say: “This is where it needs to be.” The utopia is where you have a personalisation machine that keeps on adapting and evolving with changing customer requirements and dynamically testing different things with the customer experience and then learning from those experiences.
That’s where the significant shift will happen in the near future, where we don’t go with a very defined customer experience and expectations but let the data tell us what works for the customers. That adaptation and flexibility will be crucial.
Q: How is BT evolving its customer service?
We first realised that we need to have our data assets in a single place before we start talking about personalisation. So we embarked on a data migration program, and now we are almost 90% there, which means that our data scientists can start using that data, stitch together our customer journeys, and build machine learning models. We have laid a strong foundation and can now begin to construct a fantastic customer experience with data and AI.
Q: What will you be talking about in your session?
I will spend some time discussing how important it is to build the foundations for a data strategy to work. Sometimes people get carried away with all the exciting stuff around AI and put the cart before the horse. I will also talk about the test-and-learn framework we use at BT.
Hopefully, it will inspire people to approach digital transformation in an iterative manner rather than trying to solve everything at once. It’s best to keep it small, do local testing, learn from it and then evolve that picture.
Q: What are your hopes for this year’s IRX @ DTX + UCX?
It will be my first time, and I look forward to the event. Networking and understanding what other companies or similar professionals are doing in their areas is what excites me.
The agenda covers an extensive range of topics across multiple industries, which is impressive because people tend to pocket their interactions in their own industries. There’s a lot to learn from and be inspired by other industries.
Ghanasham is speaking at IRX @ DTX + UCX about using data and AI to personalise the customer experience at ExCel London on the 4th & 5th of October. He will speak about using data and artificial intelligence to personalise the customer experience.
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