Melbourne Business School News Data can drive COVID-19 recovery, says Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin

Data can drive COVID-19 recovery, says Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin

Business leaders should use analytics to see widespread changes in customer behaviour after COVID-19, says Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.


Ahead of her keynote speech at the Melbourne Business Analytics Conference on 15-18 March, the Optus CEO says business leaders should now be challenging previous assumptions about people's buying patterns post-COVID-19 as stay-at-home and online options have increased.

"There is so much rich information about the changing patterns of peoples behaviours in a COVID recovery world," Kelly says.

"We see a lot of data about where people go, where they're accessing their phones and information, where they choose to shop, how they entertain themselves. We see that people's actions are vastly different now from what they were in a pre-COVID world.

"All that gives us a lot more information about patterns of movement and behaviour that we can then use to craft the right services and value propositions for customers."

Over the past 11 months, Kelly has led Optus, a telecommunications and technology company that has kept Australians connected, at a time when people were relying on that connectivity more than ever.

"At Optus, what we were able to do during the pandemic was look at patterns of behaviour – who comes into contact with whom and where – to do really interesting modelling on epidemiology and how COVID might spread if it infected highly mobile spreaders," she says.

"That was really helpful for governments making decisions to plan responses and conduct contact tracing. It’s an interesting example of a society-improving use case with the data sets that telcos have."

At the next Melbourne Business Analytics Conference, Kelly is set to discuss leading Optus through COVID and what leaders can do with data to enable a customer-centric organisation. 

"I found that having a mindset and asking the right questions really encourages everyone in the company to think differently and challenge old ways of working," she says.

"Instead of using our gut feel, intuition or previous experience, what can data tell us about improving customer outcomes? Can we test so customers tell us what they actually prefer? How do we incorporate data into our decision making and our curiosity about the business?

"If you ask those questions, colleagues can take the steps to start organising data, organising experimentation and maintaining a single source of truth. All these things are critical to leaders who want the most out of their company's data."

As Optus' CEO, Kelly says there were certainly hurdles on the organisation’s journey through COVID and the restrictions it created.

"You can draw incorrect conclusions from well-meaning sets of data, so to get from data to real insights requires not only asking the right questions, but understanding how to interpret and make decisions using data," she says.

"I've learnt so many lessons from looking at averages and not the full distribution of that data or the outliers and what they communicate.

"For example, when I was in a previous role and we were trying to make the best possible digital app on the planet, we were looking at what the app’s next feature should be and a lot of people wanted to put in our largest product line because – by value – it was by far the biggest opportunity for us. But people only used this product once every four or five years.

"So, ‘by value’ was the wrong way to look at it because when customers use an app every day, there were other things that they did much more frequently in volume so those features were much more fundamental to improving the day-to-day experience.

"If we just looked at value but not volume, we could have headed down a path that was sub-optimal.

"So, understanding what to look at when and how to understand the difference between what’s just data and what’s meaningful and useful. If 'these groups of customers prefer X, but these groups of customers prefer Y,' the average says something in the middle, but actually you'd be catering to nobody if you took the middle ground so you need a strategy to bifurcate.

"There are many examples like this that teach you how to get better and better at delving beneath the answers people present by asking the right questions which reveal what the data actually truly means."

Kelly says one of the most important things she has learned about analytics is how it can help people stay connected.

"It's really important to us at Optus to power optimism in Australia with options and the data sets we have, enabling us to give more options to policy makers and people who can provide support, so we can spread more optimism through the community.

"For example, with our Donate Your Data program, customers who aren’t using their full allocation of data can donate data which allows those less fortunate to connect to the internet, connect to friends, and access support services and education. It's one way that data and technology can play a very important role to improving the future."

To see the full list of speakers and register to attend, visit the Melbourne Business Analytics Conference website.

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