Martin Laesch, Neural Technologies: “collecting data into a data lake is not going to solve your key business problems”

Nowadays, data is just another widely used word in our vocabulary. However, its importance and complexity, as well as its management, are often forgotten or even misunderstood.

By assimilating data links to business, and analyzing the right ways of data management, enterprises can turn it into practical information that will ultimately help improve business revenue and performance.

Today, the Cybernews team spoke with Martin Laesch, Chief Technology Officer of Neural Technologies, to get a deeper understanding of why it is important to have clean data, what mistakes are being made when handling it, and more.

Tell us the story behind Neural Technologies. What has your journey been like?

Neural Technologies is a respected software provider with over 20 years of experience providing revenue and fraud protection solutions for the telecommunications industry. The company’s initial offerings began by applying neural networks to provide data-driven solutions to complex business problems in banking and finance, insurance, marketing, and even mineral exploration.

Today, we are supporting customers around the world with fraud detection, revenue assurance, and credit management. Neural Technologies has also expanded its product portfolio to include data integration, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), and signaling, to provide an end-to-end data-driven solution for our customers. Neural Technologies also recently became part of the Lumine group of companies, a member of the global Volaris Group.

Can you introduce us to what you do? What technology do you use to analyze vast amounts of data?

Neural Technologies analyzes a wide range of telecom data to provide insights to protect our customers. Our solutions mitigate fraud losses, negative customer perceptions resulting from poor service or financial loss, revenue leakages, and business process failures, as well as exposure to bad debt.

Neural Technologies implements an optimized and adaptable technology solution that helps meet the unique requirements of each business. Our sophisticated data integration capabilities enable us to prepare, transform and ingest any data through real-time, streaming, or batch interfaces, or from big data architectures. The analysis is optimized to solve business problems using a combination of methods from rules-based, ML algorithms, and behavioral profiling, to link analysis for relationships.

The telecommunications industry has experienced many significant innovation cycles in the past 20 years, from simple voice-over copper wire to IP-based networks offering high capacity for data traffic. Mobile apps, streaming, video calls, and other internet traffic create ever-growing data volumes for our customers. Customers are facing billions of usage data records as standard, while the diversity of offerings requires telecom software vendors to not only be extremely flexible and configurable but also provide high processing performance and scalability.

At Neural Technologies, we are designing and deploying a pipeline of technologies capable of analyzing this high-volume data, by creating solutions that can effectively focus on important events, focusing processing power on the key insights. This is delivered through functionalities such as machine learning & AI, in-memory processing, to the latest high-speed big data storage systems.

What are some of the worst mistakes companies make when handling large amounts of data?

We have witnessed serious failings in big analysis/data projects, not only due to the complexity of the data but also often because of the quality of the data. Just collecting and aggregating data into a data lake or data warehouse is not enough to give you the insight you need to answer your key business problems.

Providing clean data is important. Ensuring all your data follows consistent and appropriate data governance without losing original information enables our customers to gather the right answers to their burning business questions, while having the systems in place to ensure that future questions can be answered in a timely and accurate manner, even in the face of changing data types or volumes. To be frank, like all digital processes, the old adage remains true: Rubbish in, Rubbish out.

Do you think current global events are going to have an influence on the ways in which threat actors operate?

Data and systems security will be an increasingly important requirement for all players in the digital environment of the modern landscape. Industries and governments need to be fully prepared to protect their environments against security risks. At the same time, they need to be open to integrating with business partners to enable complex co-related business scenarios, where data exchange is a major requirement.

Any conflicts of the future will also touch the digital world, reinforcing the need for all parties to maintain security against possible digital attacks. As customer service providers (CSPs) evolve to more open network technologies, these risks are only likely to increase.

It’s unfortunate but true that current global events also provide a rich source of income for fraudsters. For example, international revenue share fraud to Ukraine has increased significantly, and phishing scams taking advantage of people’s vulnerability in these challenging times are also on the rise. Our Optimus Revenue Protection systems are helping CSPs around the world guard against these risks, working to protect customers and minimize losses.

What are the most common problems companies run into on their digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation projects are complex, but there are three key reasons we see for these projects failing:

  • Not having a clear transformation strategy. Developing a defined strategic plan around the “5W-questions” is key to an effective digital transformation strategy: Why, What, Who, Where, and When to explain their transformation strategy.
  • Complex Software and Technology. Digital Transformation projects require new skills and technical understanding in order to effectively deploy and utilize their advantages. Companies often fail to appreciate the level of preparation required to gain this knowledge and experience.
  • Data Quality. The effect of clean data quality on the success of transformation projects is often underestimated, and failing to generate this clean data can add significant effort and delay to projects. Building in processes to both ensure clean data and measure data quality is key. Only clean, good data will enable an organization to answer the questions the business is asking or will be asking in the future.

Why do you think companies often hesitate to try out new and innovative solutions that would enhance their business operations?

“Never change a running system” seems to be one component, perhaps a more technical derivative of the “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” maxim. Deploying new, innovative solutions always introduces changes to an organization. This is true not only in IT environments but for nearly all business units in an organization.

Within the IT ecosystem, new, complex software and technology are often required to be implemented. This will require proper IT/software know-how, which might not necessarily exist within an organization, and perhaps needs to be gained through additional training. Fresh security dynamics might also raise concerns in risk-averse IT environments.

In order to support change across other business units, a clear transformation strategy is required to garner support and ensure transformation projects are successful. Transparent communication of the change and value-add to the organization is key for digital transformation project success.

What tips would you give to companies looking to get more value from their data?

First, look at the data you already have. Many organizations are processing/storing important data but do not take advantage of existing data. Define the data questions you would like to be answered and, most importantly, the value that is created by these answers.

With this handbook of questions and answers, start investigating which digital processes are required to create the desired values and plan your transformation project. Communicate the plan with all involved parties and start executing.

Besides data integration solutions, what other actions should businesses take to upgrade their cybersecurity posture?

As discussed earlier, innovative cybersecurity systems to automatically protect environments are obviously key, but we also see resource training and awareness as major challenges to protecting yourselves against cyber-attacks.

Your staff should be aware of the common pitfalls and tricks criminal resources are using. Having the best cyber-detection software in place doesn’t protect your systems against an employee using an infected USB stick. Clear processes and constant training and tests for all employees can help keep awareness of possible vulnerabilities high.

And finally, what’s next for Neural Technologies?

Neural Technologies was acquired by the Lumine group (Constellation Software) in the summer of 2021. Being part of a bigger organization will help us grow organically. Taking advantage of opportunities to work with sister companies in the communication and media space has already sparked several new contacts and valuable business relationships.

With our flexible, configurable end-to-end solutions, Neural Technologies is constantly working to deliver enhanced support for our existing customer base, while capturing new opportunities in the areas of digital integration, machine learning and artificial intelligence, network signaling, and revenue protection.