AT&T’s Arnoldi, taking over technology and operations, names Steve Stine as new chief data officer

Melissa Arnoldi AT&T
Melissa Arnoldi (pictured) explained that roughly 167 petabytes of data travel over AT&T’s network every day, and the creation of a big data division at AT&T is an effort by the company to glean insights into that data.

SAN FRANCISCO—Melissa Arnoldi, the new head of technology and operations for AT&T, recently named AT&T executive Steve Stine into the new role of chief data officer, where he will be in charge of roughly 500 data scientists at the company. Arnoldi explained that Stine’s remit will be to mine data in the operator’s network and operations in order to help AT&T create better products and better market its services.

Essentially, Arnoldi explained here on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show, the move represents an increase in AT&T’s big data efforts with the goal of service automation. She said that the number of employees tasked with that work has grown from 180 in 2015 to 320 last year to 500 now.

Interestingly, AT&T representatives confirmed that Victor Nilson is no longer working at the company, and his work is essentially falling under Stine. Nilson was previously AT&T’s senior vice president of big data, and he helped create the operator’s big data unit in 2013.

The move is an important one for Arnoldi because she is in the midst of taking over control of AT&T’s technology and operations from John Donovan, who was recently promoted to CEO of AT&T Communications. In her role, Arnoldi is responsible for technology development, network deployment and operations, and AT&T’s transition to a software-defined and future 5G network. The creation of AT&T’s Chief Data Officer position, and the work that will entail, is one of her first major actions in her new role.

Arnoldi explained that roughly 167 petabytes of data travel over AT&T’s network every day, and the creation of a big data division at the company is an effort by AT&T to glean insights into that data. “We need to know more about who you are as a customer,” Arnoldi said, while also maintaining users’ privacy. “We really need to step up our game” with data.

“We have to get a centralized view of that data,” she explained.

Arnoldi said that AT&T is in the process of building a platform that will allow it to dip into the data on its network in order to obtain insights into its operations and its customers, thereby allowing it to better market its services or create better services. For example, the operator could determine what types of content its customers like, and then create marketing offers based on that insight.

Further, she said that such big data analytics would allow AT&T to automate more of its services, thereby making its operations faster and more efficient. Eventually, she said, the effort is geared toward both cutting costs and creating more revenues.

Importantly, Arnoldi said that AT&T plans to first use its big data insights for its own business, but may open up its big data platform in the future to third parties.