Highlights of Gary Cokins Business Analytics seminar

Business Analytics

         Last month I attened Business Analytics seminar by “an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in performance improvement systems and cost management” : Gary Cokins.

         My slideshare presentation in the bottom of this post summarizes Gary’s informative and thought-provoiking presentation. In fact, some statements in this post were provoked by this seminar. Gary started by quoting Jeanne X. Harris :“40% of important decisions are not based on facts but rather on intuition, experience, and anecdotal evidence.” Arguably, we could improve the world by basing our decisions on facts, and making better decisions in the process. In addition, better decisions result in better actions, saving us time, effort, money, and other resources. The “actions” part is really important in terms of differentiating Business Analytics from Business Intelligence.

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Solving ModelOff Data Analysis problem using Microsoft Access SQL.

MS Access Solution for ModelOff 2013 Data Analysis problem

         Last week we solved ModelOff’s Data Analysis problem from their 2013 championship. Since the second round of 2014 Model Off competition takes place this Saturday, November 8th, let’s pay respect to the data superheroes making it thus far. Our previous ModelOff solution involved using PivotTable feature of Microsoft Excel. Would you believe that we can realistically conceive a solution to the Data analysis problem, using Microsoft Access, or even better, Microsoft’s flavor of the SQL language?

         I am as big of an Excel fan as the next guy, much bigger, actually, on the second thought. However, I also believe that when possible, using the right tools for the job will yield better, faster results, than duct-taping your workarounds. So, why Access? Why on Earth, SQL? Well, let’s go to the source: ” If you often have to view your data in a variety of ways, depending on changing conditions or events, Access might be the better choice for storing and working with your data. Access lets you use Structured Query Language (SQL) queries to quickly retrieve just the rows and columns of data that you want, whether the data is contained in one table or many tables. You can also use expressions in queries to create calculated fields.”
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Solving ModelOff Data Analysis problem from the second round of 2013 competition.

Solution for ModelOff 2013 Data Analysis problem


         As some of you might know, Model Off 2014, championship kicked off last Saturday, October 25th. With the first round of this modeling competition behind us, I thought that this might be a good time to tackle one of their older problems. I might be biased here, but starting with their Data Analysis problem made a perfect sense to me. Luckily enough, this could arguably be one of the easiest problems they have ever presented. You can download both: Questions/Answers worksheet and Excel workbook with source data for this problem directly from their website.

         As usual, I will not pretend to have the best possible, optimal solution, I simply offer one which works. Since in the real world, we are not constrained by challenging time restrictions, imposed on ModelOff contestants, I was not concerned about the most efficient solution, but rather the one that is more presentable. As an example, my solution heavily relies on Top Ten filtering feature available for PivotTables, this might seem like an extra step comparing to simply presenting all records and then sorting them in order of preference. In my humble opinion this is a better way to present top 1/3/5/n results, rather than looking at extra records of data.

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Top 10 Free resources to learn Microsoft Excel

Top 10 Free resources to learn Microsoft Excel

         Students often ask me to recommend best online Excel resources for further reference. After fighting the urge to LMGTFY them 🙂 , I suggest to utilize the largest search engine in the World, and trust Google to present the most relevant results for their query. (Searching for specific terms within relevant time frame would improve your search results dramatically.)

         In addition, the second largest search engine in the World can stream very helpful How-To videos on magnitude of topics. This means that one can search YouTube to learn not only how to unclog a toilet, but also how to create a PivotChart.

         If you are in a hurry, and don’t feel like watching a 10 minute video;SlideShare comes to the rescue, and offers a plethora of presentations, including Excel tutorials. Heck, you can browse through the SlideShare version of this post below.

         That being said, some of us feel safer when using credible and trusted sources for all of our Excel needs. I started compiling the list of useful resources before YouTube and Slideshare came to existence, and added others over time. I hope that this post will satisfy your thirst for Excel knowledge. Many of these sites include tutorials, blog entries, discussion forums and YouTube videos.

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