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Team Buildaverse members Vijay Krishnamoorthy (left) and Sid Singh, along with Ian
Larson (not pictured) won first prize in the inaugural Business Analytics case competition
Twenty-eight Auburn student teams competed in the inaugural Business Analytics case competition this fall, allowing the students to sharpen their critical thinking, teamwork and communication skills while solving a real-world problem in the home improvement retail sector.
According to Pei Xu, case competition director, the teams analyzed two years’ worth of weekly sales and customer service data that was shared by The Home Depot from about 800 of its locations in the northern and eastern United States.
“The students’ objective was to assist The Home Depot’s leadership team in determining areas of opportunity by analyzing the datasets and gleaning a set of insights and recommendations that can be passed along for consideration,” said Xu, the George Phillips Privett associate professor of business analytics.
“Experiential learning is a critical component of our programs that allow our students the opportunity to work with real-life problems so they are better prepared at graduation,” said Uzma Raja, Department of Business Analytics and Information Systems chair. “The case competition is part of our efforts to enhance learning experiences and engage our corporate partners in the professional development of our students. This competition was open to all Auburn students to encourage interdisciplinary engagement.”
During the competition, the teams explored topics such as the relationship that the various customer service metrics have on overall sales volume, which customer service measures were most influential, and what areas present opportunities that can yield the most value.
The teams had two weeks to analyze data, find significant insights, and present their results to a panel of industry and academic judges.
During the first round, business analytics senior Victoria Regnaert and her teammates used Python to create a linear regression, decision tree and neural network for the dataset, so they could show The Home Depot which metrics would be most important for the company to focus on.
Team Risky Business placed second in the first-annual Auburn Business Analytics case
competition. Team members are Hadee El-Kattan, Bella Stone and Victoria Regnaert.
“Our conclusion from round one was that The Home Depot should not focus on single customer service variable, but instead focus on a combination of variables,” said Regnaert, whose Team Risky Business placed second in the competition.
Six teams were then selected for the final round, which gave the students one week to fine-tune their analyses and presentations.
The winning team, Buildaverse, used that week to add a clustering model to their report, refine all their visualizations and enhance their recommendations on improving the customer experience, said team member Ian Larson, a computer science senior minoring in business analytics.
One of the biggest lessons of the competition for Buildaverse team captain Vijay Krishnamoorthy was defining the problem properly rather than jumping right into predictive modeling to perform their analysis.
“Like many of the other students, we initially thought the best approach would be to use statistical models to predict sales using the customer service data,” said Krishnamoorthy, a senior studying computer science and minoring in business analytics. “However, we realized that the problem we actually had to solve was about describing a relationship and not predicting.”
The support of several corporate sponsors was crucial to the competition’s success.
“ We are really thankful for the financial support from Regions Bank and RSM,” said Xu. “We are also grateful to The Home Depot team, who provided the case, the data, and some of the judges.”
The Home Depot judges included Director of Data Analytics Michael Carpenter, Senior Manager of Data Analytics James Dorris, and Auburn alumnus Connor McCleary, data analyst. Regions Bank judges were Emily Alderman, senior audit director, and Auburn alumna Ivana Muzaric, assistant vice president and audit data products partner. Auburn associate professor of marketing Dora Bock also served as a judge.
“Our faculty and staff are committed to student development inside and outside the classroom,” added Raja. “The success of this event was possible due to the tireless efforts of our entire team: Harbert advancement office helped raise funds through TigerGivings, program champion Michael Lamb was instrumental in building corporate relationships, program outreach coordinator Tiffany Blodget made the complicated operations run smoothly, and all the BASY faculty supported the effort at multiple levels. We are already getting ready to plan the event for next year.”
The case competition final was held Oct. 21 with the following teams placing in the top three spots.