University of Michigan takes home first place in Adobe Analytics Challenge

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 7:13pm

Earlier this month, the University of Michigan took first place in the Adobe Analytics Challenge. The challenge focuses on giving college students access to Adobe's analytics products and data from real-world organizations and companies. This year the groups analyzed MGM Resorts International, using data science to compete for the grand prize of $35,000. 

This year's team, "Adjusted R Squared," was comprised of three Business graduate students: Rajiv Khattar, Rei Liao and Erica Kirshensteyn, along with their academic adviser, Prof. Hyun-Soo Ahn.

Kirshensteyn said though they did not know each other before they got started, they quickly became a very strong team.

"The call for teams was fairly early on in our programs, so admittedly, our group was somewhat randomly assembled,” Kirshensteyn said. “However, our various backgrounds and perspectives complemented each other, with Rajiv coming from HR consulting, Rei from technology marketing and myself coming from market research/digital media."

Adobe Analytics is a multi-leveled competition requiring a range of skills and knowledge. The first round consisted of a two-hour training session to learn the program and two weeks to master the program, the hardest part in this complex competition.

"As far as preparation for our submission, a good amount of time was spent simply learning how to use the tool and which variables and fields we needed to conduct our analysis,” Kirshensteyn said. “Then, it was a lot of trial and error to find the insights we ultimately presented. We came up with loose hypotheses and areas of analysis interest and began putting together tables and charts we thought might be interesting, which led us to looking at the data slightly differently and creating new analyses we thought might be useful."

Teams analyzed MGM's data in the Adobe Analytics program and presented their findings and suggestions. Only 15 to 20 teams got past this initial screening and went on to the semi-final round.

The semi-final judging panel consisted of expert analytics consultants, who watched each of the teams give a web-conference presentation, which up to six teams passed through to the final rounds in Lehi, Utah.

The finals in Utah contained mainly the same aspects as the semi-finals, only at higher stakes. Teams had the chance to change their slides to add more information and analysis and present it all in 15 minutes with an additional five minutes for questions from the judges, who were Adobe representatives and other experts in the industry.

After the judges were done, "Adjusted R Squared" was named the first-prize winner of the competition. Liao expressed her excitement at the announcement.

“We randomly came together as a team and I really enjoyed getting to know them in a personal level through this competition,” Liao said. “Both of them are very good at interpreting the big data in a structural way and drawing insights from their professional areas, which really inspired me a lot. I just can’t thank them enough for the tremendous support along the way.”

Khattar said he appreciated learning about data analytics.

“I definitely want people to know that we — both our team and other Rossers — can deal with data,” Khattar said. “It's a common phrase right now to say that data is the new oil. I want to continue learning more about data analysis and how I can marry it with my skills in business to become an indispensable part of an organization. Tactically, I'm currently learning R and SQL to help out with some of the ‘harder’ data science skills to round out some of the more visualization work that we did with Adobe.”