Starting in the Spring of 2014 a collaborate project with SAP, Promotion Optimization Institute (POI) and Saint Joseph’s University will start in which  students will participate in the first SJU/SAP/POI Analytics Cup.  The students will have an exceptional opportunity to use SAP’s Trade Promotion Optimization (TPO) software package in a real-world situation.

The Analytics Cup will be a capstone component of our upper level undergraduate data mining course at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Philadelphia, PA, USA.  The data mining course is required by all our Business Intelligence/Business Analytics (BI/BA) majors and minors.  The students will be given a set of products (from a real-world data set) in which they are to apply SAP’s TPO package as well as the other advanced analytics and visualization techniques and tools they learned in the class:

  • to develop a plan for the next several periods for their products, and 
  • to understand the past performance of their products.

They will present their results from their analysis to a panel of experts.  The setting for the presentation will be that they are the manufacturer and they want to work with and convince the retailer, the panel of experts, to have their products promoted and being available on the retailer’s shelf with a positive ROI for both.

The SJU/SAP/POI Analytics Cup project is a Win-Win-Win-Win situation.  By having the students expose to SAP TPO package they become familiar not on with SAP’s TPO package, but, with SAP and it environment.  The area of TPO is growing exponentially and the need for employees who know the TPO process and technology will be in high demand.  This opportunity is free advertising for SAP.  If in the future these students are in a situation in which they are applying TPO, their familiarity will be towards SAP TPO product; and similarly, for other related SAP products.  POI is an organization of manufacturers, retailers, solution providers, analysts, academics and other industry leaders that focuses on the TPM and TPO.  The Analytics Cup provides POI with exposure and identifies themselves as one of the major organizations for TPO.  As an education institution, the Analytics Cup provides SJU with the opportunity to provide to our students a superior learning experience of real world BA using state-of-the-art software which subsequently will hopefully lead to better job offers.  With such results our BI/BA program will attract better and more students.

Nonetheless, the ultimate winners are the students.  BI/BA programs, regardless of their discipline(s) focus do provide the students with sufficient introduction to the BA tools, techniques and technology. The reason for the emphasis on the tools, techniques and technology is to learn the methodology/technology to developing models/tools to solve problems.  We do not spend enough time on the critical skill of problem solving or modeling.  Problem solving, or modeling, is the process of structuring and analyzing problems to develop some quantitative abstraction of the problem which will lead to a rational course of action.  The skills needed to analyze a problem situation and building a model are fundamental skills of scientists and engineers, as well as other disciplines, such as business managers, educators, and healthcare providers.  If students can master this problem-solving skills they can solve any problem using any technology, tool or techniques.  An approach to improving/solidifying their problem-solving skills is to provide them with opportunities for experiential learning.  Experiential learning (EL) is a process of learning by doing.  The members of the Association for Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL), an organization for promoting innovative and effective  teaching methods, “have use the following quote, attributed to Confucius, to express their conviction that experiential learning is effective:   I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”. Students learn from interactive and applied experiences, as oppose to more traditional teaching methods of rote or didactic learning. The Analytics Cup is an experiential learning experience with a real-world BI/BA decision problem using state of the art software. 

In our next posting, we will discuss how this partnership between SJU, SAP and POI and the creation of the Analytics Cup project can about.

For more information on the TPO program and Analytics Cup at SJU, Professor Ron Klimberg, klimberg@sju.edu

For more information on SAP solutions for Trade Promotion Optimization, contact Timo Wagenblatt, timo.wagenblatt@sap.com

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