The Best Bunch of Analytics Interns Ever

2011 – Year Zero – The Best Bunch of Analytics Interns Ever

So this is simply the story behind one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Earlier in 2011, before I set up BPO Elite, I was chatting with a friend who was attending a local community college. She was trying to find a speaker for a business club she was an officer in. I offered to come in and talk about remittances. It was a lot of fun. After the talk and lots of Q+A, one of the students approached me and asked if we had internships.

Hadn’t really thought of that before, but it made a lot of sense. I had worked with several interns while with Wells, and generally introduced them to how we did analytics. So it was a natural progression.

So I took on the intern and before I knew it I had 5 of his classmates on board as well. As I was putting the business plan for BPO Elite together I came up with a list of things we needed to understand the competitive landscape around the new business.

I divided them up into 3 types of analytics interns based on their interests; business analyst, marketing analyst and data analyst. I gave each one a research topic, gave them in a crash course in Tableau and turned them loose on doing some public data mining and analytics for BPO Elite.

About the same time we got our first two clients. A small shipping company that specialized in shipping things to the Philippines and a local chiropractor. Both business owners were at a point where they needed help understanding some of the reasons why there businesses were not a successful as they thought they should be. They knew they needed help, but didn’t know where to turn . Fortunately I had the answer… they need to bring some analytics into their businesses.

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So before we go one, let’s level set on what exactly analytics is. In its simplest form it is a the discovery of patterns in data with an eye towards using these discoveries to help a business be successful. If you ask any 10 professionals who work with analytics you will get 10 different answers. It’s a broad topic with just about every business using analytics differently than the next one. And most small businesses don’t even use analytics. Its more in the realm of the corporate world.

So after explaining to my clients what I could do to help them using analytics and getting a good idea of their challenges, I came up with some plans and turned my interns loose.

We did some good in both cases. Mainly focusing on building demographic profiles of their ideal customers and mapping where they lived, we came up with some targeted marketing materials. We used US Cenus data, Google and Tableau to demonstrate the opportunity around them.

We also spent some time building a competitive landscape for each buseiness as well so the clients could see where they stacked up against them. And finally we added some customer insights, mining data from their social media sites and places like Yelp. All in all, we gave each business owner a sample of the things I used to do at Wells. In both cases it was a big help.

And the best part, the kids learned tons of things they wouldn’t likely have learned in a traditional corporate internship. They got their hands dirty with data and they made a difference in the success of a business.

Today, they are all employed in good jobs, mostly working in position with analyst in the title.

Pretty awesome stuff.

My Analytics Story – 2011 – Year Zero – Past as Prologue

This is the first in a series of blog posts to I have planned to share My Analytics Story – Teaching Analytics in the Philippines.

I first got the idea to do analytics training and outsourcing in the Philippines in early 2011.

A little historical perspective first. For most of its history Wells Fargo was not very big into outsourcing, but was very big into analytics. I had been working as a senior analytics consultant with the bank for several years and doing some pretty amazing things with data blending and data visualization for our management team.

Then Wells Fargo acquired Wachoiva and all of a sudden my team was given the challenge to help set up some new positions in the Philippines. Wachovia had a long and successful history with doing back office operations in Manila.

For those not familiar with Wells Fargo and/or Wachovia:

The first team to be set up across the Pacific was a back office, new account fulfillment team. A fairly routine series of tasks, easy to capture and validate data. My role was to provide benchmark data and then management reporting as the transition progressed. While doing this I was paired up with several business partners in Manila. And quickly I discovered that their analytics tools were not very advance and they really didn’t use much predictive analytics.

The light bulb turned on.

I could do this. I could go to the Philippines and get involved with training people to do more analytics, to bring more data-driven decision making to the outsourcing industry!

Given I was married to a Filipina, most of my friends are Filipino-American and I grew up in a city with one of the largest Filipino communities in California, this was a perfect chance to grow my affinity for the Philippines.

And of course I could get back to doing more teaching in the form of training people to use analytics. I had been thinking about getting back to teaching for a while, but the bottom line is Wells just paid better. Plus, I really love working with data. So then next light bulb went off.

I can take what I am good at analytics, and merge it with my passion, teaching and get into the business of training analytics.

As this plan was starting to evolve in my mind, things at work where also coming to a head. I had been trying for a while to find a new job that would get me closer to being involved in both analytics and outsourcing equally with no luck. Lots of interviews within the bank, but nothing came to fruition. Which in hind sight was a total blessing in disguise.

One day I was chatting with a good friend about my growing frustration of not being able to find the right job at Wells and he said, well why don’t you set up your own business then? Light bulb number 3.

But then how? He suggested we talk with a friend of his who was ironically enough looking to set up his own call center in the Philippines. We had several meetings and decided the three of us would set up a new business both in the U.S. to find clients and in the Philippines to train talent to do work for the clients. I came up with the name BPO Elite and the tag line, making data-driven decisions.

And then we got around to talking about who would run the company. And they both immediately said it would have to be me. Up to this point, never in my life had I contemplated such a thing.

Me being the boss.

The final light bulb burned bright. Now it would just a matter of planning the launch of the new business.

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This was around June 2011. We set up BPO Elite legally, built the web site, started doing some marketing.

One thing I needed to validate though was can I actually train people to do the analytics we would be offering as a service. I needed to do a pilot here in the U.S. before moving to the Philippines. I had always thought college students/fresh graduates would be the best ones to hire to work in our business. They are open minded and highly energetic and I could fill their minds with the technologies and methodologies I had used at Wells to be a great analyst.

So thanks I brought on a team of interns over the summer of 2011 with the idea of teaching them analytics and turning them loose on some local small business clients to see if we can drive some results that would be turned into a training model.

It was a huge success. Great pupils. Happy Clients. Lots of Data. More on the how I did it later. For the sake of the narrative, it worked. So it was time to leave Wells Fargo and set in motion the plan to move across the Pacific.

And one more key point I will get to later, one of my parners had a connection at one of the top schools in Manila. So lets not just train fresh grads to do analysts, I should also tie up with the school to teach a class on analytics. More access to talent and a good way to build our brand credibility.

The moral of the story… the reason behind my posts… dream a dream, validate it with data, take calculated risks to seize opportunities and then just persevere.

More to come.

Decision-Making, Analytics & Intelligence > Philippines

I ‘d like to introduce you to a new business initiative of mine called DMAIPH.

After 15 years of doing analytics for Wells Fargo, I moved to the Philippines and set up an analytics training and consulting business. Now 4 very successful years later, I am back in the U.S. to help businesses here get a handle on their big data infused decision-making, analytics and business intelligence challenges.

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We provide back office support from a pool of talented analysts specifically recruited for their analytical abilities. We specialize in setting up home based team of analysts who can do basic and moderately difficult types of analytics including PUBLIC DATA MINING, INTERNET RESEARCH, COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE GATHERING, and BUILDING BUSINESS DASHBOARDS.

If ever you are in need for my support, we are here to help.

 

Daniel Meyer

President & Founder of DMAIPH

http://www.dmaiph.com

The Philippines An Emerging Center For Analytics

There has been a lot discussion the past several months about the relative pros and cons of outsourcing analytics. The biggest perceived con are that an outsourced analyst might not have the necessary business knowledge to pose the right questions or to clearly identify threats and opportunities.

However, the reality is that with the global analytics talent gap expanding at a rapid pace, many business have no choice but to explore outsourcing options for some if not most of their analytics.

Having worked with several businesses who have successfully outsourced analytics projects and even whole teams to the Philippines, I can say that the pros far outweigh the cons. Here are a few of the pros that I can testify to:

1. Speed and Focus. Once optimized, detached team can often get more done and get it done faster as they are able to mono task.

2. Fresh Set of Eyes. Given enough time to get up to speed on things, an “outsider” to the business often can see the forest through the trees.

3. Scalability. The savings based on things like having a team that can be quickly grown or shrunk based on business need and access to labor pools with a lower cost ratio can often make a big difference when it comes to covering all the bases.

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There are countless other reasons why business in the U.S. are increasing looking across the Pacific for analytics talent including an American style of English, an affinity for the American business practices and a firm commitment from higher education to produce analysts.

In fact, the number of academic courses and corporate training programs offering business analytics is growing rapidly here in the Philippines.

As key players in the BPO industry here in the Philippines look to meet many of the analytics needs of companies abroad, the pros will continue to outweigh the cons.

And that is exactly why I founded DMAI.

Perhaps The Most Awesome Thanks For Saying Thanks Ever?

So I filled out (not up) a survey I got via e-mail from PAL.

My recent flight from Manila was pretty uneventful except that for breakfast by the time the flight attendant pushed the cart to my row, they were out of corned beef. I was already dreaming of the In-N-Out Double Double awaiting me, so it was no big deal.

I told the flight attendant that its ok, I’ll pass on the fish and just wait a few hours until landing. But she went and found me an extra corned beef anyway. Nothing special, but she didnt have to do that and she did. Pamela went above and beyond and it stuck in my mind well enough, that when I got the email survey from PAL. I made note of it.

And then I got back perhaps the nicest, warmest, most sincere thanks for filling out the survey I think I have ever seen. It might be a canned message, but is sure seems like it comes from a genuine need to keep the customer happy.

I wish more companies valued their customers the way PAL just made me feel valued.

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“Dear Mr. Meyer,

Thank you for sharing your recent experience with us.

We would like to express our utmost gratitude for your appreciation of our service. Surely, you will agree that for us, it may just all be a part of the day’s work, but the good impression you have elicited from this experience will definitely last for more than just a day. Your kind words serve as an inspiration for us to consistently provide you, our guest, with excellent service.

Mr. Meyer, we wish to reiterate our heartfelt gratitude to you for your valued support and patronage of Philippine Airlines. We remain committed to provide only the best in passenger care and it is our fervent hope to be of service to you again, onboard our flights, soon.

Sincerely,

Customer Relations Office

Philippine Airlines”

It made my day.

Give Me A Young, Hungry And Curious Person And I Will Teach Them How To…

Businesses want analysts who can dig into a question and not only get to the root cause but also come up with multiple solutions.. this is not something that generally is taught in schools.

Unleashing a young, hungry and curious mind on complex business challenges is not generally considered, as most companies tend to assign newbies to remedial task and assign tire, narrow thinking, veterans to handle the big stuff.

Companies that see past these challenges and can select talent, empower them and turn them lose with cutting edge analytics technology are the ones succeeding.

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Dont give me an excuse, give me a solution. Don’t come with just a problem, also come with a suggestion on how to fix it.

How many people do you have in your business that can do that?

All The Tools And None Of The Talent… Where Good Analytics Intentions Go Bad

I have seen so many examples of this. A majority of companies throw money at analytics in the form of buying new technology, but don’t spend a fraction as much on the people who need to make the technology work.

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A good analyst using Excel is much more powerful then a mediocre analyst using a cutting edge BI tool. Without the innate curiosity, knowledge of the business and ability to communicate discoveries that come with a good analyst, your analytics plans will fall short no matter what the sales reps from the analytics companies promise you.

Probing For Curiosity

Finding a good assessment to measure curiosity is something I am always looking for. Lots of ways to try and find it, but a true penchent towards curiosity can still be elusive during the hiring process.

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Lot’s of probing questions like, asking candidates to explain how they solve problems and what they do when they come across something unexpected is a good start. Taking personality tests like the MBTI and its ilk is another way. Giving them a quick research assignment with fairly vague directions and open ended results can also help too. Reading for fun is also another good indicator.

Whatever it is you do, make sure its something you are probing for.

When What Is New Is Actually Old

I saw this quote and thought it was worth sharing… often I remind people that most problems have already been solved by someone else. One of the keys to being a good analyst is having a network that you can go to when you are stuck and ask around to see if anyone else has already figured it out.

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DMAI has been blessed with a very successful year so far in 2015 and is starting to look towards 2016 planning. Let’s see if there is some more opportunities out there for us to teach some people to rediscover things again using analytics!