Make or Buy? Organic growth or M&A?

A tale of two value creation opportunities  On the 29th December 2016 and again the 7th February 2017 the Financial Times wrote about an M&A boom. “The M&A boom will carry on…Many companies face poor organic growth prospects, forcing them to consider buying rivals or expanding in new territories…” Deloitte reports that 75% of executives expect deals to increase in 2017 while according to Moody’s “A ‘major theme’ of recent activity was positioning for the future through the acquisition of technology.” Does this strong appetite for acquisitions create economic...

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Using Simulation to Determine Sample Sizes for a Study of Store Sales

Suppose a client wants to estimate the total sales value of widgets in a large number of stores. To do this, they will survey a sample of that population of stores. You need to provide the client with advice on choosing a suitable sample size. Unfortunately, the client has little information to help you. They know that there are 1,000 stores that sell widgets. But they have no idea what the average store sales might be. All they know from previous studies is that the sales tend to be very right skew: Most stores sell very few widgets and very few stores sell a lot of widgets. This is...

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Drawing a Grid of Plots in R — Regression Lines, Loess Curves and More

We provide here an R function that draws a grid of plots, revealing relationships between the variables in a dataset and a given target variable. Scatterplots in the grid include regression lines, loess curves and the adjusted R-squared statistic. Boxplots have points indicating the group means. Box widths are proportional to the square-root of the number of observations in the relevant group. The p-value is shown for an F-test: p < 0.05 indicates a significant difference between the means of the groups. But don't take this p-value on faith: Be sure to check the assumptions of the...

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The Changing Face of Vendor Analytics

Our most recent vendor project was an interesting change in direction compared to several vendor related projects we have previously worked on. We were asked to build out a vendor reporting capability that went beyond simple spend analytics and also brought in data from online sources such as Twitter, Google, Bloomberg, Reuters and Facebook. This project brought forward interesting trends not just in the area of vendor analytics but also in how datasets that underpin traditional reporting areas such as sales and budgeting are likely to expand in scope to include more and more data from...

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Is there ever a good time to do a price increase?

The short answer: NEVER and ALWAYS! The longer answer: A price increase is always difficult to achieve successfully and yet doing nothing is a gradual recipe for financial disaster. Why? Your costs are never static, so within 5 years your profit margin could easily be ZERO. Of course good cost and supplier management can counteract this trend and is a very common and effective strategy BUT, ultimately you cannot “cut” your way out of a profit gap without damaging the long term viability of the business.     Price increases are difficult because no one...

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An Elasticsearch Journey

Over the last 3-5 years big data technologies have become an increasingly important factor in analytics. A few years ago our company knew that as an advanced analytics provider it was integral for our skills to include working with big data. In order to achieve our best analysis we had to move away from traditional SQL to unstructured data and the team explored different platforms which would enable us to do this. Elasticsearch stood out initially due to it being structure agnostic and its ability to store ALL types of data and so we embarked on a journey of learning with this application. By...

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Big Data Journey: A few battle scars later

We interviewed Amit and Adam from our Advanced Analytics Innovation Lab – a couple of our data science leaders that have been involved in our Big Data Journey.  They discuss battle scars and what they have learned from the 4vs, data capture, storage and security to Hadoop, Redshift and Elasticsearch. Q: What do you think has been the biggest challenge? Has it been the integration and unification of some of that data? And the different variety of data we’re dealing with? Is it being able to handle it fast? Is it being able to store it? I think the first challenge was actually...

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Goldilocks and the D3 Bears

As open-source software goes from strength-to-strength, one area particularly close to my heart is that of charting libraries and APIs.  Like many areas of software, the open-source community has revolutionised the way that data is presented on the web. Arguably the most significant open-source visualisation project is called D3 (data-driven documents), however many an inexperienced JavaScript developer’s hopes have been dashed against the rocks of D3. It is NOT a charting API.  It’s a library which helps a developer map data to elements on a web page (think JQuery for data if you...

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A Single Version of the Truth – Is it Just a Myth?

Why do we hear companies talking about a “single version of the truth”? It is because of the frustration they have experienced when multiple people argue about which numbers are correct rather than focusing on what the metrics mean. Finding out what the metrics really mean would allow them to improve operational performance and business results. They want data consistency so they can understand trends, variances, causes and effects. They want to be able to have easy and quick access to information that they can trust. They do not want to wait for days to get hold of data they need but may...

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Analytics, Decision Making & Wine

As our society and economy has evolved, we’ve become accustomed to having an abundance of options in just about any decision we must make.  However, it’s the excessive alternatives we are constantly confronted with that often complicate and delay decision making in our personal and professional lives.  For example, I went out to dinner the other night and wanted to have a glass of wine with my meal.  The waiter handed me a book an inch and a half thick containing their vast array of wine selections. Instead of wading through the pages, I quickly came up with a set of criteria to help...

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Analytics, Big Data and BI or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cricket

One of the challenges of working for a company like AlignAlytics is explaining exactly what it is that one does all day. Nothing scares off a new potential friend quicker than phrases such as ‘data-driven strategy and insight’, accompanied by some vague hand waving, especially if said hand waving usually sends drinks flying. Typically, after several failed attempts at explaining the concepts of customer segmentation and advanced analytics, the standard fallback response is that we spend our days doing reporting & analysis before moving the conversation on to more interesting topics, such...

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Outlier Reporting and Benefits from Unit Testing in R

A recent AlignAlytics analysis project, reliant on Big Data processing and storage, required complex outlier reporting using the R statistical-programming language. This open-source software, combined with in-house statistical skills, allowed the team to quickly produce reports that are now the foundation of an on-going strategic analysis programme. Unit testing is one part of this story and we hope Peter Rosenmai can continue to share more with us. Getting started with unit testing in R Unit testing is an essential means of creating robust code. The basic idea is simple: You write...

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Is Outsourcing The 5th Generation Programming Language?

I think it’s fair to say that I am something of a sceptic when it comes to outsourcing IT. In fact, I wrote my university dissertation on the subject and concluded that it only works for static IT functions (such as running a telephone system) and even then it is not without some significant flaws. It may therefore come as a surprise that I am a recent convert to the potential for outsourcing some of the most dynamic software development undertaken by a company. The reason for this change of heart is a change in outsourcing itself. My dissertation was based on the outsourcing proposition...

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Is BI Software A Big Game?

Tableau Public, Mark Types & Classic Amiga/PC/console Mgm Title 'Theme Park' After seeing a demo of some of the latest BI (Business Intelligence) software and how they use mapping or geocoding software I was reminded of some of the computer games I grew up playing. I’ve recently seen demos of various BI tools that are utilising various mapping extensions. The results are really impressive and fantastic at highlighting interesting areas of your business, related to a geographical area. However as I sat through these I began thinking I’d seen this sort of thing before. Probably about...

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