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​The Business Analytics Data Hackathon has a winner!

Published on: 19-Jun-2017

​​The highly anticipated first edition of Nanyang Business School’s Business Analytics (BC3406) Data Hackathon came to a conclusion on 13 April, with Team One emerging triumphant against two other teams that made it to the finals. 

L-R: Associate Professor Damien Joseph, Lim Hui Jun, Phang Yu Kei, and Tang Miao Yi Valerie | The glowing background was on par with their glowing presentation 

A data hackathon is an event that runs for a consecutive period of time, with people getting together to work on data analytics-related projects for practice, recognition, and networking.

Data hackathons are some of the most intellectually engaging and challenging events around. NBS’s edition is unprecedented for schools here in Singapore, with the students having to utilise analytical tools such as market basket analysis, predictive modelling, and spatial analytics to provide business insights. 

Flanked by the steady tutelage of Associate Professor Damien Joseph, the team managed to edge out its competition in front of a panel of judges and industry experts present. 

Among the judging panel were the collaborators for the hackathon: SAS​ – a world leader in analytics, and Paula’s Choice – a globally recognised expert in skincare products. For the competition, SAS were the partners for the teams involved, and Paula’s Choice took up role as the client. 

The sole purpose of the hackathon was to develop a comprehensive recommendation for Paula’s Choice on their next choice of location for a retail outlet in Singapore. 

After its launch back in 23 February earlier this year, seven teams set about preparing for two rounds of evaluation before the judges could make their selection of three teams for the finals. 

Prof Damien could have benchmarked the students’ performances against the many other business case competitions that go on at NBS, but he felt that the context here was different. “In a data hackathon such as this, the data is dirty, messy, incomplete, and the client’s requirements sometimes unclear”. 

Under his watchful eye, the teams were able to develop robust sales and replenishment models that matched actual sales figures (which were not available to the students), proving in part the effectiveness of the business analytics faculty here at NBS. 

While the hackathon provided the students a much needed avenue for real-world application of data, the finalists showed that they were a match for the demands of the job at hand – Prof Damien feels that many of them are ready to take on the rigours of the analytics profession. 

“I think the students exceeded my expectations in terms of their breadth and depth of analyses, their integration with the other courses they have read, plus their confidence and poise in presentation. They held themselves well to questions from the client and a senior manager – my guest lecturer who is in charge of a bank’s retail analytics department.”

The team themselves felt that the real world perspectives gleaned from this experience were very illuminating as compared to theory and practicum studied in school. 

Valerie: “The analytics modules we learnt in school were very focused on the different data-mining techniques we can use and most of the cases can be quite simple and straightforward. However, in the real world, things are more often than not very messy.”

Yu Kei: “This learning journey is like the perfect end to our curriculum – pushing us to apply and experiment with our analytical tools and in turn, discover what else is lacking in this toolbox of ours to perform better analysis.”

Hui Jun: “This hackathon taught us to place ourselves in the client’s shoes and figure out solutions that would eventually add value to their business. More importantly, balancing our eyes on the big picture and the little details was the biggest lesson for me.”

The data hackathon was also a great opportunity for the companies involved to cast their eyes at potential recruitment. 

A special shoutout goes out to NBS’s IT department for their effort in providing the servers, managing access and associated issues related to the infrastructure of the event. 

In what proved to be a memorable and innovatively pedagogical experience for the students, the next edition of the data hackathon is highly awaited!   

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