Beyond Spreadsheets: Amy Clayman, Voice Systems Engineering
“When building a predictive model, we find the JMP Pro interfaces to be very intuitive, allowing us to work closely with other JMP Pro users to build the model together.”
-- Amy Clayman, Data-Driven Decisions Circle, VSE
Beyond Spreadsheets is a blog series that highlights how JMP customers are augmenting their tools and processes for exploratory data analysis to make breakthrough discoveries. We talked with JMP users to learn more about how and why their organizations bring Excel data into JMP to create graphics and explore what-if scenarios.
Our fifth and final interview in the series is with Amy Clayman, Consultant at VSE and owner of Financial Fluency LLC. She has more than 20 years of experience in corporate finance and public accounting and has been featured in CFO magazine. She is also the president of the Jewish Community Relation Council of Southern New Jersey.
JMP user since 2014
Favorite JMP features: Graph Builder, Profiler and modeling capabilities.
Proudest professional moment: We built a model in JMP Pro that accurately predicts customer behavior more than 85 percent of the time. We have integrated this algorithm into our data warehouse to share with other teams in our organization.
How long have you been a JMP user?
We selected JMP Pro a year ago. We had been exploring various predictive analysis software solutions for well over a year before selecting JMP Pro. We tested and used an Excel data mining add-in and various cloud-based solutions before we made our final decision.
Tell us a little bit about the function of your department and how it contributes to your organization’s mission.
Our department is referred to as the “Data-Driven Decisions Circle.” We are responsible for helping VSE use financial, operational and external data to guide the organization’s decision-making process. The group is dedicated to helping the company improve its profitability and ROI. For example, we are focused on the following initiatives:
Understanding and enhancing the entire customer experience so that we can improve interactions and increase spending levels.
Determining which media sources attract the most valuable customers and generate the best ROI.
Discovering which programs, campaigns or system enhancements help improve VSE’s ROI.
What do you like most about the type of work you do?
I started at VSE over 10 years ago to initially support its accounting and reporting needs; later, I became involved in its data analytics project. I love working with the people! VSE has an amazingly talented and compassionate staff. They challenge you to do your best work, and they like to have fun.
Whether it’s people from the marketing, creative services, service delivery, technology or finance teams, every member of the organization wants to better understand what is happening and how we can improve the customer experience in a fiscally responsible manner. We often get inundated with questions that usually start with “Why did this happen?”, “What is the impact to the customer?”, and “How will this affect future revenues?” Sometimes I feel like the pathologist in a Law & Order episode. The company expects our group, in an unbiased manner, to dissect the event or problem and provide an explanation that will better enable the company to create a path to success.
What is a professional accomplishment of which you are most proud?
We built a model in JMP Pro to predict the annual spending category of a new member based on their behavior in their first seven days on the service. The model accurately predicts the correct category more than 85 percent of the time. We have integrated this algorithm into our data warehouse so these predictions are easily accessible to the media team.
This model allows us to help our highly skilled media team quickly understand the revenue opportunities of the member’s media choices. Historically, the team may have chosen to wait several weeks or months before pausing or extending a program. Now we can provide them with additional intelligence about the likely outcome to complement their decision-making process.
The magic in this process is centered on identifying and building the relevant data so that the algorithm tells the business user what is likely to happen with a high degree of confidence.
Why do you like most about using JMP Pro?
My group is responsible for educating and communicating to the key business users. We need to do this in a concise, thorough and organized fashion. The data visualization tools are an excellent starting point and allow us to communicate the trends quickly. Using features such as Graph Builder and Profiler allows us to tell the story – fast.
As our team better understands the data using the visualization tools, we then look to identify patterns or relationships. In JMP, we use the modeling features to help predict potential outcomes and identify which attributes have the strongest correlation to the predicted outcome. Communicating these patterns and relationships helps our key business users create an improved customer experience.
VSE is a highly collaborative environment. When building a predictive model, we find the JMP Pro interfaces to be very intuitive, allowing us to work closely with other JMP users to build the model together.
Have you used spreadsheet programs in the past to conduct your statistical analysis? If so, can you describe the pros and cons?
Yes, we have used several other programs.
From my perspective, the pros of Microsoft Excel:
Most finance professionals are comfortable with Excel, so the environment is familiar.
It has some data visualization features that can be easily manipulated.
It is inexpensive.
And the cons of Microsoft Excel:
Data visualization is very limited when compared to JMP Pro.
Selection of data modeling techniques is limited.
Ability to compare model results is limited.
Ability to clean and prep the data for modeling is limited.
There are some latency issues.
We have limited access to trained experts who exclusively support this product.
JMP allows us to more effectively understand, present and predict potential outcomes.
The most important advantage to selecting JMP Pro over the other spreadsheet tools is the access to JMP’s exceptional technical staff. Our technical resource representative guides us on how to best use the software and is constantly educating us on the best approaches to get the most out of the tool.
It is truly the combination of JMP Pro and the people at JMP that has helped us advance our mission to have data drive our decision-making process. We believe in our staff’s instincts, but we have an obligation to provide them with the most relevant information in the most intelligent fashion to help them lead our organization.
What advice or best practices would you give to other companies that are currently relying on spreadsheet tools to conduct statistical analyses?
Don’t be afraid of or overwhelmed by all of the functionality of JMP. We continue to migrate in stages. Your ability to grow as a professional in this field will be limited if you choose to only use a spreadsheet tool. The predictive analytics field is constantly evolving, and the tools and professionals you interact with will determine how effective you can be in this role. Do not sell yourself or your company short by using less sophisticated tools to address this need.
Want to learn how to uncover information you might miss from using spreadsheets alone? Watch the new webcast case study, Going Beyond Spreadsheet Analytics With Visual Data Discovery, to see how a sports equipment and apparel manufacturer digs deep into the data to improve a supply chain process that was not working.