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PROVO, Utah – Nov 19, 2019 – Three BYU Marriott MBA students took home the $35,000 first-place prize at the 2019 Adobe Analytics Challenge in San Jose, California.
The Adobe Analytics Challenge is a nationwide, analytics-focused business case competition. During the competition, university students are given access to real company data through Adobe’s analytics tools, and offer possible solutions to a question posed by Adobe’s partner company. This year Adobe partnered with Major League Baseball, which asked students to come up with ways to improve the overall game experience for baseball fans.
BYU Marriott’s winning team included first-year MBA students Ryan Tucker from Papillion, Nebraska; Joseph Heywood from Queen Creek, Arizona; and Kyle Wong from Hong Kong. The team also included assistant professor Cody Reeves as faculty coach.
The competition is split into several phases. After receiving training in Adobe Analytics software, students dive into the data provided by Adobe. Teams then have two weeks to analyze the data and present findings and recommendations to the judges. This year, out of the 233 competing teams across almost 120 business schools, only six teams were invited to the final round held in San Jose, California.
For the BYU Marriott team, the entire experience turned out to be about more than just winning a prestigious competition. “Learning about teamwork and leadership and how to work with different personalities are experiences you can’t learn from the classroom or a textbook,” says Wong. “Those learning experiences such as the Adobe Analytics Challenge are worth the time and effort.”
The students from this year’s team focused on storytelling as well as data analysis, a strategy that set them ahead of the competition. “Data and solutions are great, but storytelling brings it home,” says Tucker. “As we prepared our presentation, we incorporated quite a few stories—short, light, but bringing it home to the judges that this is why our solution matters and how our solution can benefit individual fans.”
Heywood also stresses the importance of storytelling in the data analytics process. “The competition presentation is not just about finding and proving a position, but trying to get into the mind of the fan,” says Heywood. “Once you have that qualitative idea, go find out if the data supports or rejects that idea. But focus first on that customer, the client, whomever you’re trying to serve.”
Despite the high stakes and the amount of effort teams put into the competition, the BYU Marriott team didn’t feel any hostility from the other finalists. Instead, a feeling of camaraderie between teams enveloped the room. “We enjoyed seeing other finalists cheering for each other,” says Tucker. “Obviously everybody wanted to win, but it felt like all the teams wanted each other to do their best as well.”
While the team enjoyed receiving first place as first-year MBA students, they also appreciated the learning opportunity the Adobe Analytics Challenge gave them. “I was proud of what we did and the effort that we put in,” says Wong. “It was definitely fulfilling and rewarding to get first place—external validation is always nice. But even if we’d come in sixth place, the entire experience would have been worth it.”