This is the first quarter that I haven’t had any midterms, and boy has that been nice. I’m not a big fan of midterms, in part because I think they end up becoming cram sessions with short-term benefits. It also doesn’t help that I pretty much failed my midterm last quarter in Financial Reporting & Analysis (though I pulled a solid showing on the final to finish the class strong!).

In lieu of midterms, I had a couple of big group assignments midway through Tech Mktg and I/T-based Marketing, and I have a group project due at the end of Mktg Channels. I also have finals in Tech Mktg and Mktg Channels, though I’m not really concerned about them because I’ve been able to stay on top of the readings and other work.

The mid-term assignment in this class was based on a simulation, Softstrat, in which we had to make several key decisions to help a B2B software provider transition from their legacy product to a cloud-based (Software as a Service, SAAS) product in a 5-year period. We had to do a total of 5 runs, and it took a pretty long time. Afterward, we had to write a 7-page reporting detailing our experience, the strategies that we tested, and what we learned from the simulation. My team didn’t do as well as some of the others on the final metric, but our highest score was still pretty good.

This was a pretty rough assignment, and I butted heads with my team a lot on how we should approach it, but I learned a ridiculous amount about not just the simulation, but also group dynamics and best practices. A lot of it was stuff that I’ve covered in other classes like Managerial Leadership and Leadership in Organizations, but it was still fascinating to watch it all unfold.

For example, we really should have set expectations early on for the project. I wanted to spend a lot of time on each run, carefully studying the data as much as possible, but I realized that was unfeasible for the rest of the team (because they have more classes and activities on their plate). I also saw the concept that trying to reach group consensus on decisions can lead to bad decisions and hurt the team morale (you shouldn’t try to make everyone happy, especially at the expense of the final product).

I/T-based Marketing
For this class, my team had to determine the best predictive model to use for selecting recipients of a direct-mailing campaign. Our available options were to use a Logit regression, an RFM model, or an Analytical Neural Network model. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, though the Logit is generally preferred over the others because it is more information.

The challenge here was deciding on a model. We got to a point where we were deciding between 2 models, and the team was somewhat divided, though a few folks opted not to side either way. Ultimately, we went with the simpler model, which performed better on some metrics (ROI and response rate), but not as well on the metric that he used to grade our results (total profit $).

I think the key takeaway was to understand the advantages/disadvantages of the different models (like ease of use, necessary data, informativeness), though it also touched on the idea that predictive modeling is all about combining art with science. You have to combine domain experience/expertise with the modeling software and data to get the best results. If you rely too much on either or, you are likely to get bad stuff. Our current assignment is really pushing this idea.

Marketing Channels
Our group project is to analyze the music industry and determine a channel strategy for one of the Big 4 record labels. This class has been absolutely fascinating for me, in part because it is my first time covering the idea of extending the “different strokes for different folks” mantra beyond products and to the overall buying experience. It also helps that the professor is very animated and passionate about the topic, often sending us a lot of supplemental reading material based on the latest happenings that pertain to the class. I also did a little professor “stalking” and stumbled across his blog, which has some good stuff on it as well.

The final deliverable is a 7-page paper + exhibits and a 10-minute presentation. Fortunately, my team has been making good progress on this assignment because no one wanted to push it off to the last week, when every other class also tends to get hectic. I think that we’re about 60-70% done with the first draft. It really helps for the team to agree on an overall strategy as soon as possible so that you can start writing. Once you start writing the paper, you start to realize where there are holes in the strategy, what additional exhibits you needs, what other analysis could be done to strengthen the argument, etc.

The end of the quarter is fast approaching, so it’s time to get ready for the sprint to the finish line!