A team of graduate students from Brigham Young University took the top prize of $15,000 at the 2015 Adobe Analytics Challenge earlier this month.
While cybersecurity and hacking challenges are common among higher education institutions, there aren't many that focus on analytics.
This year, Adobe’s competition tasked 124 student teams with mining the data of Starwood Hotels and Resorts to analyze mobile data and mobile conversions as well as web analytics. The teams were granted a two-hour training session, access to Adobe Analytics and Starwood data. Finalists were to give a 15-minute presentation on how the business operates, noting opportunities and weaknesses based on the data.
Jeff Allen, the senior director of product marketing for Adobe Analytics who helps organize these competitions each year, says he’s always impressed by how quickly students grasp the intricacies of an industry just from looking at raw data sets.
"The insights the students come up with are extremely helpful to the organizations,” he says. “They're going to find some things they'll never have found out otherwise, including anomalies and business strategies."
Finalists in the competition presented their findings to a panel of judges who scored them based on the presentation and value of their conclusions.
There's a workforce gap in the analytics market, Allen says. When Adobe launched the competition in 2009, the intent was to draw attention to analytics as a practice area in higher education, allowing students an opportunity to focus on the discipline while also developing an interest in it. Along the way, the competition has also become a valuable recruitment tool for the company.
In a rapidly expanding industry such as analytics, top-tier students leave higher education with a wide range of employment options, says Adobe Public Relations Senior Manager Sarah Duckett.
"More and more, companies must have these positions filled by the best of the best, because these positons are going to make or break companies. They've become the thing that's going to get people over the finish line, in terms of business," she says.