The Walt Disney Company is undeniably a creative place and a customer service whiz. But folks there want you to know it has the magic touch with analytics, too.
Much of the analytics knowhow resides in an internal consulting team that is part of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando. It all started back in late 2008, as Cameron Davies, director of management science and integration at Disney Parks and Resorts, recounted for me recently.
"About four years ago, we were trying to get some capital approved for some analytics projects, and during that process, senior leadership realized just how much value we bring to the Parks and Resorts side. So the question came from senior leaders, 'Could you do this for other parts of company?'" he said. "And, of course, we said, 'Yes' and put together a pitch to form a little internal consulting group."
Over the years, that group has grown from seven to almost 40 employees ("cast members," in Disney parlance). The group, part of Disney Parks and Resorts' revenue management and analytics team, serves Disney's far-flung empire, including The Walt Disney Studios, Disney Consumer Products, Disney Interactive, and Media Networks businesses like ABC and ESPN. It gets support from 15 to 20 data scientists on Disney's centralized decision sciences team, Davies said.
The projects his team handles vary from business to business. For example, it will handle yield management for hotel booking, sales sequencing for customer service, and scoring and segmentation for banner ad delivery. But whatever the type of project, the goal is the same -- "to help other parts of the company become more data-driven and analytical in their decision making and processes." It's not that folks within Disney were doing anything wrong. "But analytics is a tool, and we could put more tools in their tool belts and help them be even more profitable."
As further evidence of the value Disney places in analytics, about a decade ago, it launched an annual analytics conference for employees around the world involved in disciplines like forecasting, pricing, industrial engineering, planning, and revenue management. It did so with three purposes in mind, Davies said.
Education: "We want to bring in the best and the brightest and help our cast members get smarter about what they do with analytics, learn about the latest methodologies, and discover what's out there."
Inspiration: "We want to say to them, 'Look at all the really great stuff you can do with analytics. Look at how it's being used in this line of business. Look how this hotel company or this consumer products company is using it. Look at these places you wouldn't normally think about and see how they're doing analytics.' We want them to get juiced by how it's being used."
Validation: "We want to show them that they're not alone out there, and that Disney is on the leading edge -- everybody knows we're a great creative company and a great customer service company, but I don't think people realize we're also a phenomenal analytics company. We want to inspire our cast to continue to push that message out there and get excited about what they do."
With that validation theme in mind, about four years ago, Disney opened the conference to external participants. Internal and external analytics professionals will convene again this week, Aug. 30 and 31, for the Disney Analytics & Optimization Summit 2012 at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The event will feature presentations from Disney employees, analytics executives from other companies, vendor representatives, and business and industry thought leaders. External speakers will include executives from SAS, this site's sponsor. In a joint presentation, Radhika Kulkarni, vice president of research and development with the Advanced Analytics Division at SAS, and Randy Guard, vice president of sales development and product management, will discuss new technologies like high-performance analytics and advanced visualization. Tom Lehman, SAS Solutions OnDemand director of business development, and Jody Porowski, social media analyst, will discuss mood state analysis, a method for analyzing unstructured social media data.
In addition to high-performance analytics, data visualization, and social media analytics, the topics will include big-data and integrated marketing and analytics.
At this week's event, Disney expects about two-thirds of attendees to be internal employees and one-third to be external, Davies said. The conference "helps us grow and keep moving forward -- enabling cross pollination and a recruiting opportunity. Plus, it lets us push forward the perspective that Disney is a great analytical company.
Yes. Disney does a great job at making sure there analytics are simple in approach and analytics reports are targeted at business users needs, easy to navigate and to produce. The way they built simply solution brings ease of use for its Technology workers. The Disney "Global Business Technology Strategy" set the stage for IT to approach data warehousing and analytics from a serious business perspective.
I've notice that the Disney channel is full of these 'order now' toys like pillow pets etc. I wondered why and found that they cut out all the sugary cereal and fast food commercials. Impressive. I wonder how they came to that decision and if the data says customers will respond favorable to that kind of think. You won't see Nickalodean doing that, I'm sure of that.
@Maryam, I have several friends and family members who currently work for Disney. I can say pretty confidently that Disney also does a great job marketing to adults. Kids can't book tickets from the UK to central Florida and buy park tickets. I recently spent a day at one of Disney's "budget" resorts, they manage to capture the adults as well as the kids. It sounds like the Disney analytics group has something to do with this continuity between all of the Disney properties and if that's true, they are doing an awesome job.
@Beth, well I guess if you're the best consulting group around there's not much reason for anyone in the company to go elsewhere. I think their attitude probably has as much to do with their success as their abilities, from your blog post it really sounds like they get it and that's a hard trait to beat.
Disney has always demonstrated the ability to market to children with genius but in the past few years of visiting the parks I think they are in need of an update. I am certain that their research team is seeing the same feedback, since the Magic Kingdom is currently undergoing a significant renovation. It will be interesting to see how the research from this team shapes the park experience in the future and how it creates more opportunities for Disney marketing.
It is good that top management spread inspiration throughout the company. When inspiration comes from top-level executives, it is easily adopted by employees. Inspiration-education-validation seems to be a good model that we can all benefit from.
Diego Klabjan, chair of the INFORMS University Analytics Program Committee and program director for Northwestern University's Master of Science in Analytics program, gives his advice for figuring out where to get an advanced analytics degree.
What Works: Open Source Analytics Software International Institute for Analytics WebinarOn Wednesday, Sept. 24, join IIA CEO and Co-Founder Jack Phillips, along with featured guest Gary Spakes, as we explore the five modernization stages that analytics hardware/software have experienced. We will discuss the considerations when calculating total cost of ownership of the analytics ecosystem.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- Cary, NCThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
Essential Practice Skills for Analytics Professionals Drawing on best practices from the field, this INFORMS course helps analytics professionals add value from beginning to end: listening to clients, framing the central problem, scoping a project, defining metrics for success, creating a work plan, assembling data and expert sources, selecting modeling approaches, validating and verifying analytical results, communicating and presenting results to clients, driving organizational change, and assessing impact.
Analytics 2014 The Analytics 2014 Conference is a two-day, educational event for anyone who is serious about analytics. This annual event brings together hundreds of professionals, industry experts and leading researchers in the field of analytics. All Analytics members save $500 on conference fees by using promo code ACAA.
Premier Business Leadership Series 2014 The Premier Business Leadership Series is an exclusive event for senior executives and decision makers that focuses on solving the current issues that affect governments and businesses globally. The Series is a unique learning and networking experience focused on the most innovative leadership strategies and analytic solutions for competing in todayâs global economy.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- BostonThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
Data Exploration & Visualization Get hands-on training that focuses on the critical steps in the process of analyzing data: accessing and extracting data, cleaning and preparing data, exploring and visualizing data. This INFORMS course will use several of the most popular software tools intensively, and provide an overview of the range of software options.
Foundations of Modern Predictive Analytics In this INFORMS course, learn about modern predictive analytics, the science of discovering and exploiting complex data relationships. This course will give participants hands-on practice in handling real data types, real business problems and practical methods for delivering business-useful results.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- AtlantaThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SASŪ Data Management and SASŪ Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SASŪ Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
LEADERS FROM THE BUSINESS AND IT COMMUNITIES DUEL OVER CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
The Current Discussion
Visual Analytics: Who Carries the Onus? The Issue: Data visualization is an up-and-coming technology for businesses that want to deliver analytical results in a visual way, enabling analysts the ability to spot patterns more easily and business users to absorb the insight at a glance and better understand what questions to ask of the data. But does it make more sense to train everybody to handle the visualization mandate or bring on visualization expertise? Our experts are divided on the question. The Speakers: Hyoun Park, Principal Analyst, Nucleus Research; Jonathan Schwabish, US Economist & Data Visualizer
The hospitality industry gathers massive amounts of customer data, and mining that data effectively can yield tremendous results in terms of improved CRM, better-targeted marketing spend, and more efficient back-end processes. Roger Ares, vice president of analytics at Hyatt Corp., discusses the ways he and his staff use big data.
Charged with keeping track of travel assets, including employees, iJET International relies on data management best-practices and advanced analytics to keep its clients in the know on current and potential world events affecting travel, Rich Murnane, Director of Enterprise Data Operations & Data Architect, told All Analytics in an interview from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference.
Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for the Center for Generational Kinetics and keynote speaker at last month's SAS Global Forum 2014, describes how Gen Y professionals are enhancing the makeup of multigenerational analytics organizations.
From analytics talent development to the power of visual analytics, All Analytics found a variety of common themes circulating throughout the exhibition floor and session discussions at the 2014 SAS Global Forum and SAS Global Forum Executive Conference events held last month in Washington, DC.
Talking with All Analytics live from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference, Eric Helmer, senior manager of campaign design and execution for T-Mobile, discussed the importance of customer data -- starting internally -- in devising the mobile operator's marketing plans.
The big-data analytics market can be a confusing place. Among the vendors vying for your dollars are traditional database management providers, Hadoop startup services, and IT giants. In this video, All Analytics editors Beth Schultz and Michael Steinhart sit down in a Google+ Hangout on Air with Doug Henschen, executive editor of InformationWeek. Henschen discusses use cases for big-data analytics, purchase considerations, and his recent roundup of the top 16 big-data analytics platforms.
At the National Retail Federation BIG Show last month, All Analytics executive editor Michael Steinhart noted a host of solutions for tracking and analyzing customer activity in retail stores. From Bluetooth beacons to RFID tags to NFC connections to video analytics, retailers must find the right combination of tools to help optimize the shopper experience, streamline operations, and boost revenues.
The days when historical shipment trends and gut feelings were enough to forecast retail demand accurately are long over. SAS chief industry consultant Charles Chase outlines the benefits of pulling real-time sales information from point-of-sale and product scanner systems, then flowing that data into dynamic forecasting tools from SAS.
With today's advanced visual analytics tools, you can stream data into memory for real-time processing, provide users the ability to explore and manipulate the data, and bring your data to life for the business.
Dynamic data visualizations let analysts and business users interact with the data, changing variables or drilling down into data points, and see results in a flash. Advance your use of data visualization with tools that support features like auto-charting, explanatory pop-ups, and mobile sharing.
No doubt your enterprise is amassing loads of data for fact-based decision-making. Hand in hand with all that data comes big computational requirements. Can traditional IT infrastructure handle the increasing number and complexity of your analytical work? Probably not, which is why you need a backend rethink. Big data calls for a high-performance analytics infrastructure, as Fern Halper, a partner at the IT consulting and research firm, Hurwitz & Associates, discusses here.
Redbox's bright-red DVD kiosks are all but ubiquitous these days, located in more than 28,000 spots across the country. Jayson Tipp, Redbox VP of Analytics and CRM, provides an insider's look at how the company has accomplished its phenomenal nine-year growth.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), a seven-brand global hotelier, has woven analytics into the fabric of its operations. David Schmitt, director of performance strategy and planning, shares IHG's analytics story and his lessons learned.