Week 8 picks – lets get paid !

Back from the week at sea, completely disconnected, and recharged.

Last week I gave 3 picks and a teasers, and was PLUS money, so lets keep that strategy.

This week –
Steelers Over 49
Bears Over 42
And Seahawks getting 3 – But Seahwaks +125 is even better

Teaser Gift: Chiefs, Rams, Eagles (-2.5,-1.5, +10.5)

Refreshed Planning Guy, at your service


Never stop learning

This week we are being trained on Power BI- and I am looking forward to this on a lot of levels.

First and formost, I get to be a #datanerd for an entire week.  Build models, mold data, make analytics, visualiztions, make data sing and dance. Cant stress enough what a great escape from day to day that will be.

But even better, I actually get to learn. I realized a few years ago  that I spend a lot of my time teaching, educating, mentoring, role-modeling, and lot of other buzzwords that are synonoms for giving back and passing on expereince.  But I spend very little time focussed on my learning.  And I miss it.  Its hard to be a servant leader and selfish at the same time!

When you are young in your career, you think you know a lot more than you do, so you almost resist learning opportunities, and resent them when forced upon you.  But now I actually clamor for such opportunities,  to learn and broaded for the sake of learning.  Locked in a room, surrounded by  smart people, absorbing information. Awesome.

I’ll give a review next week on Power BI and the coolness thereof, and I have VERY high expectations, but for now, I am eager to be a student for a bit.  Open mind, juiced up laptop, fast WiFi, and a wookie-mug of coffee.  Giddieup.

But I am still,
-That Planning GUy

Planning, Pricing, Purchasing, OH MY!

A few disconnected situations floated by me this week, and of course That Planning Guy has to make the connections.  Nothing is truly random.  (Old Dilbert joke about an accounting Troll, generating random #’s… he is yelling 7,7,7,7,7,7,7.. Dilbert asks “Is that random? How can we really know?”)

First, someone commented about how strong the demand was for advanced Planning and Assortment tools in the marketplace today.  Very true: I have preached for years, it all starts with great planning. Planning drives assortment. Assortment drives replenishment.  Replenishment removes stock outages. Throw in good product, of course – and the right product, at the right time, in the right amounts makes money. The consolidation in software makes everything both very specialized and homogenized.  Hard to differentiate one great tool from the next, without a DEEP understanding of what the tool brings. Feature-Advantage-Benefit. “How does THAT help me” is the question I often ask.

Next, someone else commented about a price of water on their vacation being MUCH lower than they could have (a large bottle of premium-brand water for $4.50 in Cayman?? That’s just crazy talk. Piled of money laying on the floor.) Clearly whoever determines that price is not listening to the demand signals, and pricing based on a perceived IMU goal.  If the water was $4.95, would the guest even NOTICE, let alone care? No, and we all know that is true.  But your P&L would certainly notice the 10% profit flow-through boost.

Last, a guest service ‘situation’ came up, and I don’t often get to be involved.  A group of College students are coming to town to attend a large Apparel show, as they are in a merchandising-related major.  I spoke to the students last year who came, and I had a really good time. This year, they moved from a competitor’s hotel to one of ours and I helped them arrange it.  They made some # kids to room changes to be able to afford the new luxury hotel, and I appreciated that they preferred to stay in ‘our house.’ Long story, there was some mix up in the reservations, and they needed an accommodation added to the rooms that was not normally included, and reached out to me to see if I could help.  They were literally at the peak of their budget already by staying in a great resort. So I reached out to a partner at the property, and he reached out to one of his partners, and within a day, we had resolved this issue.  It cost the company ZERO to solve this problem.  What did we gain? This group will now stay here every year, hopefully forever.  The rooms and resort are beautiful, so 30 people per year, 10 years, that’s 300 new loyal customers.  AND— since College kids, I would assume they are all Social-Media fiends, as my college-age daughter is, so likely have 1000’s of connections.  This simple act may have changed the perception of tens of thousands of customers over time. 

So where is the correlation?  Listening to the customer, and not just superficially.  What are they saying, but what are they SAYING.  Spend patterns, buy patterns, hotel reviews, restaurant surveys, Yelp, FB and Insta, survey monkey, and simply asking the question – all these tell a story if you are reading it correctly. BIG picture, connect the dots.

And to react to it properly, you need to not just hear it, but understand it, internalize it, draw insights, and react to it – all in near-real time.

Right product+ Right time+ Right amount+ Right price = Right Profits.  Any of these fail, and the chain is broken.


Aloha Friday, fellow #datanerds

-That Planning Guy

Predictive Analytics 

The start of a new baseball season brings promise of future championships. Everyone is undefeated! How do we as analytics practitioners capitalize on this new market? Is it as simple as applying the right analytics to the right problems? Find the answers and you win the prizes. 

Who will win today, who will lose are based on a myriad of subsets and variables. Who is pitching,  day vs. night game, home or away. Is Bryce taking a day off? Can the Yankees ever win opening games anymore? The Sox always win on Patriots Day!! 

Oh so many questions and so many datasets to start working through. Thank heavens we have 160 more games to resolve. 

Good luck #datanerds, and Go Red Sox 

-That Planning Guy 

Wrap up 

And so concludes a whirlwind trip.  Great events in both LA and  NY.  

Learnings from the trip?  Everyone is still struggling with unification.  Having a clear vision of inventory throughout the whole supply chain and across all channels is a major concern.  Also the complete view of a customer is still not there. 

Analytics is getting more attention at every level,  and permeates through the organization.  Hopefully this will drive insights. Questions are just begging for answers. I hope they continue to build better platforms driving deeper insights. 

Back to the salt mines tomorrow.  

The answer my friend,  is blowing in the wind.  – Bob Dylan 

-That Planning Guy 


I have been reading lately a little bit about the Great Leap Forward in evolution.  Not the terrible time in China in 1958-61 when the regime may have  killed over 20 million citizens.  The Great Leap was an event when mankind (homo sapiens) suddenly changed about 50,000 years ago.  We suddenly changed and started showing advanced thinking such as problem solving,  music,  compex language,   bartering,  and trade with other groups.   Commerce.  (suddenly is a great concept in sociology… Really means over a few dozen generations,  so a few hundred years.  Not exactly precision!) 

Where are we in the scale of ‘Retail Evolution?’ Are we evolving slowly or has the last 10-20 years been a Great Leap? Or just small linear progression ? Natural evolution?

Think back 20 years : POS,  Merch,  Inventory,  AP,  etc were reasonably close to what  it is today. Slower, more manual,  but the basics were similar.  (sorry systems friends… But its pretty true)  

What has changed is the speed,  the connectivity,  the Ecom,  the Globalization.  And the Analytics.   And Analytics drives Business.  (feel like I heard they somewhere before) 

The analytics into merchandising have been revolutionary; we look at size,  color,  brand  supply chain,  and more recently pricing.   Optimization is a great buzzword. Optimization using machine learning to predict tne future based on the past to determine the right product at the right time in the right amount at the right price. 

The increase power has lead to increased speed,  led to great strides in the  decision chain as well as the supply chain.  And great gains in profitability – which compensates for the huge increase in competition. (hopefully) 

But is it a Great Leap Forward or just a point on the curve ramping up through technology?  In other words,  are we going to look back 15 years from now and see these things as a foundation of a process that evolved?  Or will we look at it as the ‘next-gen people’ look at ‘cavemen’  and wonder how we lived like that? 

 If optimization and analytics is just a small step in the natural progression,  what would a GREAT Leap be??? 

Start the Revolution. 

That Planning Guy 

15 minutes

I increased my workout time by 15 min a few weeks ago.   I accomplished this by waking up 15 minutes earlier.   No real magic there. Now I do a solid hour on the elliptical machine.  
I have noticed some interesting things that have happened,  and a trend.  The first 10-15 min I am just getting going.   Minor effort,  heart rate not yet really in the Zone.  (big fan of HR based training,  all about the data!)
The next 30 minutes are kind of a grind.  Heart rate better,  just flowing along.  HR good effective,  efficient workout.  
It’s the last 15 min that bring me to here. This is when I am fully warmed up,  all aches and pains better,  and I am in  ‘countdown to be done’ mode.   Can step on the gas.   These minutes are greater exertion,  and obviously greater effect. 
OK,  where you going with this  one,  Planning Guy?
Analytics follows the same pattern.   (you knew that was coming by now!)
First block of time is gathering data.   Pulling sources,  building queries,  filling tables.   Necessary,  but not anywhere near the end game. 
Stage 2: assembly.  What goes with what.   Where is this pointing?  What joins the data points?  How do we present to make sense? 
Final group : Insight.  When we reap the fruit of the labor.   We bring home the answer.   And we are JACKED about what we now know. 
So,  how do we get more time in phase 3 and less in phase 1? I can wake up earlier.  So how do we WAKE UP  earlier in this world of analytics?

-That Planning Guy

Predictive vs Prescriptive Analytics

A lot of people read the article I had in RIS news last year. If not, HERE:


(Link updated, 2018!)

I wanted to talk a little further about the idea of prescriptive analytics. As a few people know, I like to bet sports. REALLY like to. (Yeah, I live in Nevada, so its legal. Don’t judge. )

If you’re really good at what you do, then you are willing to put your money where your math is. So this football season, I built a NFL betting modeling system. Without telling too much details, as that may be a whole different story line later, it was a fun experiment.

First, gather the data: Build the history. Data without enough enough data points is too inconclusive. In week 6, I added in the predictive engine, and started picking bets. All told, against the spread for the year, I was +7%. Many lessons learned, many theories tested, but suffice to say I was pretty happy by the end of the season as I picked more winners than losers. Many things came clearly into the light – visualization. How often to use teasers, how often to pick Over/Under. But my best lesson was that the people (Customers? Guests? Shoppers? Apply your own business here) are willing to overpay for a favorite. The Panthers were an exception, and very predictable. But most other ‘favorite’ picks were overpriced. Hmmm. As I believe I understand the concept of para-mutual, and how sports betting is a balance of money, so I cant blame the house for rigging the system: Blame the consumers.

Point? Predictive analytics was effective. However, where I didn’t end up with a new car, new house, lovely beach condo on Maui was in the prescriptive piece. I need to refine this to tell me what actions to take based on the prediction. Yeah, the Pats covered a lot – but whats the bet amount? Planning the actions is what separates a moral win from a real win.
Analytics drives business.

PS- Dead wrong on Superbowl. What makes analyics awesome? Its not perfect. If it was, this would be boring. The best model wins the most, but not all. Betamax was great technology. Creative Lab’s MP3 player was awesome in 2000. And we all know how that ended up.

-THAT Planning Guy

~~~Upcoming Events~~~

CLICK HERE to open event

DRF 2016 logo

The 2016 PRI Digital Retail Forum: How In-store Technology is Redefining Retail takes place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on March 15, the day before the Digital Signage Expo trade show opens at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

PRI’s all-new Digital Retail Forum will focus on how changing consumer shopping preferences are causing retailers to transform the way they do business. Much of this change is supported by customer-facing technologies, from digital signs and equipping employees with smart phones and tablets, to those that are required to support an omni-channel business model. Opportunities increase through the use of Wi-Fi to understand customer behavior and RFID tags to locate merchandise, as well as the growth of big data analytics