In 2011 I began CategoryMaster as a consulting business around the analysis of data from IRI®, Nielsen®, Spectra®, and other syndicated data and customer sources. It has since grown to be involved with clients in business development, new product development, sales, marketing, market research, forecasting, S&OP, operations management, business and strategic planning, financial planning, quality and regulatory compliance, and process engineering.
I have always had a simple mindset of never keying data into a spreadsheet or other electronic program once it has been entered the first time. I sought out ways to link, copy/paste, import or otherwise get that data into the program I was using to analyze it without typing it in. Re-keying data is waste of time, and ultimately that time comes at the expense of applying one's grey cells toward understanding the data, figuring out the "So what?" and developing tactical plans toward the achievement of the company's strategic plan or one's individual goals.
At the time Lotus 123 became my best friend, and ultimately Microsoft Excel. Excel is rich in functionality that most people don't take advantage of, and it can make your life so much easier if you just dive in and learn its basic functions. For example, it is possible to pick the size and unit of measure out of an IRI item description with a formula instead of running down the list to read and manually type it in. Imagine having to do that five or six thousand times. A formula can do it for you and in a split second versus hours to do it manually!
In 1992, when Category Management was in its nascent stages, I was with Hershey Pasta Group and we (Hershey) were one of the original IRI partners. As I began diving into the POS data to do analyses, my managers would inevitably ask questions beyond the answers provided by the descriptive statistics. I soon had to develop diagnostic statistics to figure out the why. You guessed it, once we knew the why, the next questions were around predicting outcomes. Once we could predict, then we could start prescribing. Using these tools I developed Pasta Experts®, one of the first category review tools in the industry. We used that tool to become better partners with retailers and within two years of implementing HPG captured the #1 position in the dry pasta category from the then leader, Borden.
This analytical progression from Descriptive, to Diagnostic, to Predictive and finally to Prescriptive is applicable to practically every aspect of business function. Analytics is a key contributor to a successful business.