JSOM Team Finishes Second in Adobe Analytics Challenge


A UT Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management team placed second in the Nov. 3 national finals of the Adobe Analytics Challenge. Team Adobics members Ariel Cain, Portia Ballard and Gloria Nsereko Lule — all MS in Marketing students — earned $14,000 for their performance at the challenge, which was held in Salt Lake City.

The first-place team, the University of Michigan, earned $35,000. Michigan won by less than one point, according to Jindal School marketing lecturer Josh Friedman. The other finalist teams were Brigham Young University, BYU Idaho, New York University and the University of Utah.

Team Adobics members (from left) Portia Ballard, Gloria Nsereko Lule and Ariel Cain with JSOM faculty member Josh Friedman

In the finals, Team Adobics and fellow competitors each made a 15-minute presentation to, and fielded questions from, a panel of judges that included representatives from Adobe, its customer partners and other industry experts.

Thirty-five percent of each team’s score evaluated the quality, depth, uniqueness and potential value of its analysis. Another 35 percent assessed the connection a team made between its analysis and the recommendations it made. Establishing key business objectives and success metrics counted for 15 percent of the score, as did team professionalism and communication skills.

Like all competitors, Ballard, Cain and Nsereko Lule in the beginning had slightly more than two weeks to analyze a company’s digital data using Adobe analytics tools and then build an analysis of their findings and add recommendations. Twenty teams from JSOM initially competed in a field that included teams from Brigham Young, Duke, New York, Northwestern and Yale Universities and the Universities of California, Berkeley; California, Los Angeles; Michigan; Southern California; Texas at Austin; and more.

For more than a decade, the Adobe Analytics Challenge has been a unique, analytics-focused business case competition in which university students gain access to real-world data from such firms as Comcast, Condé Nast, Lenovo and Starwood, and the opportunity to use Adobe’s analytics products as well. The partner firm this year is MGM Resorts.

“The three women who are going to the finals have put in hours and hours of hard work over the last few weeks, and it’s clearly paying off,” said Friedman, a Jindal School lecturer whose Marketing Web Analytics and Insights (MKT 6352) course yielded three semifinalist teams. “This is my first year teaching here, and I’ve really been impressed by how teams leverage their marketing classes, their external experience and their online analytics class to come up with unique insights and powerful recommendations.”

“I met Ariel and Gloria during our Digital Sales Strategy course last semester,” Ballard said. “This semester, we each enrolled in the marketing analytics course and began working on the Adobe Analytics Challenge as a team. My desire was to be on a winning team with dependable team players who would contribute their marketing expertise and enthusiasm to the competition.”

“I’ve never been in a group where my other teammates care just as much as I do about the final result,” Cain said. “We push each other’s thinking, and we worked together the entire time; it was a true collaborative project. One day, we met for 15 hours straight, working on the project nonstop from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. That was definitely a first in my college career.”

“The University of Texas at Dallas has exposed me to so many great opportunities — with the Adobe Analytics Challenge being one of the greatest highlights,” Nsereko Lule added. “The UTD classes that have given me the most knowledge for competing in this event have been Marketing Web Analytics and Insights, Marketing Campaign Management Lab and Interactive and Digital Marketing.

“I am very proud of them. They have all been former or current students of mine, all pursuing the digital marketing track in our program. Their win highlights the quality of our digital courses,” said Alexander Edsel, director of the MS in Marketing program.

“Making the top six out of more than 150 teams from across the nation is no easy task, and we did it!” Cain said. “We’ve already made history by being the first team from UTD to advance to the finals in this competition, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment.”

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