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Robyn Zeeman '89 helped to spearhead a Kellogg Faculty Immersion trip to IBM.

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IBM's Robyn Zeeman '89 discusses Kellogg and Big Blue's big data collaboration


2/20/2014 - IBM Retail Software Sales Leader Robyn Zeeman ’89 is on the front lines of data analytics. She helped to spearhead a Kellogg Faculty Immersion trip to discuss that very topic.

Florian Zettelmeyer, faculty director of Kellogg’s Program on Data Analytics, led the 10-person Kellogg contingent to IBM in Columbus, Ohio, on November 12 to talk big data with top executives. It was part of a planned series of faculty immersion trips to different companies, bringing together academic and corporate thought leaders.

The next immersion trip is planned for early 2014.

Zeeman sheds light on IBM’s expertise with big data and the inspiration for the trip.

How successful have businesses been in addressing the challenges that big data presents?

Companies have a lot of ways to approach big data, but many organizations lack an overall plan. IBM believes that applying analytics to big data is where our clients will get the biggest benefit and we’re really good at understanding what portions of the data are relevant. One simple example: We worked with a European retail bakery and found out that weather had a direct bearing on the types of products that they were selling. When it rained, they moved more cakes; when it was sunny, they went through more panini. Once they understood that weather was a big determinant, it completely changed how they approached sales, inventory and other areas of the business.

What was IBM hoping to gain by connecting with Kellogg?

As a Kellogg alum, I wanted to see how IBM could benefit from an academic perspective. I reached out to Eric Anderson, Chair of the Kellogg Marketing Department, and worked with him to identify areas of collaboration, one of which was experiential learning. That led me to Rick Wilson, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing, who needed technical assistance in implementing Web-to-commerce technology for the classroom. Through this engagement, IBM executives, including myself, served as panel members and guest lecturers to provide students with updates on trends in the retail industry and smart commerce. The faculty immersion trip was the logical next step.

What value did IBM derive from the faculty immersion trip?

Kellogg Professor Florian Zettelmeyer made a fascinating presentation on data analytics, and we learned a lot from his approach, his research, and applications for his work. In fact, the entire day was filled with conversations that had the effect of expanding everyone’s perspective on data analytics and ways that businesses can harness their information. Based on the success of this program, we’re looking for additional ways to collaborate going forward.