PowerPivot and Market Research

This past Tuesday, February 14, I was invited to discuss how technology can be used to help analyze data for the purposes of Market Research at Minnesota School of Business.  A friend of mine, Shane Smith, is teaching this class and invited me to show how the tools I work with every day can help his students analyze data for marketing.

The Setup

The class was analyzing the results from a survey they conducted at the school as a part of a market research project.  The survey had five questions with various types of answers such as Yes/No and multiple choice.

Shane wanted to show the class that using technology, they could glean more results from their survey.  This process would also help them understand the effectiveness of the survey they created.

The Data Prep

For my part, I wanted to introduce them to what I do – business intelligence solution design and implementation.  I also wanted to introduce them to the specific tools which they could use to analyze their results for the project.  In this case, we were using Excel 2010 and PowerPivot for Excel 2010 (SQL Server 2008 R2 version).  The final goal was to help them see that these tools can be used to analyze data in real world scenarios.

Shane provided me with the initial survey results in an Excel spreadsheet.  I took that data and flattened some of it out and turned some of it into data that math could be performed on.  For example, I took a multiple choice survey question with 5 possible values and turned it into 5 columns of data with 1 and 0 as possible values so additional calculations could be done on it.  We also created the equivalent of a dimension by taking one of the multiple choice questions and creating a new sheet with possible values and labels.

The Cool Stuff

I took the sheet we updated the data on and I walked the class through the process of bringing that data into PowerPivot.  This included building a relationship between the dimensional data and the primary survey results which were on two sheets in the source workbook. From there, we generated a couple of pivot table views and some charts.  Next, they came up with other ideas of what data to look at and how they wanted to see it presetned. I walked them through the process of prepping the data as necessary.  Then we created more visualizations and presentations of the data that helped them better analyze their results.

The Wrap Up

Kudos to the Microsoft team that put this toolset together.  These students, who are not technologists, gained confidence in the use  of PowerPivot for their project. They are also now set up to use it in the future for similar projects or even their jobs. Because of its ease of use, it was a great demo and training session on using tools to analyze data.

I had a lot fun sharing the technology that I work in regularly with users who would not have tried to do this on their own.  Tools like PowerPivot enable users to turn their data into usable information on their own.  While there will always be a need to build enterprise solutions, this fills a gap in the marketplace with a tool many are already familiar with.

I hope the students are able to continue to use the tool and find a place for it in their workplace in the future.  If you have not yet given PowerPivot a test run on your own, you can find it here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/bi/powerpivot.aspx.  We used the 2008 version, but feel free to give either a test run.  Keep in mind that you need Excel 2010 to use PowerPivot.  Best of luck to all of them and any of you who give it a test run.  Feel free to share what your experience with PowerPivot here in the comments.