Move beyond spreadsheets to data mining, forecasting, optimization – and more

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Comparing cell phone use by age

The Junk Chart blog discusses a potential problem that can arise in grouped bar charts when the two groups have vastly different ranges. One possible solution (which is discussed at the Junk Chart sister blog, Numbers Rule Your World) is to present the data back-back in what is sometimes called

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Extending IML - Defining a Function Module

The SAS/IML run-time library contains hundreds of functions and subroutines that you can call to perform statistical analysis. There are also many functions in Base SAS software that you can call from SAS/IML programs. However, one day you might need to compute some quantity for which there is no prewritten

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When is the peak of hurricane season?

Visualizing the distribution of data is a primary task of data analysis. With all the hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year, I’ve been thinking about ways to visualize the historical distribution of hurricane activity. USA Today on Friday, August 13, 2010, announced that "the heart of hurricane season is

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Efficient Sampling

Recently, SAS Global Forum announced the call for papers for the 2011 conference to be held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Since the conference is in Las Vegas, I’ve been thinking a lot about games of chance: blackjack, craps, roulette, and the like. You can analyze these games by

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Five Reasons to CLOSE Your Data Sets

My mother taught me to put things away when I'm finished using them. She doesn't use a computer, but if she did, I know that she'd approve of this tip from my book: Tip: Always close your files and data sets when you are finished reading or writing them. In

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A Prime Number Sieve

Today is the birthday of Bernhard Riemann, a German mathematician who made fundamental contributions to the fields of geometry, analysis, and number theory. Riemann is definitely on my list of the greatest mathematicians of all time, and his conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers is one of the great

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Remove Observations with Missing Values

Missing values are a fact of life. Many statistical analyses, such as regression, exclude observations that contain missing values prior to forming matrix equations that are used in the analysis. This post shows how to find rows of a data matrix that contain missing values and how to remove those

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Never End PROC IML with a RUN Statement

Peter Flom reminded readers of his blog that you should always end a SAS procedure with a RUN statement. This is good rule. However, PROC IML is an exception to the rule. In PROC IML, the RUN statement is used to execute a built-in subroutine or a user-defined module. You

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Dealing with Forecast Inaccuracy

No matter how much we want it, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t always achieve the forecast accuracy desired. Forecasting Heads or Tails in the toss of a fair coin gives the perfect illustration (being right 50% of the time is all we can achieve over a

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Filling an Upper Triangular Matrix from a Vector

The R You Ready blog posed an interesting problem. Essentially, you have a vector that contains n(n+1)/2 elements, and you want to pack those elements into the upper left triangular portion of a matrix. For example, if your data are proc iml; /** vector v is given: ncol(v) = n(n+1)/2 for

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Do cows need analytics too?

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting one of our small to midsize business (SMB) customers, Oberweis Dairy, a family owned, 90-year-old business located in the Chicago area. Essentially, Oberweis has morphed from a family dairy farm to a significant, regional food manufacturer and retailer. With 39 retail stores, 40,000

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North Carolina DMV redux?

Did the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles regain its sanity? Or was this just another tease? As you recall from last year, my application for “THE BFD” personalized license plate was accepted – then rejected – even though that extra \$30 fee could have eased at least some of

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FAQ: Retail Store Forecasting

Self-anointed as The Aristocrat of forecasting related blogs, The BFD takes its public service role seriously (or at least as seriously as anyone who self-anoints on a regular basis can be taken). Among the services The BFD provides, both publicly (on webcasts or speaking engagements) and privately (by phone, email,

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What is a forecasting consultant to do?

This week I received an urgent text message from a good friend and former colleague in the consulting business: Mike, I am down 24 pages in your book and [besmirching my trousers]. Is there no hope for consultants like me? My response was to not let the book ruin a

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Real vs. Perceived Implementation Failures

An alarming percentage of major software implementations fail to be delivered on time, on budget, or even at all. Implementations of new forecasting software, or of new forecasting processes, are not immune from this legacy of failure. Why does this happen, and is there anything we can do about it?

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The Argument for Max(Forecast,Actual)

There is a long running debate among forecasting professionals, on whether to use Forecast or Actual in the denominator of your percentage error calculations. The Winter 2009 issue of Foresight had an article by Kesten Green and Len Tashman, reporting on a survey (of the International Institute of Forecasters discussion

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The Contest

Better forecasting can, of course, help address many business problems. We want to believe that more accurate forecasts are always possible. “If only,” management bemoans, “if only we had bigger computers, more sophisticated software, more skilled forecast analysts – or if the analysts we have just worked harder!” Unfortunately, there

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The Forecasting "Bake-Off"

Just as we all eagerly awaited announcement of the \$1 million prize winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off(R), every forecasting software vendor has endured the "bake-off" hosted by organizations in the market for new forecasting software. Software selection teams utilize a bake-off to help evaluate competing vendors. Vendors are given a

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My Friends at F2010

The F2010 Business Forecasting Conference wrapped up on June 8. Chaired by Tim Rey of Dow Chemical and Jerry Oglesby of SAS, this was another strong event, bringing together 248 forecasters from business, government, and academics, representing 27 states and 11 countries. It was also an opportunity for all to

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Announcing The BFD (the book)

I am pleased to announce publication of The Business Forecasting Deal: Exposing Myths, Eliminating Bad Practices, Providing Practical Solutions, available now in a convenient carry-everywhere size (approx 6” x 9” x 1”), or for download to your Kindle. Table of contents, sample sections (including the Prologue, Forewords by Tom Wallace

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IBF Strikes Gold in San Francisco

Was it the economy? the timing? the location? or the brilliant and good looking Forum panel? That will be for history (or you) to decide. What we do know is that is that the Institute of Business Forecasting’s Best Practices Conference in San Francisco, April 28-30, drew a large and

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My friend Tom Reilly of Automatic Forecasting Systems posted this comment on the INFORMS discussion group on LinkedIn: Some use all of the data and some withhold data to find the best forecasting model? Withholding is arbitrary as changing the withhold from x to y means a completely different model

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The Notorious B.F.D. World Tour

Although you probably didn’t notice, I stepped away from this blog for the last two months to think about something more important: The current state of business forecasting. I’d come to realize there is a lot of animosity in the world of forecasting. We have advocates of statistics, and advocates