Finishing touch: Capstone projects

The capstone project is the crowning moment of our degree programs. Students work in teams to apply the knowledge and skills learned in virtually all of their classes to a project in a real business. Companies partner with us to help prepare students to be effective in their careers, while at the same time gleaning get fresh perspectives on current issues.

The capstone project is the crowning moment of our degree programs. Students work in teams to apply the knowledge and skills learned in virtually all of their classes to a project in a real business. Companies partner with us to help prepare students to be effective in their careers, while at the same time gleaning get fresh perspectives on current issues.

“The capstone course is intended to provide an integrative experience to the students — this is where the classroom skills are tested against real-world problems,” explained department Chairman Raghu Santanam. “We force students to move out of their comfort zone and respond to clients’ needs. Students learn several important traits for successful IT consulting.”

Here is an overview of this year’s applied projects.

B.S. in Business Data Analytics

For the Spring 2016 semester, student groups worked on projects initiated by academic and administrative leaders from across the ASU community. For example, analytics teams looked at the effectiveness of different types of recruiting events and campaigns to attract student enrollment, they profiled program enrollment yields from web inquiries and they examined reasons for student loan defaults. One team investigated grade inflation while another team looked into student retention.

“Overall, these ASU-based analytics projects are the same exact types of industry projects students face upon graduation in areas including Salesforce data analyses, website traffic and conversion analyses, scale continuity and customer retention/churn,” said Professor Michael Goul, who taught the class.

To work with their clients, students applied an agile analytics methodology pioneered by an SAS expert and described in Rachel Alt-Simmons’ book “Agile by Design: An Implementation Guide to Analytic Lifecycle Management.” Students managed the client relationship, handled all client meetings and communications, did data spikes to understand the nature of the datasets, presented preliminary findings and iterated additional analysis to realize analytics discoveries.

Each team presented their findings at a showcase event in order to hone their skills in telling the most compelling business-oriented, bottom line story based on their findings. Many administrative and academic leaders have been hearing about the success of these student projects and have already stated their intent to prepare possible projects for the next time the course is offered.

B.S. in Computer Information Systems

This spring, a total of 88 students formed 20 teams and developed prototypes of new information systems technologies and businesses. They were inspired by the ideas presented in Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup,” and used scrum methodology for project management. Here is a sampling of the projects:

  • An app that helps diners choose a restaurant.
  • A digital solution that helps find parking spaces.
  • A website and digital marketing campaign to help a startup expand.
  • An app that allows bartenders to notify guests of drink specials and last call.
  • An app where employees can post feedback.
  • A web platform that connects student interior designers with clients.
  • An app that helps ASU students find others with similar interests.
  • A group project tool helping students coordinate schedules and communicate with their professors.

M.S. in Business Analytics

The capstone project in this program enables students to use the analytics skills they are learning in projects drawn from real business settings. Students are challenged to understand the context of the business situation and then identify relevant tools and analytics frameworks to gain both insights into past and present operations, as well as predictions of future performance.

This spring, 150 students in the on-site cohort formed 36 teams. In the online version of the program, 20 students formed six teams. Students engaged in 22 client projects, utilized two public databases and participated in 18 Kaggle competitions. Kaggle is a platform for predictive modelling and analytics competitions on which companies and researchers post their data and statisticians and data miners from all over the world compete to produce the best models.

The 22 client organizations who provided problems for students to resolve represented the following industry sectors: education, health care, health and fitness, law enforcement, consumer goods, retail, computer software, Internet and electronics.

Some examples of them include:

  • Visualization and forecasting models, to optimize allocation of limited resources
  • Customer loyalty models and customer volume forecasting models, to plan new facilities
  • User behavior analysis, to optimize product features and improve customer engagement
  • Recommendation systems, to improve customer propensity to pay
  • Time-series anomaly detection, to build monitoring and alerting systems
  • Estimating the value of social media engagement, to optimize content marketing strategy
  • Upstream delay prediction, to improve downstream service levels
  • Product segmentation and optimize safety stock, to reduce cost while maintaining service levels
  • Customer lifecycle models, to optimize customer acquisition strategy

M.S. in Information Management

The capstone course in the Master of Science in Information Management program focuses on emerging IT issues. Students in both the onsite and online cohorts gain real-world experience by developing an IT-enabled transformation plan for a business and presenting to industry and academic professionals.

This spring, 30 teams completed projects in a range of industries, including:

  • Commercial banking
  • Individualized education with online delivery
  • Restaurant management and entertainment services
  • Gyms, fitness and spa centers
  • Health care industry, clinics and doctors
  • Aircraft manufacturing
  • Cruise line
  • Software support services for construction
  • Water utility
  • Infrastructure as a service
  • Electric car industry
  • Electric grid
  • Sugar industry
  • Large grocery chains
  • Electric power generation
  • Micro-breweries
  • Coffee shops
  • Managed IT services
  • Commercial airlines
  • Energy power brokers
  • Large hospitals
  • Gambling casinos/hotels
  • Commercial airlines
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Batteries for cars and solar systems
  • Self-moving
  • Paid TV
  • Roadside assistance
  • Electric power public utilities
  • Auto insurance