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Commodity Classic Recap

Earlier this month, SIGMA team members Gregg Sullivan, COO and Mallory Tabolt, Senior Account Manager traveled to Orlando, FL for Commodity Classic 2019. Commodity Classic is the largest farm-focused trade show in the U.S. and hosts thousands of visitors seeking new technology, equipment and the opportunity to meet with vendors and partners.

Over the three days that our team members attended the show they were able to attend learning sessions at the Commodity Classic Main Stage, meet with clients and partners, attend the American Soybean Association (ASA) Awards Banquet and check out the new innovations that the Ag Industry has in store for the upcoming year.

After sitting at the ASA Awards Banquet on Friday night, Gregg said, “I feel honored to be a part of such a strong community. From presenters, to honorees, to the work that brought us all together, it is clear this is a group of people across hundreds of businesses who all agree that the most important thing to their success is to value and support each other, innovation, and high quality work.”

5 Takeaways from Commodity Classic:

1. Attendees travel from all over the U.S.

Commodity Classic attracts visitors from all over the U.S. including those from SIGMA’s own Rochester, NY. One local Western NY attendee was a panelist during our favorite learning session of the week, “Plugging into the Power of Your Regional Cover Crop Council.” Donn Branton, a farmer from Le Roy, NY and board member on the Northeast Cover Crop Council shared his experience with cover crops and their benefits, giving examples of techniques he has used to help promote soil health and increased yield.

2. It’s a great place for one-on-one conversations with partners

Our client, FMC hosted an after the show happy hour for attendees and partners to promote their new product Lucento™ fungicide. The SIGMA team spent this time meeting with clients and finding out how we can more effectively work together in 2019 to provide valuable data and insights for use in marketing and overall decision-making.

3. It’s not just about the technology and equipment

The educational session that seemed to attract the largest group of attendees wasn’t about technology, innovation or equipment, it was about farming as a family business. Consultant and Farmer Jolene Brown gave a humorous and informative presentation on the valuable lessons she has learned from working with farming families and the difficult decisions that come with running a family business.

4. ASA Awards Banquet

FMC was one of the premier sponsors of the American Soybean Association Awards Banquet where soybean growers, volunteers and leaders throughout the country are recognized.

5. Orlando in the winter is amazing

When you’re used to winter in the Northeast, Orlando is a welcomed break at the end of February. When our team wasn’t at the show, they were able enjoy Orlando’s warm weather and some of the best key lime pie around.

2018 – Our Year in Review

2018 was a powerful year for SIGMA, rich in growth and full of promise for the future. As we look toward 2019 I think it’s beneficial to examine where our business developed successfully and look at our three salient areas of growth: Ag Space, Digital Expertise, Talent Acquisition. It was a pivotal year for SIGMA and our future as a leader in this business.

Minneapolis, MN – The location of the Fall National Agri-Marketing Association Conference

The year started with an exciting task for SIGMA which required our team to work closely with FMC after it acquired a portion of DuPont’s Crop Protection business. The acquisition brought on a number of new products and a significant amount of new data that we were more than willing to help manage. During this process, our team was invited to attend FMC’s U.S. Integration Team Meeting in Phoenix, AZ where we got to meet and introduce our team and services to the new FMC staff and hear about the exciting future of FMC.

2018 also marked our continued growth in the Ag Space as we began providing database and analytics support for a company with a of diverse portfolio of agricultural products. In addition, members of our team attended The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) spring conference and fall conferences in Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis, MN.

Sue, Adam, Paul and Mallory visiting The Henry Ford Museum’s “Rosa Park’s Bus” in Detroit, MI

Beyond Ag, we saw our expertise expand in the digital marketing space. Our Data Scientists worked to profile and segment audiences that helped inform our digital team on suggestions for targeting display and social media marketing for The Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit Metro Area and we worked closely with a local Rochester agency to develop a centralized dashboard for reporting digital analytics. Our team also conceptualized and deployed a successful customer win-back email campaign for a large media provider. Throughout the year we explored our in-house digital capabilities and decided to create our own digital marketing division, “Digital at SIGMA.”

SIGMA’s Ben (Center Right) and Gregg (Far Right) with Randall Lippincot of AAA (Far Left) and Brett Conley (Center Left) of Gallagher Affinity after a golf outing

Other 2018 projects included building dashboards and providing insights to our clients like AAA MidAtlantic and Carestream Dental on member renewal reporting, budget forecasting and customer acquisition and retention.

All of this incredible growth prompted us to hire new talent. In April, Julia Mezzoprete, a 2018 graduate of John Carroll. In June, Teddy Malone, a 2018 from Boston College. Maureen Martin, a gifted developer, joined us to strengthen the IT foundation of SIGMA. And at the close of 2018, SIGMA hired Megan Salocks, formerly of the Smithsonian Institute, to join our team and share her Digital Knowledge.

Meg, along with Teddy, will spearhead “Digital at SIGMA,” allowing us to offer full digital capability along side data strategy. This initiative is a primary focus of 2019 and we hope to penetrate more markets and attract new businesses with these offerings.

SIGMA’s Paul and Gregg met up at the Seneca Park Zoo’s “Zoo Brew”! Seneca Park Zoo was a new client late in 2018

Finally, I am pleased to announce that I have taken the role of Chief Operating Officer at SIGMA. In taking on this responsibility, I will continue to guide our talented team toward success, and create a culture of inspired workers as well as insure efficiency and client delivery.

We are setting our expectations high for 2019. Many thanks to 2018 for setting such a wonderful stage.

5 Takeaways from Tableau

In October, SIGMA Data Scientist, Adam Smith attended Tableau’s coveted conference in New Orleans. Today he shares his biggest takeaways:

1. Mobile is now

One theme across many conference sessions included the importance of creating dashboards that work across screen sizes: desktop, tablet, and mobile. Fortunately, Tableau has a Dashboard Layout tool that allows you to create multiple versions of the same dashboard to optimize the display on different device sizes. Coming in 2019, there will be a default mobile view so that even if a dashboard never had a mobile version created, it will automatically transform into a mobile friendly view. This not only helps with older views but can make it faster to create custom mobile dashboards for your new projects.

2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is next

Tableau’s mission is to help people see and understand data, but when they say people, they don’t just mean data scientists and spreadsheet wizards, they mean everyone. Even if you’re the type of person who thinks pie chart sounds like a tasty snack, they want to help you. An upcoming version of Tableau will have NLP built right in. This means you can write questions in English like “What are our sales in Q3 2018?” and Tableau will return the data in the best visualization. From there you can add additional text like “in the northeast region” to filter and drill-down or adjust it with the standard Tableau tools.

3. Interactive is best

I was reminded again that we need to make sure our SIGMA dashboards are interactive, flexible, and easy to use. It’s simple to put together a few charts, add a few filters and think you have a great dashboard, but it’s important to put yourself in the end user’s shoes and see what happens when you click on a bar chart (filter actions) and think “how can I make this dashboard work for a lot of people at once (parameters)?”

Here is a dashboard SIGMA created for SIGMA. It outlines work hours for each week and identifies when it gets off balance.

Of course you want to get feedback from your end user, but they may not know how to articulate their experience when it comes to options for interactivity.  Consider giving your dashboard to a colleague who is familiar with Tableau without telling them much about it to get feedback not only about interactivity, but anything else they may notice.  Looking at a dashboard with fresh eyes can help you really make it shine.

4. Who is this dashboard for?

Amid all the deeply technical sessions that I attend, I always try to make room for at least one session on soft skills.  Last year that was Design with the user in mind.  This year I checked out Start at the beginning | Gathering requirements for dream dashboards.  The presenter had lots of great ideas for making sure you’re building what your end user really wants.  Here are my top takeaways:

  1. Find the end user – Make sure you find who will really use your dashboard. Ask them open-ended questions about what they are trying to accomplish.
  2. Do it in their style – Use colors and chart types that work well for them.
  3. 3 x 1 rule – For every three things we do for our audience, we can do one thing for ourselves.
  4. Easter eggs – Put in something that will surprise and wow the user.

5. Fun!

There are hundreds of breakout sessions at Tableau, not to mention the hands-on training, Tableau Doctor, and insightful conversations in the hallways with fellow attendees. But it’s not all work and no play for attendees.  There’s plenty of fun to be had at receptions, mixers, and happy hours, and that’s even before you check out the jazz clubs on Bourbon Street! That is all just prologue to the last night of the conference and the party with 17,000 data nerds: Data Night Out.  This year it was at the Superdome.  We ran out onto the field where the Saints play each Sunday and had a huge, nerdy party.

The Tableau Conference is a great way to stay on top of what’s new and next at Tableau.  If you weren’t able to attend, but would like to learn more, many sessions were recorded and are available for free on the Tableau Conference website. And if you’re really excited, it’s not too early to sign up for 2019 when Tableau Conference returns to Las Vegas.