Jun 29, 2021 Data Product Development is a Team Sport at MBUSA
To evolve as an organization, we must embrace new technologies and methodologies, shifting our focus to a digital future while maintaining a product-focused mindset that ensures that we perform like a luxury brand every day. The Remarketing Pricing and Stock Management team, led by Julio Ortiz, is one group already making the leap to a digital future and cementing their status as a leader in luxury. The Remarketing Pricing and Stock Management team leads the strategic initiative of managing and ensuring timely sales of the company’s portfolio of lease return vehicles across multiple sales channels, aiming for harmony in the wholesale market’s supply and demand environment. MBUSA’s remarketing throughput represents 150k to 200k vehicle wholesales a year, totaling anywhere from $5B to $7B annually.
Mark Sluscavage, a member of Julio’s team, approached the Data Insights team with an idea of taking their existing volume planning process, which relied heavily upon managing large amounts of data across multiple spreadsheets and reports, many of which had known deficiencies in accuracy, and modernizing it using predictive analytics and machine learning. The primary business value coming out of this modernization was threefold:
- Provide better forecasts and transparency of lease returns, sales, and inventory in an easily accessible user interface via Power BI dashboards
- Reduce expenditures related to maintaining lease returned vehicles in MBUSA inventory by providing targeted volume management strategies of the lease return vehicles across various sales channels
- Additional strategies would be derived from above value components, trickling down ancillary impacts on the team and enterprise, assisting in things such as pricing, programs, and fixed operation optimization
To start this process, the data product development team planned to build three separate machine learning algorithms aimed at forecasting lease returns, sales and inventory, respectively. Before building these models, though, they had to obtain the necessary data from colleagues at MBFS, which had access to lease contracts and the associated data.
Like any great journey, procuring data from MBFS hit roadblocks, but thanks to the tireless efforts by Mark and Umesh Misra from the Data Insights team, all hurdles were cleared. With the data in hand, Umesh worked diligently with Mark to understand the underlying business logic required to prepare the raw data into a format that could be used in the predictive analytics efforts. Members of the Data Insights team, along with help from a third-party party vendor, worked together to develop the algorithms and predictions necessary to make informed decision support tools for the business.
After working with the third-party vendor for a couple of months at breakneck speed, they reached a point where they could evaluate the efficacy of the data products aimed at forecasting the lease returns, sales and inventory. Luckily, right around this time, the Remarketing team brought on their own staff data scientist Brandon Clark. Brandon proved to be a vital lynch pin between the Remarketing and Data Insights team, helping to establish the necessary business logic, along with his supervisor Mark Rudell, to hammer out any final bugs in the code and ‘define done’ as it related to product development. As a result, product development moved from the discovery phase to product delivery.
Given their existing proficiency in data visualization, Mark and Brandon used the outputs from the predictive models to build Power BI dashboards to slice and dice the data into digestible chunks and inform their business process.
The entire product development lifecycle would not have been possible without the continued collaborative efforts of all those involved, starting at the top with Al Katz, Julio Ortiz, Chris Koeszegi and Rose Kwon and moving down to the cross-functional development team of Mark Rudell, Mark Sluscavage, Brandon Clark, Umesh Misra and Curtis Burkhalter. This product represents a starting point of the organizational change of shifting to a product mindset, and it speaks clearly to the value MBUSA employees bring when they work together across functional areas such as IT and business units to solve hard problems.
The Remarketing team, after completing product development for lease returns, sales and inventory, is now evaluating their departmental strategy of where to go next.