First and foremost, you should know that R is becoming the industry standard for organizations that rely on complex analytics – and it continues to build momentum. In other words: you need to know what it is, and this post is here to help.
What is R?
R is an open-source and freely available advanced analytics software from The R Project. The beauty of the fact that R is open-sourced is that anyone can develop new features and, as a result, the latest techniques in advanced analytics can be incorporated into the basic R platforms as add-ins. What this means is that R can do just about any type of advanced analytical modeling that you could hope to do, and it’s FREE.
Why use R?
Most who use data regularly at their jobs may balk at the thought of moving their work from the longstanding industry standard Microsoft Excel software to a programing language. The fact is, though, that Microsoft Excel is a programing language, be it an easy to use one. The fact is, Excel remains very useful for simple descriptive statistics, even including some basic multivariate regression with the Analysis Toolpack Add-in. However, for those who want to move beyond the basics and uncover true insight into data, I recommend R. For example, if you want to know which customer features have the largest impact on their likelihood to purchase a product, you use R. I personally moved from Excel to R in college to evaluate the effectiveness of educational subsidies on keeping students in school in Mexico.
Why R is not just for academia anymore…
With R being open-source, some believe their companies will be too hesitant to leave Excel behind for R. If you’re in that boat, you may be surprised to learn that many leading enterprises have already incorporated R into their advanced analytics practices. Bing uses R in its search engine analysis. Google uses R to analyze the effectiveness of online and TV advertising. Zillow and Trulia use it to run their models for predictive real estate analytics. Twitter, Facebook, Firefox, Kraft Foods, American Express, Orbitz, the FDA, Nordstrom, Ford, and many other enterprises already employ R as a means of enhancing advanced analytical modeling including forecasting, geo-mapping, pricing, model simulations, 3D plotting, and topographic maps.
The bottom line
As today’s world demands increasingly complex insights into customer behavior, analysts will increasingly turn from Excel to R. Staying up on R is more than a way to get an edge – it’s becoming a way to keep up with best practices.