Rich Lopez, aka the “QuantrixAuthority”, Creates YouTube Channel for Quantrix Users

We are always amazed and gratified by our customers’ passion for Quantrix Modeler, but Rich Lopez has taken it to the next level. By day, he works in the finance department of Litehouse Foods, but by night he is YouTube star The Quantrix Authority. His series of three- to five-minute-long how-to videos helps others get the most out of using Quantrix’s multidimensional modeling software, from learning how to snap two matrices horizontally to a canvas, to the benefits of using Timeline for recursion in a model.

How did you get started with Quantrix?

I was introduced to Quantrix when I worked at clothing retailer Coldwater Creek. I used it to build an allocation tool to manage inventory at our 350+ stores. When I moved to Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division, a co-worker and I built a distribution model to ensure that we were getting the Xboxes and games shipped properly. It was during some of the really big

Rich Lopez, the Quantrix Authority
Rich Lopez, the Quantrix Authority

Microsoft launches, like Halo 4 and Windows 8, so we build scenarios for everything we had to manage during the holiday season. We were able to model it down to the daily levels. Quantrix saved my bacon at that job – I could not have done what we needed without it. Now I use Quantrix for financial modeling and capacity modeling for Litehouse.

What inspired you to start making video tutorials about Quantrix Modeler?

I leaned a lot about using Excel from a guy on YouTube called MrExcel. Bill Jelen has more than a thousand videos, and I used to watch him every day. I am a pretty advanced Excel user, but I love Quantrix more. After seeing what MrExcel has done, and seeing how his expertise helped me, I thought I could do something similar to help others with this fantastic software.

How do you choose the topics?

My first video was about the first feature I learned in Quantrix – “Using As.” My mentor taught me that when I started at Coldwater Creek, and it’s basic functionality in Quantrix. Some people at my company are struggling to use certain features of our Quantrix Models, so I’m starting to create videos on topics that will help them.

Who are you targeting?

I am pretty much reaching out to beginners and intermediate users. I am very open to questions – after my second video, I got an email from a Quantrix user in the Ukraine. Just this week someone asked me about using DataLink with .csv files, so I made that video. Whenever someone asks me a question, I try to answer it.

How many videos do you plan to make?

MrExcel has more than 1,000 videos and a forum that everyone knows. I have eight videos online now, and if I get to 100, I know I will have really accomplished something.

I’m following you on Twitter. How famous are you?

Ha ha! On a scale of one to ten, I am probably a “one” in real life. But in the Quantrix world, I hope to one day be about an eight! I am having fun with the videos, and with my Twitter account (@QuantrixAuthor). I have legitimate Quantrix users following me, and I feel like I am rubbing shoulders with some real legends. Some of these people are such power users, and they are telling me to keep making videos. Their feedback is so positive, and it’s great.

Final question – what was your “aha” moment using Quantrix?

It happened at Microsoft. I remember being called into a room by eight managers and having them tell me they needed some specific information, and they wanted it in three days. It could not be done in Excel, so we just pounded out a model in Quantrix. I stayed up until two in the morning a couple of nights, but I developed a model where if the managers wanted to add another distribution center, product line, or launch scenario they just could select a category and hit “enter”. That was it. And I realized then and there that Quantrix Modeler was the coolest tool that has ever been made. Quantrix Forever!

Quantrix Offers Collaborative Environment for Essla International

Essla International is a Quantrix partner, and recently started using the business modeling solution to help its clients with budgeting and financial forecasting. At the 2014 Seminar by the Sea, Ernesto Seijas took some time to share his experiences using Quantrix.

The company had several criteria in mind when it was looking for a new software solution, including connectivity to databases, the ability to manage a lot of data, and multidimensional views and found Quantrix to be the best solution.

In addition to meeting everything on the company’s wish list, Quantrix offered a more collaborative environment. “We can have 20, 30, 50 users inputting data – that’s a major difference,” says Seijas. Other benefits include the speed of calculation and reporting.

Seijas also likes Quantrix’s graphical canvas, as it enables him to display what-if scenarios in a dynamic presentation. This capability enhances the impact of Essla’s work, particularly when sharing with management or company boards.

“Quantrix has the best of many of the software [packages] in the market,” says Seijas. “You have the multidimensional approach. You have the data gathering and databases. And you have the reporting and the [fast] calculations.”

Watch the full video Request a Trial

Getting Started with Quantrix – Tips from Quantrix Training Expert Valerie Grenier

New Quantrix users often schedule a training session to get up to speed quickly. While Quantrix offers training and consulting with in-house staff, we also have a network of Quantrix partners that can effectively deliver training and consulting services. One of the most experienced partners is Valerie Grenier. Formerly of Quantrix, and now Senior Consultant at Tesser Consulting Group, Valerie offers insights into how new users can get the most out of their Quantrix modeling solution.

Q: What are the most common things that Quantrix users need help with when first getting started?

Valerie GrenierValerie Grenier: The first piece is obviously getting a grasp of the multidimensional way we think in Quantrix. We are really concerned with structure of the model – items, categories, or groups – and how we use that structure to perform actions collectively on an item, category, or group.  Understanding the relationships between dimensions in the model is essential to creating powerful and efficient models, and to make them work in the best way possible.

Q: What mistakes do people make?

VG: Spreadsheet users are used to thinking in terms of individual cells, so they are constantly trying to do things by clicking in a cell rather than taking the structure into consideration. In Quantrix, everything is a cube, and you want to work on a range of cells – not just one cell.

Once users are comfortable with that, they find adding formulas and formatting to be much easier. Users can write one formula in Quantrix that will calculate a large range of cells, and don’t need to edit it as the model is expanded over time. An understanding of the structure of a model can directly affect how simple or complicated the formulas need to be.

Another mistake that people make is that they create their model based on how they want it to look – that’s because it’s so hard to change things in spreadsheets. But in Quantrix, the first priority should be to structure the formulas so that they are calculating efficiently. For example, people like to create financial reports where a quarterly total is included after every three months. But creating your model that way disrupts the cube – you want to calculate the months one way, the quarter another way, and the annual total a third way. There are a lot of tools to get a model in Quantrix to look the way you want, so people need to focus on efficient calculations.

Q: How can new users get up to speed quickly?

VG: One thing I always tell people is to create a model for something in your everyday life that interests you, such as sports statistics, or tracking a wedding budget. That way, they will get their feet into Quantrix every day. If a model interests them, they are more likely to spend time tweaking it, and they will improve their skills by working on it regularly.

Q: How about formal training?

VG: Formal training can definitely get users there quicker – whether it’s attending a session in-person or online, structured training helps people get further and faster than trying to self teach. I have conducted training for a lot of companies where the first user was self-taught, and he or she schedules formal training for their team before the model is deployed. It never fails — early on in those sessions, the self-taught user says, “I didn’t know that”. An initial investment in training will pay off quickly by helping you get your model built better and quicker.

Q: What features are most important for new users to learn?

VG: New users should master DataLink, Presentation Canvas, and Perspectives. Data Integration and Presentation can take a model from good to fantastic.

Data Link provides a quick, user-friendly way to get data into a model, either from an external data source or another model, without having to manually enter it. If it’s implemented correctly, it’s an easy way to update models and manage data revisions.

The Presentation Canvas allows the modeler to share the output of the model by assembling elements such as data tables, charts, images, and logos. You can use it to make a professional looking report or an interactive dashboard. And Quantrix is developing great technologies to deploy these dashboards to the web via the Quantrix Qloud.

Perspectives is often an overlooked gem in Quantrix. It’s a way to preserve the layout on the screen, and create a systematic workflow. Each matrix and chart in Quantrix is on its own tab, and Perspectives lets you save the arrangement. Let’s say you need a person to work with data in a specific order – you can create a Perspective that they can tab right through. It really enhances the end-user experience of any model.

Q: You’ve traveled all over the world training Quantrix users. Where’s your favorite place?

VG: I like going to new places! Warm weather is preferred.

Tesser Consulting Group offers two- and three-day on-site training packages as well as a rotating catalog of one- and two-hour online training sessions. Many sessions are also available “On Demand”.

Is that Season Pass Worth It? Quantrix for Personal Finance

One thing I love to do with my family is to go Alpine skiing. With Quantrix’s HQ in Maine, we can take advantage of some great ski areas. Each year we make a point to ski Sugarloaf, Mt. Abram, Black Mountain of Maine and Shawnee Peak. I even maintain a personal ski blog about our family skiing adventures. Our favorite mountain and where we have a season pass every year is Saddleback located in Rangeley, Maine.

Quantrix's Mike Salisbury finds some fresh stuff on a bluebird day.
Quantrix’s Mike Salisbury finds some fresh stuff on a bluebird day.

Each year about this time, ski areas offer “Early-Bird” pricing on next year’s season pass. The analysis for buying a season’s pass is very multi-dimensional. There is season pass price, purchase time deadlines, age level of passes, day ticket prices and the question of “How many ski-days does it take to pay off a season pass?” And of course I use Quantrix Modeler and the Quantrix Qloud to do this analysis.

With the first purchase deadline approaching, I put a model together quickly with one formula driving the entire calculation. The model is expandable so when new season pass deadline comes, I can easily expand the dimension, add the new pricing figures and the model will just… work. No formula editing or copying and pasting things around. There is also a nice canvas I built to show the model results that has links to the Saddleback website. I use a picture of my son skiing as the canvas image background.

While we market Quantrix as a tool for business, it certainly has many personal finance applications as well.

– Mike

Mike Salisbury is the Sr. Product Manager for Quantrix. In his free time in the winter you can find him somewhere on a ski slope.

“Best Practices” Approach to Financial Modeling

"Best Practices" Approach to Building Financial Models
“Best Practices” Approach to Building Financial Models

Are you looking for a structured approach that helps you to quickly build high integrity models?  I would imagine so!  Well, Quantrix has developed the Quantrix Modeling Methodology (QMM).  QMM provides a systematic approach to creating models with Quantrix Modeler.  Regardless of skill level or experience with Quantrix, business modelers should consider using a quality process as it will save time and effort when designing models and often increase the utility and impact of models.  The process begins with a simple question and progresses to the new business understanding or insight.  QMM also ensures on-going understanding of the current and forward-looking business environment through the data updating loop (DataLink).

QMM traces its origin to a proven standard process model.  In 1996, an initial committee with representatives from DaimlerChrysler of Germany, SPSS Inc of the US, and NCR Systems Engineering of Denmark began to create a structure to facilitate the immature data mining market.  The committee received funding from the European Commission to further their research and activities and sought input from data warehouse vendors and management consultancies. The committee created the Cross-Industry Standard Process (CRISP) which was intended to be an industry, tool and application-neutral structure to build low-defect data models.  When CRISP 1.0 was released, there were nearly 300 organizations involved in the CRISP special interest group.   Quantrix has employed this structure as a starting point for creating a modeling methodology that conforms with the Quantrix Modeler paradigm.

Click the following link to read more about the Quantrix Modeling Methodology.

I would like to hear about how you build your financial models. Please post your feedback in the Comments section below.

Happy Modeling!


Scenario Planning and Quantrix Modeler

Talking about scenario planning is tricky as it means so many different things in different companies. In many cases, the need for strategic scenario planning is prompted by big changes or potential future changes in the economic environment within which an organization operates. These changes may be due to new competitors and technologies, regulatory constraints, fluctuating commodity prices or funding priorities in the public sector.

In such periods of major change, when the final outcome and effect of the changes are uncertain, the more common methods of forecasting and planning break down, because:

a. historical trends and rates are much less reliable as the basis of forecasting
b. there is so much uncertainty that no one set of assumptions is going to be a certain enough basis on which to plan
c. The organization’s plans need to anticipate a wide range of alternative feasible future circumstances, to ensure that it is not blind-sided by events and can survive and prosper, irrespective of the final circumstances

For some organizations and industries, such conditions only occur at certain times in their lives, so much of the time they may not really need scenario planning and can plan on historic trends and rates and use a bit of “what-iffing” in their budgets and 3 year plans. In other industries, for example in Oil&Gas and Telecomms, the huge impact and unpredictability of oil price in one case and competitors’ technological innovations in the other, mean that these companies should probably benefit from doing full scenario-based planning routinely.

The value of Quantrix Modeler within scenario-based planning is due to its ability to easily vary driver/assumption values, but also because structural changes, that may be anticipated by different scenarios, are also so much easier to make than with spreadsheet models.

John Taylor
Planning Models Ltd.