Big data is a must-have in today’s workforce

Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 1am

As more companies look to incorporate big data into their business strategy, the more we find its inclusion, within data science, and in the MBA curriculum. While much has been said of the need for skillsets offered by STEM subjects, there’s also a demand for data-savvy managers.

Big data is becoming the standard in business, including functional areas from finance and operations to marketing – areas that have been fundamentally transformed by developments in big data.

One of the reasons more businesses are embracing big data is because data-driven decision-making results in bigger profits. “Organizations have discovered that data-driven decision making has become more profitable. The research has come out in recent years to support this and it’s a trend that companies are adopting,” explains Rick Watson, a management information systems (MIS) professor at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

The explosive growth of the internet, and the proliferation of smart devices, cameras, microphones, sensors, RFIDs and so on, has led to the tremendous growth and affordable, easy access to large quantities of fast-moving, unstructured datasets, commonly referred to as big data. Aided by the data and a host of new technologies, managers are able to glean strategic, tactical and operational insights that yield quicker and more effective business decisions,” states Ashok Charan, associate professor in marketing at NUS Business School.

Students are expected to have enough data science knowledge to be able to incorporate it into their business strategy and know how to manage teams of data scientists to enhance corporate capabilities. This includes all aspects of decision making, statistical techniques and how to make inferences based on the data in their possession.

Several initiatives focused on staying ahead of big data initiatives are in place in order to better prepare students for the workforce. One of these is the Business Analytics Center (BAC), the product of a collaboration between IBM and NUS’s business and computing schools. BAC offers the university’s MSBA program which Charan says has become, “hugely popular,” since its launch three years ago.

MBAs with this invaluable skillset get jobs that involve data analysis because there’s a high demand for employees with analytics where students are best placed to solving real business problems. At NUS, the MSBA graduates are the ones who land jobs which directly involve data analytics, but most of the business school’s management students will work in jobs where it is important to have a general understanding of analytics.

Companies like Google are paying attention to this data, for the simple reason that the quality of environment and culture a company can offer has emerged as a point of competition for the most talented hires.

While IBM, Coursera and Microsoft offer data analytics programs designed for data scientists, the real challenge will be finding data-savvy managers. According to Gregory LeBlanc – lecturer at Berkeley-Haas. “The real bottleneck going forward will be in data-savvy managers. That’s where the real premium is going to be. If you’re a data-savvy manager, you’ll be able to add so much more to the organization than someone who only has general management skills,”. General management skills are still important, however, since data-savvy managers need to redesign the culture of an organization in order to embed big data into what he refer to as the, “corporate DNA.”

One MBA who is using his business school education to become a data-savvy manager is Jason Lars Bergquist, a part-time MBA student at Berkeley-Haas who works full time in the customer experience group of video game company. Bergquist currently uses analytics at his job to identify customers’ usage patterns and the monetization aspects within EA’s games. He is working with the company’s customer-service group to draw conclusions about customer sentiments, such as where they are having pain points. The information gleaned from this data analysis will be used to improve the gaming experience for EA’s customers.

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