Big data has driven new career prospects and given companies a competitive advantage. Now it is getting a masters treatment at the world’s top business schools, which are partnering with big business to deliver an education in innovation.
McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business in North America became the latest to bank on data, with the launch of a new Executive MBA degree focused on big data and strategy.
DeGroote is partnering with computer technology giant IBM, Canada’s fifth largest chartered bank by deposits CIBC, and sports media company theScore to bridge the gap between data analysis and corporate strategy.
This EMBA in Digital Transformation, mooted as the first of its kind in the world, will be taught in Canada and in tech innovation centre Silicon Valley in California.
DeGroote hopes to position students to further their careers as mid and senior level executives in companies that see the value-creating potential associated with digitally-driven innovations, tech and big data insights.
Len Waverman, dean of DeGroote School of Business, said the university wants to ensure its graduates have the skills and abilities to manage effectively in the 21st century.
The EMBA will rely on industry partners to help guide the curriculum and provide experts for classroom teaching.
Sal Vella, vice president of cloud foundational services at IBM, said big data is organizations’ newest and most valuable natural resource. “Enterprises across all industries are under increased pressure to extract new insights from the explosion of available data,” he said.
“Critical to that effort is the development of business leaders who are skilled in analytics.”
Business schools believe data analysis skills will be essential for the modern international manager, a view shared big corporations.
Brian O’Donnell, chief data officer at CIBC, said that the financial services group’s goal is to contribute to the development of a new crop of digitally-literate managers.
“Creating leaders that have the ability to translate data into strategy, ideas and actual solutions that benefit clients will be an even more important asset for companies like CIBC in the future,” he added.
Last month Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business announced a new business analytics concentration in its MBA, which will cover analytical techniques and tools that can help managers leverage information to improve decision making.
Professor Vinod Singhal, associate dean of MBA programs, said that the MBA will develop innovative leaders who know “how to spot emerging trends in the global market and leverage technology for competitive advantage”.
Many top business schools across the globe have launched specialist masters degrees in business analytics, in response to student and recruitment demand for big data offerings.
London’s Imperial College Business School recently announced a new MSc in Business Analytics, after receiving a £20 million investment from professional services firm KPMG to establish an analytics research centre in the UK. As well as KPMG, Deloitte has invested heavily in analytics and is hiring aggressively for its digital consulting practice.
Kalyan Talluri, director of the course, said that analytics is now a necessary part of business education. “All businesses are affected by the new surge in data and are scrambling to take advantage of it and make sense of it,” he added.
Australia’s Melbourne Business School began teaching a Master of Business Analytics program last month. The reason for launching now is the urgent need among businesses for well-trained analytics professionals, said Jennifer George, program director.
“Most executives are aware of this but are also conscious that they and their organizations are on a steep learning curve. This is fuelling a lot of interest in business analytics,” she added.
Many of these courses are clustered in the US. USC Marshall School of Business in California runs a Master of Science in Business Analytics program, along with NYU Stern’s MS in Business Analytics course which is based in New York.
Stern’s inaugural class in 2013 attracted students from a wide range of industries, from healthcare to manufacturing and venture capital, said Roy Lee, assistant dean of global degree programs.
Demand has been insatiable. “For both years, we filled a maximum class of 60, and for both we closed out the admissions cycle a month and half early, with a waiting list for the following year,” added Roy.
It is much the same among recruiters, according to Jennifer Whitten, director of career services for the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which runs a Masters in Business Analytics.
She said: “There is an increasing demand for business students with analytical talent. Almost every industry is involved in trying to understand data across organizations.
“They are all looking for talent that has the technical and business savvy to understand, interpret and effectively communicate how data can drive decision-making.”
Other high-ranking business schools say privately that they are in the process of developing courses in big data, but declined to comment publically.
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