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Data Analytics Masters Programs Multiply As Firms Face Skills Crunch

New generation of business analytics programs fuelled by relentless demand for data analysis skills.

By  Seb Murray

Tue Jul 21 2015

Big data has been breaking into MBA courses everywhere but a new generation of specialist masters programs dedicated to business analytics have emerged, fuelled by a relentless rise in demand for data analysis.  

Stripping out some core modules to focus on data, a host of top business schools have established programs for the age of machine intelligence. NYU Stern, USC Marshall and Melbourne have all launched data degrees. Scores more, including Chicago Booth, HEC Paris, and Berkeley’s Haas School are mining data within their MBA programs, as firms look to unlock value with analytics.

“The demand for analytics-driven outcomes continues to increase,” says Prith Banerjee, managing director of global technology R&D at Accenture, in an interview with BusinessBecause.

Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, says: “Companies are increasingly data-driven and there is a vast need for professionals who are able to analyse that data and translate it into meaningful business outcomes.”

Rady School this week become the latest high-ranking business school to launch a masters in business analytics. The program will focus specifically on the application of analytics in business environments, and on topics such as consumer data and the supply chain.

“Students will graduate knowing how to positively impact a businesses’ bottom line — and sustain it,” Robert says.

Business schools say students are desperate to hone their analytical skills. “We are seeing especially strong interest,” says Kalyan Talluri, director of the MSc Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School.

But the rise of new program launches is also being driven by business. There is a dearth of talent at all levels, with KPMG reporting this month that only 14% of companies have all the talent and capabilities they need to fully leverage data and analytics (D&A).

“In the last two years we’ve seen a tremendous increase in D&A adoption and maturity,” says Christian Rast, KPMG global head of data and analytics. “Yet, we also know that business leaders face some critical challenges in realizing the full value of their data insights in the areas of revenue growth, serving customers and overall competitive advantage.”

José Casado, academic director of IE Business School’s Master in Business Analytics and Big Data, says there is a real need in the market to hire experts in the field who can lead change processes.

“Big data analysis is one of the main technological engines that are transforming today’s business organizations,” he says.

Online programs have emerged, allowing managers to master the art of analytics from the office or armchair. Indiana’s Kelley School of Business and Arizona’s W. P. Carey School offer analytics courses online, Carey’s just six months long.

“Those who take this certificate program will be able to contribute to the new culture of evidence-based decision making,” says Dawn Feldman, executive director of executive education at W. P. Carey School. “This will really help managers, marketers and others who regularly interact with data scientists.”

Demand for programs to address the worrying skills gap is being met not just by traditional educational institutions but disruptive new online players.

“Much of demand is driven by people who are already out of school. They are in the workforce,” says Julia Stiglitz, head of business development at Coursera, an online learning group with 14 million users which offers data science courses.

Arne Strauss, associate professor of operational research at Warwick Business School, says there is an increasing number of degree programs offered on analytics by educational institutes, but that they tend to focus on technical aspects.

The crucial skill, he says, is how to translate this into business insight: “Great technology and methodology does not help if the understanding of how to apply it to the business is flawed.”