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Skills Gaps Drive Demand For Data Analytics Courses At Business Schools

Employers want leaders to work with data scientists to turn insight into action

By  Seb Murray

Mon Oct 23 2017

Data and analytics are rapidly redefining and transforming almost every industry, from healthcare and manufacturing to marketing and finance. At a time when the demand for data scientists and engineers will grow 39% by 2020, employers are seeking out leaders who can effectively work with technologists to ask the right questions and apply the insight to solve business problems.

It will come as no shock, then, that business schools are launching more programs to equip graduates with the skills they need to succeed. Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, for example, last week launched a nine-month program which provides recent college graduates with advanced data management, analytical and communication skills. 

“We are observing significant demand by employers for these pre-experience programs, which focus on combining technical training with strong professional skills,” says Susan Christoffersen, vice-dean of specialized programs at the business school.

Developed in consultation with analytical professionals, Rotman’s Master of Management Analytics (MMA) course combines training in the use of predictive and prescriptive analytical tools, which can be used to solve managerial problems. Students will be exposed to the latest developments in big data, machine learning, cybersecurity, and deep learning. They will develop high-level communication and interpersonal skills, as well as data visualization techniques — needed to help students not only interpret data but present it in a form which is easy to interpret and explain.

Rotman is far from the only school launching an analytics program. Harvard Business School recently rolled out an online certificate in the subject. It is designed for experienced professionals, including MBAs, who wish to expand their knowledge and capabilities in data analytics. Upon completion, students will have a foundational understanding of quantitative analysis and data science, and will be able to apply the knowledge to solve a range of complex business problems.

“We are in the midst of a secular shift in the economy, where transactions are being digitized and generating more data, making it critical that companies recruit business leaders who are both analytics-savvy and understand how to deploy these new capabilities to drive strategic advantage,” says Karim Lakhani, co-founder of the HBS Digital Initiative. 

David Parkes, co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, adds that the partnership, across Harvard's various schools, reflects the need for integrated thinking in enabling data-driven decision making.

Meanwhile, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business said last month it plans to create a new MBA certificate in “Management Science and Technology Management”. The certificate adds to Duke Fuqua’s other efforts in data science; last year it created Master of Quantitative Management program. The standalone degree format is popular. Last year, MIT Sloan School of Management launched a master of business analytics degree, and other schools — including NYU Stern School of Business — offer specialist data science courses.

With demand for data-savvy managerial talent set to grow, more schools will likely create such programs. 

“We were hearing from companies that there was a skills gap between being able to identify insights from big data and translating that information into business functions,” says Duke Fuqua dean Bill Boulding. “This was a no-brainer for us in leveraging our faculty’s strengths to train analysts in how to use and communicate data to influence decision-making.”