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5 Lessons In Big Data Decision-Making From A Business Analytics Expert

Senior lecturer Neumann Chew from Nanyang Business School shares some important insights to remember when working with big data and Analytics to make better decisions


Fri Mar 5 2021


Today’s organizations have more data at their fingertips than ever before. By 2025, the amount of data generated each day will reach 463 exabytes, the World Economic Forum predicts. 

With the right analytical techniques, this explosion of big data presents some exciting opportunities to solve business problems—whether that’s recommending products based on consumer habits, or using traffic data to plan efficient delivery routes. 

“What we’re seeing today is a growing number of organizations who are keen to use data to make predictions—and more informed decisions,” says Mr Neumann Chew, senior lecturer at Nanyang Business School (NBS), part of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. 

Neumann is faculty advisor and teaches in the new MSc in Business Analytics program at NBS, which aims to equip students with the skills they need to successfully work with large quantities of data.

Here, Neumann shares five key lessons in data driven decision-making that leaders in our digitized world should know about.

1. Define the business problem

It might sound counterintuitive, but the most effective data-driven strategies do not start with data itself.

Instead, Neumann says, you should clearly define a problem or goal before working out what data could be helpful.

“I always emphasize that in my classes: don’t forget the main business problem,” he says. 

Neumann himself used this approach consulting for a Singapore bank that wanted to reduce queueing time and cash shortages at its ATMs. Neumann and his team defined a clear goal—predicting when each machine would run out of cash—before diving into the bank’s data to build a predictive model.

“This project saved the bank several million dollars every year by making their cash deliveries more targeted and efficient,” he recalls. 

Another textbook example is Netflix. For the now-ubiquitous streaming platform, one initial challenge was competing with physical stores that interacted with customers directly to give one to one movie recommendations.

The company’s response was to develop a recommendation algorithm—based on viewer profile and movie ratings—that would keep customers coming back. It worked: as of 2020, Netflix had over 195 million paid subscribers worldwide.


2. Know the subjective elements in big data and analytics

Although data can be leveraged to make accurate predictions, it’s important that business leaders understand its limitations.

Neumann is careful to demonstrate this point to his MSc in Business Analytics students, using an effective hands-on exercise. 

He presents the class with a set of data connected to a gender discrimination lawsuit, asking one group of students to consult for the ‘plaintiff,’ the other group to consult for the ‘defense.’

“Both groups come up with ways to analyze the data that shows they are right,” Neumann observes. “This demonstrates how data and analytics can be subject to interpretation.” 

3. Recognize and manage real world imperfect data

In the real world, data can be messy, Neumann says. ‘Dirty’ data includes errors, inconsistencies, and duplicates that lead to flawed results, and decisions, when analyzed.

To help MSc in Business Analytics students prepare for success in this environment, the program includes a Data Practicum module where students would have the option to either carry out the Practicum with a sponsoring company, or work on an industrial project led by a faculty.

“The module helps students see how unclean data can be in the real world compared to in a text book,” says Neumann. 

This experience also challenges students to work with problems that are sometimes not well-defined and codify them.

“Overall, it adds a wonderful real-world dimension to what students learn in class, so they’re better prepared for their future career,” says Neumann.


4. Telling a Story using Data

To successfully solve business problems with data, hard analytical skills are a must-have, Neumann notes. But in order to communicate your strategies to decision makers, communication skills are also necessary.

“You need to be able to speak convincingly, and build a bridge between programmers, data scientists and business stakeholders,” Neumann says. 

To add value to their analysis, it is important that students can tie business drivers to their analysis. Increasingly, students need to be able to tell a story with the numbers they have; explaining cause and effect based on them. These analyses help stakeholders be better equipped making data-driven decisions.

In the MSc in Business Analytics at NBS, Neumann ensures that students are equipped with these skills. Working in teams and delivering presentations both in and out the classroom helps students develop strong communication strategies, for instance. 

5. Identify your data analytics skills gap

According to the World Economic Forum, the digital skills gap is widening. In the coming years, the strong demand for workers with experience in data science will only grow.

With government incentives and promising results on offer, a growing number of companies want to launch data projects in AI and machine learning, Neumann says.

“But they’re suddenly realizing they don’t have enough employees with the right skills.” 

“This is driving demand for employees with experience or training in working with data,” adds Ivy Kwan, associate professor and assistant dean of career services at NBS.

Graduates who can tell stories with data are typically invited to more interviews and have been more successful in securing internships and jobs, she adds.

Neumann is confident the MSc in Business Analytics will give students a strong head start in their careers. Applicants need not have work experience or a quantitative educational background to qualify for admission to the program.

Since data driven decision making is here to stay, leaders who understand how to harness it—and communicate their findings—are poised to make effective choices. 

Student Reviews

Nanyang Business School




Good campus life and extra-curricular activities

This is a great place to learn and interact with more like-minded people. The campus is something that stands out to me. The infrastructure is great and the university is very well-built. There is lots to do on the high campus, from a large number of eating joints to the numerous clubs and sports activities. I also quite like Singapore as a country, as there is so much to do around not very far from campus. The educational facilities are extremely good, there are lots of opportunities to take on research projects and do industrial projects, which I really enjoy. The only thing I dislike about NTU is that the number of international students is really low and I would like to see a larger international intake in the future. Definitely recommend for the amazing educational facilities and on-campus social life.




An international campus that provided diverse choices for students

It's a beautiful campus with a high degree of internationality, providing diverse choices for students in terms of research opportunities and career consultation. Also, scholars are knowledgable and very inspiring, and are good at motivating the thinking of students.




Great University

In overall, the university has met my expectations with its wonderful lectures and research staff. However, there are some issues with the administrative side, i.e. administration may give you different answers on the same question. Also, the university’s website often provides outdated information and it takes time to get what you need; perhaps there is not enough people for managing it.




Good resources

I would recommend. Good resources for research. Knowledgeable professors and instructors. Conducive environment for studying and doing assignments. Helpful staff and faculty. Food options are good. An overall good place to study.




On Campus

inefficient communication and lack of transparency

The administrative team at the university is slow to respond and is often inadequate in their responses and solutions. The uni is also unclear and resistant to explain their actions and motivations when carrying out policies or when questioned




On Campus

Formative experience for success

NTU prioritizes giving students ample time for independent research. The academic schedule consists of 6–7 weeks of study, followed by a week without classes, allowing students to catch up on any material they may have missed. This is succeeded by another 6–7 weeks of study, culminating in a week dedicated to final exam preparation and exams. The curriculum is designed to be student-friendly, minimizing burdens such as excessive assignments, projects, exams, quizzes, and attendance requirements. This approach affords students the freedom to pursue personal interests and self-development. In my experience, each of the four courses I took had a comparable workload, typically comprising 2 assignments, 3 easy labs, 2–3 quizzes (some without), and 1 final exam. In contrast, comparable courses at other universities often entail significantly heavier workloads, including 3 homework assignments, 5 projects, 5–6 pop-up quizzes, mandatory attendance, 2 midterms, and 1 final exam. Moreover, each project typically demands 3–4 days of work. It is hard work, but it pays off.




On Campus

Academic atmosphere

Nanyang Technological University offers a vibrant academic atmosphere that fosters innovation and excellence. The strong emphasis on research and practical learning equips students with real-world skills. Positives include access to state-of-the-art facilities, collaborative projects, and a diverse student body. However, the competitive environment can be intense, leading to high stress levels. NTU's academic atmosphere encourages growth but requires resilience to thrive.




On Campus

Diverse professors

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I have been extremely impressed with the quality of education I have received. The professors are knowledgeable, approachable, and passionate about their subjects, which makes learning engaging and enjoyable. The teaching styles vary from lecture-based to interactive discussions and group projects, providing a well-rounded learning experience. The use of technology in the classrooms also enhances our understanding of the course material. One of the things I love about NTU is the diversity on campus. Not only are there students from all over the world, but the professors also come from various backgrounds, making the learning environment truly global. English is the main language spoken on campus, which makes it easy for international students to feel at home. In terms of examinations and coursework, the workload can be challenging at times, but the support from professors and classmates makes it manageable. The exams are fair and assess our understanding of the material effectively.




On Campus

Video lectures

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I am extremely impressed with the transportation options available on campus. The buses and shuttles make it easy to get around the huge campus. The beautifully landscaped garden campus adds a peaceful and scenic vibe to studying. The facilities, from the state-of-the-art labs to the comfortable study spaces, are top-notch. The video lectures are a convenient and effective way to supplement classroom learning.




On Campus

Focus on science

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) excels in its focus on engineering and science degrees. The curriculum is robust, integrating theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Professors are industry experts, providing invaluable insights. State-of-the-art facilities enhance learning experiences. Opportunities for research and internships abound, fostering innovation and professional growth. NTU's emphasis on cutting-edge technology prepares students for real-world challenges. NTU's commitment to engineering and science education is unparalleled, shaping tomorrow's leaders in these fields.





great canteens

While at Nanyang Technological University, I can confidently say that the quality of education here is excellent. The professors are knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, and the curriculum is challenging yet rewarding. The campus itself is green and natural, providing a peaceful and inspiring environment for learning. The canteens offer a wide variety of delicious and affordable food options, catering to different dietary preferences. From local delights to international cuisines, there is something for everyone. The student housing facilities are also well-maintained and comfortable, providing a home away from home for students. NTU's reputation as a top-ranked university is well-deserved, with cutting-edge research and a strong emphasis on innovation.




On Campus

high quality education

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a top-notch educational institution that offers a wide range of programs and opportunities for students. The campus is well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, and the faculty members are highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields. As a student at NTU, I have had a positive experience so far. The university provides a conducive learning environment and encourages students to think critically and creatively. The campus is vibrant and diverse, with a strong sense of community among students and staff. I would definitely recommend NTU to prospective students looking for a high-quality education in a supportive and stimulating environment. The opportunities for research, internships, and extracurricular activities are plentiful, and the university is committed to providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for future success.




On Campus

Student experience

As a student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the experience is vibrant and enriching. Surrounded by lush greenery, the campus offers a serene environment for studying and relaxation. While parties and nightlife options are available, the focus leans more towards academic pursuits. The campus buzzes with activities, clubs, and events, catering to diverse interests. However, the tuition cost is competitive, offering value for the exceptional education and resources provided. I recommend my university




On Campus

High quality of life

As a student at Nanyang Technological University, I'm thoroughly impressed with the quality of education. The faculty is highly knowledgeable and supportive, fostering an engaging learning environment. Tuition fees are reasonable for the value provided. The campus food options are diverse and delicious, catering to various dietary preferences. The transport system is efficient, with easy access to public transportation. NTU offers a high quality of life, combining academic excellence with a vibrant campus culture.




On Campus

good value for money

At Nanyang Technological University, I find the tuition fees reasonable considering the quality of education and resources provided. The university offers diverse programs, experienced faculty, modern facilities, and opportunities for research and internships. While tuition costs are substantial, the value for money is evident in the comprehensive learning experience and the potential for career advancement. NTU delivers on its promise of excellence, making it a worthwhile investment in one's future.




On Campus

Educational experience

I am a student at Nanyang Technological University and I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of my program. The lectures are engaging, delivered by knowledgeable professors who make complex concepts easy to understand. The classroom setup is modern and conducive to learning, with interactive technology enhancing the educational experience. Exams are challenging yet fair, testing our understanding and critical thinking skills effectively. In my leisure time, I appreciate the vibrant campus life, with a variety of clubs, events, and facilities to explore, fostering a well-rounded university experience.