Tracey McClurg of UWA Business School said that there are now more opportunities for MBA students in the data field, with firms hiring for positions such as director of customer analytics and business insight manager.
Technology research group Gartner estimates that 85% of Fortune 500 companies will be unable to exploit their big data to get an edge over competitors through 2015. This is driving up employment demand in sectors including management consulting, financial services and in the insurance market.
In an interview with BusinessBecause, Tracey signalled out the IT industry as particularly strong in recruitment for big data professionals: “Globally there is increasingly a trend across the IT sector to hire MBA graduates with business experience within analytical roles,” she said.
She added that demand is rising in Australia and she anticipates further growth in years to come. Her views are echoed by numerous careers departments at top business schools.
2015 research by international business school INSEAD found that “knowledge workers” are being significantly affected by the changes that technology is setting in motion.
Bruno Lanvin, executive director of global indices at INSEAD and co-author of the research – which was released in its annual Global Talent Competitiveness Index – said that the “big data phenomenon” is changing a number of key skills required in today’s labour markets.
“Technology is radically altering the employment picture,” he said.
He added that demand is being seen beyond advanced economies and in emerging markets such as India, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
INSEAD’s index claimed that education systems need to reconsider traditional learning. The research said that talent development must go beyond “traditional” education and must develop a focus on vocational skills.
Business schools have made efforts to focus on data education and a number of high ranking schools – from London’s Imperial College to New York’s Stern School – have launched specialist masters degrees in business analytics. But critics have said global education is too long on theory and too short on practical experience.
Ilian Mihov, dean of INSEAD, said that talent has become the core currency of businesses and economies – but there is a “mismatch between education systems” and the job market.
Patrick De Maeseneire, chief executive of Swiss human resources consultancy firm Adecco Group, said that there is a “striking” talent mismatch in the US and Europe.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that big data could create 58,000 new jobs in the UK alone before 2017, and add £216 billion to the UK economy.
Recruiters say that they seek more technical skills from MBA graduates, and that training in the use of analytics will help them to stand out in a crowded market.
Business schools have been trying to up their game in this area, with research being conducted with funding from the public and private sectors.
Five top UK universities including business school academics have sought to drive innovation in big data after partnering with the UK government to lead a new research institute based in London.
The UK government funded the £42 million project, as it seeks to make Britain a global forerunner in data.
The leaders – the universities and some business departments of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL – hope to attract the best data scientists across the globe to break new boundaries in how big data is used in areas such as the supply chain and micro-targeted advertising.
Imperial College Business School late in 2014 established a business analytics research centre with KPMG, one of the big four professional services groups. KPMG financed the initiative with £20 million in funding, part of a wider drive to tap talented potential hires.
The big four along with management consultancies are recruiting more to bulk up new digital service lines.
Consulting recruitment was up by 16% last year, according to statistics from the UK's Management Consultancies Association.
Paul Connolly, director of the MCA Think Tank, said that clients often don’t understand the impact of a range of “digital disruptors – from cloud [computing] to social media and analytics".
Leading consultancy group Accenture and US-based Stevens Institute of Technology recently launched a new program – Financial Services Analytics – to address what Accenture said was a “gap between supply and demand” of professionals in this area.
Dinesh Verma, dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens, said that an ability to understand and analyse data will be a “key competitive discriminator for all organizations – commercial, government and academic”.
Alex Stremme, assistant dean for the Finance and Accounting Masters portfolio at Warwick Business School, said that big data is taking hold of the financial services sector. “It is an emerging topic that WBS is investing in,” he said.
However Professor Paul Alexander, who heads Cambridge Big Data, warned that the challenge of converting data into useful information is “enormous”.
But he added that the new UK data institute will make a huge contribution to the future success of the UK economy, and to British research.