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Why Business Analytics Is A Must For MBAs, As McKinsey, Bain Demand Big Data Skills

Students without data science at disadvantage in MBA jobs market

Sun Feb 7 2016

No business analytics expertise? No MBA job.

A number of leading experts in the field of data science have told BusinessBecause that business school students without sufficient training in data analytics are at a disadvantage in the jobs market.

“The number of jobs they are excluded from is definitely increasing,” said Theos Evgeniou, professor of decision sciences and technology management at INSEAD, the business school.

The calls come as McKinsey & Company this week said it seeks MBAs who understand the science behind decision making.

The spokesperson’s comments in the Financial Times echo those of Stephen Shih, a leader of Bain & Co’s MBA recruiting efforts, who told BB that MBAs fit into the elite consultancy firm because they can use data and analysis to find pragmatic solutions to problems, among other qualities.

“We’re looking for people who have challenged themselves and who have shown strong intellectual or analytic skills,” he said.

Juan Jose, director of the master in business analytics at IE Business School, said MBAs without data science skills are “absolutely” at a disadvantage.

“In the near future we will all need to develop analytical skills in order to succeed in our job,” he said, adding that analytical talent is “highly demanded”: “There is a demand for big data expertise.”

Roy Lee, assistant dean at NYU Stern, agreed that “demand is strong”, because companies are still learning how to leverage their data.

“To be successful in this field, you need to be technical enough to speak the language of data science, but you also need to know how to use data to solve business problems and deliver results,” he said.

Mark Kennedy, who heads the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics Imperial College Business School, highlighted the consulting and finance fields as areas where MBAs will “probably be disadvantaged” without business analytics training.

But he warned that it “takes more than PowerPoint skills” to effectively leverage data and analytics, which have the potential to improve decision making and help shape strategy. “It [data] shows you how to think about where there is opportunity, but risk as well,” Mark added.

The concerns raised come as there is a growing divide between supply and demand for managers with big data skills.

KPMG found that 36% of executives it surveyed admitted that they lack big data specialists; McKinsey forecasts that 1.5 million more managers and analysts with analytical skills will be required by 2018; the UK will create 56,000 big data jobs a year until 2020, according to business analytics group SAS.

Business schools have scrambled to provide training in this area: Cornell’s Johnson School is developing a big data-focused MBA program with Amazon and Twitter. It follows the likes of USC Marshall, Texas’ McCombs School and Warwick Business School, which all run specialist business analytics master’s courses.