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Big Data Edges Into MBA Programs As Companies Demand Analytics

Haas becomes latest big name business school to revamp some of its MBA curriculum to include a focus on big data.

Fri Jun 5 2015

California’s Haas School of Business became the latest big name business school to revamp some of its MBA curriculum to include a focus on big data.

Haas has teamed up with top management consultancy firm Accenture to create new classes and a lecture series designed to give MBAs the tools required to understand and work with big data.

Haas finance and economics lecturer Greg La Blanc said that big data might be the most significant disruption to business since the industrial revolution. “The only way for MBAs to really learn how to handle big data is to actually work with it and to interact with student engineers and data scientists,” he said.

Business schools believe data analytics is essential for business leaders who will increasingly need data analysis to glean insight and drive decision making.

Accenture managing director of global technology R&D Prith Banerjee said that teaching MBAs to think about business problems through a data-oriented lens resonates with the firm.

Accenture is one of a number of leading employers to have invested in business education. KPMG will invest £20 million in a data analytics research centre at Imperial College Business School in London. IBM and Telfer School of Management have invested around $5 million into a similar centre at Telfer.

Accenture sees this as a way to recruit talent. “Haas students need to understand how to work with big data and how technology drives business outcome…We’re interested in hiring people who excel at doing that,” said Prith.

Accenture has estimated previously that the US could see demand for analytics talent outstrip supply by more than 250,000 positions this year alone. A survey of Fortune 100 recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council this month found that MBA employers cited analytics skills the most frequently.

John Miller, who leads Accenture’s Data Insights R&D group within Accenture Technology Labs, said the timing of the collaboration is right for the consultancy.

“We’re all asking the same questions like: ‘How can business leaders use data science to transform the way companies work?' and 'What skills are essential?” he said.

The tie-up is the latest in a long line of new program and curriculum launches. HEC Paris, a leading French business school, revamped some of the content of its MBA in a deal with IBM. DeGroote School of Business in North America recently launched an EMBA degree focused on big data with IBM and Canadian bank CIBC.

Master programs in business analytics are rapidly increasing in supply. Schools with highly-ranked MBAs are forming standalone courses.

These include Warwick Business School which runs the MSc Business Analytics, the master’s in business analytics at Melbourne Business School, and the MSC in Business Analytics at USC Marshall School of Business.

In 2015 both Yale School of Management, and Kogod School of Business have announced plans to launch analytics and software courses. Data programs at ESSEC Business School, Amsterdam Business School, and CEU Business School will also start this year.