Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Surge In Big Data Demand Drives New MBA Career Prospects

Across the business world a data-driven revolution is emerging, but there is a dearth of big data talent. Business schools are helping to fill the gap - and MBA students should take advantage.

For Dean Bernard Garrette, big data was booming. The HEC Paris MBA professor could hardly keep up with demand from the many managers at the French business school seeking new knowledge on data marketing, analytics technologies and consumer buying trends. HEC had already sanctioned a specialist intelligence marketing course and a bevy of big data programs for executives. But a new partnership with IBM, the technology giant, was to be added to the mix.

“The development of analytics skills for business and management students has become a necessity,” he said. “It deals with mixing the general MBA’s business training to in-depth analytics and data interpretation skills.”

Across the business world, a data driven revolution is emerging. Dean Bernard is just one of a legion of professors who are ramping up big data education in response to a demand for everything from business solution architects to chief data officers.

The next generation of management leaders are being groomed for data specialist roles as some of the world’s largest companies adapt to a faster, more technical way of doing business. In the year since France’s prestige MBA revamped its course to cater for big data, HEC Paris has seen a surge in demand. MBA students have been banking on skills such as strategy simulation modelling, data visualization and strategy analytics.

“This course proved hugely popular,” says Dean Bernard. “Students with an education in business analytics are seen by many recruiters to bring added value to the workforce,” he adds.

Big data’s growing influence has been charted in a recent study by the consultancy McKinsey & Company. The report focused on five main domains – healthcare, retail, manufacturing, personal-location technology and the public sector – and found that big data can generate substantial value in each.

McKinsey estimates that if the US healthcare sector adopted data to drive efficiency, the industry would generate $300 billion in value each year, and US retailers can increase net margins by 60%. In Europe, governments can save more than $149 billion using big data, says McKinsey, and consumer businesses can net $600 billion in surplus by capturing personal-location data.

Big data is now billed as the next frontier for businesses. “It is very valuable for consumer businesses… And has had a profound effect on the B2B environment – it has allowed these businesses to think about a service rather than a product,” says Dr Guy Champniss, an expert in consumer behaviour and professor of marketing at Henley Business School.

“It gives you a granularity and a real time-ness to understanding your customers that hasn’t existed before. And it’s cheap – and getting cheaper by the minute,” he adds.

Barclays Bank just appointed industry heavyweight Usama Fayyd. The tech-banker and former Nasa scientist was previously Yahoo’s chief data officer in what was the first instance of a major corporation creating such a role. Struggling British supermarket chain Tesco appointed Michael Comish as its group digital officer in a bid to bolster its digital offering and reverse a slide in sales. Michael, a serial digital entrepreneur who founded Blinxbox in 2006 before selling it to Tesco in 2011, is based in the retailer’s new digital campus in Farringdon, London.

Last year, just 7% of companies with an annual turnover of $250 million or more had chief data or digital officers, according to IT services firm Gartner. But by 2015, they expect the number to have tripled – to one in every four of the biggest company’s going down the data route.

The speed with which firms have hired executive-level data specialists is defining the next generation of managers who will lead them. This adoption has given rise to a feast of career opportunities in data.

It is thought that MBA students, already analytical by nature, are well placed to capitalize on this demand. Dr Guy says: “I absolutely think that – the more quantitatively-minded MBA students, which is a lot of MBA students.” But he adds that it is also important to have a qualitative view.

There is an astonishing shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data: McKinsey estimates that by 2018, the US will have a dearth of nearly 200,000 people with deep analytical skills, and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use big data to make effective decisions.

“Data is perceived as the new oil that fuels the digital economy. Data-related roles are already on the rise,” says Mithun Sridharan, managing director of BlueOS, a strategic marketing firm which offers big data and analytics services.

“Currently, there is a dearth of professionals with the required skills, and as more companies board the big data bandwagon, the demand for big data and analytics professionals will only increase.”

Business schools recognize the gap. Many of the leading MBA provides are rolling out big data courses or incorporating data classes into their curriculums. But Dean Bernard does not wish to create “data scientists”; HEC aims to fill the gap between data collectors and those that use the data to make management decisions.

“Training in big data does not necessarily create a top consultant or marketer; it is how a student uses these skills to complement their existing skill-set that will get a student noticed by top recruiters,” he said.

Yet businesses are even paying for their managers to take short, customized executive education courses so that they may become big data specialists within their companies.

Inge Kerkloh-Devif, executive director of global business development at HEC Executive Education, said that big data was an up-and-coming area, at a time when executive courses are experiencing resurgence. She added: “I think there will be a big need in training executives for strategic decisions on big data.”

It is an understandable investment. Businesses are able to hoard vast amounts of customers’ data, which proves particularly valuable for marketers and ecommerce companies.

Mithun says: “They require systematic analysis to derive insights on what makes their products and customers tick. Online marketing and big data are turning out to be sources of competitiveness for many organisations, so companies place immense value in big data.”

The potential financial savings are huge. McKinsey reckons that the manufacturing sector will see up to a 50% decrease in the production development and assembly costs, and up to a 7% reduction in working capital, if it adopted big data. And global personal location data, driven by smartphones and tablets, is predicted to add an eye-watering $100 billion in revenue for service providers, and a further $700 billion value to end users.

Dean Bernard says: “With more in-depth analysis of consumer trends and habits, a company can alter its service or offering accordingly. A company which can offer this personalized service is to have a clear market advantage against its competitors, as customers will be attracted by a service that fits their specific needs and lifestyle.”

But McKinsey points out there are many obstacles to firms using big data to enhance their business. Access to data is critical – companies will increasingly need to integrate information from multiple data sources, often from third parties, and the incentives have to be in place to enable this.

Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability have yet to be addressed in a big data world.

Eyebrows are also raised at the issue of data security. It is unclear how companies can protect competitively sensitive data, or data that should be kept private. Recent scandals involving data breaches have exposed consumers and damaged firms’ images. And there are significant legal issues. Questions are raised about the intellectual property rights attached to data, and who is responsible when inaccurate data leads to negative consequences.

“That is the next huge hurdle,” says Dr Guy. “It’s just breaking in various places now, and it’s a major issue for all businesses,” he adds.

Student Reviews

HEC Paris




On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.




On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.




On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.





Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.




On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.




On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.




On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.





A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!




On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.