Company recruiters in a wide array of industries are increasingly demanding these data analytics skills from their new hires, from global insurance firms to large listed advertising groups.
At the same time, a host of highly-ranked business schools have incorporated “big data” techniques into their MBA curriculums, have re-designed their curriculums to cater for the increased reliance on digital skills, or plan to launch new courses dedicated to data analytics.
Big data has thrived as companies in sectors including financial services, technology, media and retail reap the benefits of using consumer data to assess market trends and develop strategies to expand the sales of their services and products.
Mark Wilkinson, managing director of data analytics firm SAS UK and Ireland, said that big data is the “new oil” that will power the economy, and added that data analytics allow valuable insights that inform business decision making.
His comments come at the same time as figures showing that recruiters are not satisfied with the level of data skills graduates have obtained. Of an estimated 2,200 big data positions advertised by respondents to a 2013 survey, 77% were said to have been difficult to fill. Research by SAS UK found that three quarters of employers report big data positions were either difficult or “very” difficult to fill.
Frances Illingworth, global recruitment director at WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, told BusinessBecause that data analytics skills were “without question” important for MBA hires. “How one looks at data and media data is critical to our business now,” she said.
WPP, which is NASDAQ-listed and employs about 180,000 people, has 350 companies across its portfolio of businesses, according to Frances, earning £11 billion in revenue in 2013.
“I don’t think they need to be technically qualified but they need to understand the impact of digital on the way clients operate [and] the way they sell products,” Frances said.
WPP and its rivals have been investing in technology to take advantage of new ways of delivering adverts through online channels. Digital advertising is the fastest-growing part of the advertising industry.
“Data is becoming an important part of how we look at the customer journey,” Frances added.
“We look at direct marketing and digital businesses… Then we look at it in media businesses in terms of media consumption. How we measure that data is increasingly important.”
Louis Dorval from Meltwater Group, the Norway-founded software services company, said that the “explosion of data” provides executives with a new and invaluable source of business insight.
The data specialist, which has 900 employees in 57 global offices but is headquartered in San Francisco, provides solutions services including social media marketing and strategy, and public relations and reputation management.
Louis said that big data has become “very important”. “We focus on data outside of the firewall because it offers unique strategic insights to executives – given that it is real-time, unfiltered and ‘benchmark-able’,” he said.
Louis said that career opportunities are in a new division that will be tasked with developing new products and capabilities. He added that future MBA openings may also emerge in its enterprise sales division, as well as the marketing team and main product team.
“We're not looking for ‘employees’ as much as we're looking for company builders,” he said.
In the last two years the Indian School of Business has seen companies and consulting firms seeking to hire for explicit roles in business analytics, said Deepa Mani, assistant professor of the information systems group at ISB.
“As companies seek help with integrating new technologies in their business strategies, we find significant demand for these skills,” said Deepa.
One area of data usage growth in Asia Pacific is the insurance industry, but this trend is also evident across much of Europe and in the US.
Insurance firms are beginning to ask more detailed questions to assess life expectancy, and are using analytics techniques to make longevity assessments.
Liberty Mutual, a large insurance group based in Singapore, has been hiring MBA students in Australia for its country leadership programs across Asia. Liberty, which has more than 50,000 employees that helped to generate $38.5 billion in revenue in 2013, offers auto, home and life insurance services.
John Gurskey, director of the Melbourne Business School Career Management Centre, said that MBA students learn to analyse data on the program to develop business solutions for clients.
“All MBA students really need to understand the implications of ‘big data’,” he added.
Other financial services groups are demanding digital skills for their investment banking divisions.
Astbury Marsden, a London recruitment firm, said that hiring in the financial capital of Europe surged 46% in October compared with the same month in 2013. The creation of 3,400 jobs was driven by banks’ renewed investment in the “digital agenda”, the firm said.
Adam Jackson, director at Astbury Marsden, said that from investment banking through to the insurance sector, “investment in IT is back in vogue”.
“There has been a sea [of] change in how firms view investment in IT over the last year in the City,” he said. “Investment in IT is no longer being seen as a cost but as a key to unlocking better long term profitability.”
However, demand among UK financial services groups for big data managers is not being met, according to Tech Partnership, the employers’ network.
Karen Price, director, said: “With the number of available jobs in big data increasing every year, it’s vital that we attract new talent into the industry to ensure that businesses have the skilled staff they need.”
To cater for digital demand, business schools like Melbourne – which is rolling out an MBA in analytics next year – are adapting their teachings.
HEC Paris revamped its MBA course to cater for big data last year; Yale's School of Management has a Centre for Customer Insights; Wharton has a customer analytics initiative; and the Kelley School of Business also launched an MBA in business analytics last year.
Management consulting firms, which have been some of the biggest recruiters of MBA graduates in 2014, are also evolving their methods. Growth is coming from disruptive technologies including data analytics and the cloud.
Digital and technology services increased their share of consulting revenues by 6% last year, accounting for a quarter of income, according to the Management Consultancies Association.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!