As businesses increasingly try to make sense of the mountain of big data available to them, business school graduates skilled in the art of analytics are hot in demand.
From insurance to banking to retail, data analytics is helping to usher in a digital revolution and drive revenues as tools scan millions of pieces of information and pin down practical lessons for companies.
Deloitte Digital, a fast-growing arm of the professional services group, is a darling of this analytics age. Paul Thompson, a partner at the firm, is a big advocate of using data to build up a business.
He believes Deloitte Digital can thrive on analytics as a separate arm of the leading consulting firm. Deloitte has been hiring aggressively for its new digital-driven advisory wing that is based in Clerkenwell, London. The separate operation has a culture akin to a start-up in Shoreditch, London’s tech hotspot.
Paul says the company has been looking into digital opportunities in more traditional sales channels – the next generation of customer service.
But, like a growing number of large listed groups that are trying to innovate, the other skill that has become important to Deloitte Digital is analytics.
“One of the characteristics of digital becoming more mature in organizations is that the customer journey needs to be contextually sensitive,” he says. “It needs to be delivering marketing messages that make sense to the consumer – and that’s driven by analytics.”
It is a skill that successful consultants must master by developing their data capabilities, but which business schools have only just begun to value.
The past two years have seen most top-flight schools indicate a change of attitude and many are ramping up analytics offerings, from Hyderabad to Paris.
Data analytics has found a home in business schools HEC Paris, Kelley School, Melbourne and USC Marshall, to name but a few, while others such as George Washington University are rumoured to be developing speciality courses in data analytics.
Conrad Chua, head of careers at the UK’s Cambridge Judge Business School, says: “A lot of companies that deal with big data… Will need someone in-house to formulate their data strategy [and] think about how to collect data that doesn’t compromise privacy but also makes insights.”
He adds: “Corporate clients – they want to know how to use technology to understand big data [and] even McKinsey is building that capability, and that opens up opportunities for MBA students.”
While business schools scramble to increase the provision of analytics training delivered in MBA programs, those students who can master the skill early will have an advantage in the jobs market.
Mithun Sridharan is managing director of BlueOS, a strategic marketing company that offers big data and analytics services, based in Frankfurt.
“Though data could easily be aggregated, they [companies] require systematic analysis to derive insights,” he says.
“Online marketing and big data are turning out to be sources of competitiveness for many organisations, so companies place immense value in big data.”
Mithun, who graduated from the MBA at European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, thinks that there is a dearth of managers with the right analytics skills.
Although more European schools are rolling out big data courses, Mithun thinks it is a hard task because it’s a fast-moving agenda.
“Such programs have to be designed in tandem with computer science, stats or math departments,” he says.
But he adds that leveraging data is already required in several management functions.
“A good knowledge of big data will definitely be advantageous, at least in the short [to] medium term,” he says. “I’d go so far as to say that it will be absolutely crucial during the latter part of the next decade.”
Banks including Goldman Sachs have invested heavily in improving their analytics capabilities, underscoring Wall Street’s drive to tap into new digital technologies and a desire for digitally-skilled hires.
Goldman plans to roll out Kensho, which has been described as a Siri-style service for investors, analysts and traders, which enables them to tap into “unstructured” data which, if analysed, can help banks use big data to augment their business.
Brian Ruggiero, vice president of global campus recruitment at American Express, says: “We [are] looking for talent[ed] individuals who are fluent in code, understand parallel processing, data clustering and statistical analysis.”
He adds: “While relevant work experience will always be a differentiator, we look for students who can highlight their analytics.”
For Paul at Deloitte Digital, expanding the firm’s pool of recruitment makes sense for a consultancy seeking to lead in digital services like big data, mobile and the cloud.
He will seek out business schools to expand the digital group’s 440-strong workforce.
“We have many areas growing rapidly – it [digital services] is definitely one of our four strategic priorities,” he says. “The reason it’s so important is [that] we believe digital isn’t just going to become another channel – it’s becoming fundamental to the way businesses operate.”