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Accenture, KPMG Invest In B-Schools To Mine Big Data Leaders

Top management consultancy firms tap business schools for MBA talent, with funding and expertise for big data education.

Two of the top professional services firms, Accenture and KPMG, have invested in joint ventures with leading business schools in a bid to develop the next generation of big data leaders.

Accenture has revealed a partnership with California’s Haas School of Business that will provide MBA students with new classes and a lecture series designed to give them the tools to master the art of analytics.

The move by the leading strategy consultancy firm comes after KPMG, one of the big four auditors, said it would invest £20 million into a big data initiative at Imperial College Business School in London.

The two tie-ups illustrate the insatiable demand for analytics talent, and the growth of new consultancy service lines, spurred by businesses across sectors investing in their data to gain a competitive edge.

“Big data and analytics has been and continues to be a large focus area for Accenture,” Prith Banerjee, managing director of global technology R&D at Accenture, said in an interview with BusinessBecause. He said that the demand for analytics-driven outcomes continues to increase.

A survey of business chiefs last month by KPMG found the demand for big data analytic skills has leapt to the number one most-needed skill, skyrocketing to almost six times higher than the next-most-scarce skill.

“We have never seen demand for a skill expand so quickly as we have for big data analytics,” said Albert Ellis, chief executive of recruitment firm Harvey Nash Group, which conducted the KPMG survey.

This surge in demand is illustrated by the appearance of senior IT related positions on company boards. Today, the C-suite is likely to include a chief analytics officer; chief digital officer; or chief information security officer.

“In the seventeen years we have conducted the survey we have never seen a new role grow so quickly as we have the chief digital officer,” said Harvey Nash’s Albert.

“As technology increasingly becomes focused on the customer, the IT, marketing and operations teams are working together in new ways,” he said.

But only 17% of large companies believe that they will have an edge on their competitors in managing digital disruption.

Lisa Heneghan, KPMG UK’s head of CIO advisory for EMEA, said: “CIOs are concerned that they could lose significant market share to competitors more adept at using technology. Yet despite this threat, three in four still don’t have a company-wide approach to digital.”

The Accenture collaboration with Haas — a leader in technology and analytics — aims to spread the influence of big data across each discipline. As the demand for analytics talent continues to intensify, Accenture sees the deal as a way to tap into potential MBA hires.

“As we both have a mutual focus on big data and analytics, it provides us with the opportunity to help develop the next generation of business strategists,” Prith said, adding that Haas’ students are determined to meet the shifting market needs for proficiency in data science.

Accenture declined to comment on its hiring plans.

Imperial College’s £20 million Centre for Advanced Business Analytics will help to solve data analytics issues for organizations, such as enabling banks to predict fraud or helping retailers better understand consumer behaviour.

KPMG, which is funding the Centre, has told BusinessBecause that it will help the firm attract the “crème of the crop” of potential talent.

Yehuda Bassok, of USC Marshall, said that he is seeing strong demand from consulting firms including Deloitte and KPMG to hire students from the US business school’s MSC in Business Analytics.

The data demand is prompting a shift in emphasis in the training of business leaders. Haas is one of many top business schools to incorporate big data into its curricula — among them are HEC Paris, USC Marshall, and Melbourne and Warwick business schools. IBM, which has invested $24 billion in its analytics capabilities, helped set-up HEC Paris’ data program, and has partnerships with a number of other business schools, including Texas’ McCombs, Arizona’s W.P Carey, and Babson College in Massachusetts.

Arne Strauss, an associate professor who teaches the MSc Business Analytics at Warwick, said IBM is keen to take on graduates with analytics skills, along with software firm SAP, Google and HP, the US tech conglomerate.

However Michael Goul, chair of the Department of Information Systems at W.P Carey, warned that corporations are searching for “unicorns” — candidates with a particularly rare mix of technical and managerial skills.

“The investment [in data] is challenging in terms of both capital and labour,” he said.

Dustin Pusch, director of business analytics at George Washington University’s business school, said: “The use of big data is increasingly necessary for firms to be competitive, but [is] clearly not sufficient.

“Firms need to have an enterprise strategy for the use of data across functions, and to promote a culture of data driven decision making.”

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