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MBA Careers: Scorching Hot Demand For Data Analytics Talent Across Industries

Companies and business schools say leaders must develop analytical skills

Mon Oct 5 2015

The need for managers who can deal with the swamp of big data has never been higher and is scorching hot across all industries. 

From financial services to consulting, and from healthcare to the supply chain, the overwhelming message from blue-chip companies and the top business schools is that leaders must develop their analytical skills.

“There is a need to invest in digital-savvy talent,” says Mike Wade, director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation at IMD, the Swiss business school.

Strategy consulting firm Accenture estimates that the US could see demand for analytics talent outstrip supply by more than 250,000 positions this year alone.

Nowhere is demand stronger than in the technology sector, where the likes of SAP, IBM, and Google are keen to hire graduates with expertise in advanced analytics, says Arne Strauss, of the MSc Business Analytics program at Warwick Business School.

But, he adds, “every sector is showing interest now”.

As they open new service lines which utilize whizzy new technologies, management consultancy firms have developed a thirst for data specialists.

Gregor McHardy, consulting lead for communications, media and technology at Accenture UK and Ireland, says: “Increasingly, we see clients make more data-driven decisions and putting analytics at the heart of their businesses, so our teams are increasingly bringing data and analytics skills into project analysis and execution.”

Students who are familiar with digital skills “have a competitive advantage” in the consultancy market, says Stephane Ponce, global consulting lead at INSEAD. “They want to find a better way to engage with their customers via the digital medium.”

Healthcare too has become a treasure trove of rich data. Data analytics has become a job description for an increasing number of healthcare management roles.

Kimberly MacPherson, associate director of health management at Berkeley-Haas School of Business, says: “Analytics is a core skill in many domains and healthcare is no different.” Data mining, she says, “is critical”.

Demand is high in healthcare because, like in most sectors, turning big data into business solutions is a managerial challenge.

Professor Jeremy Petranka, at Duke Fuqua School of Business, says: “[Understanding] how analytics can fit into an organization’s overall healthcare delivery strategy is significantly more important than being able to understand high-powered statistical tools.”

In finance too, banks are beginning to bank on big data. Citi, Santander and Lloyds Banking Group are among the lenders exploring the potential of big data, for example to improve managing financial health.

Nick Williams, consumer digital director at Lloyds, says future successful banks will be those who can interpret and act on data in real time to provide customers with a personalized experience.

“Recognising the importance of digital and the part it will play in the future of the bank, we have developed a bespoke digital graduate scheme,” he adds.

Jennifer Boynton, assistant dean at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says that demand for digital training is coming from banks’ sales and trading desks.

Paul Schoonenberg, head of careers for Aston Business School, adds: “[We] have seen an ever greater focus on digital skills.”  

Functional demand has seen the need for analytics cut across sectors. For example, supply chain managers must now use advanced analytics to restructure and adjust their logistics strategies.

“There is a need for more analytical skills,” says Canan Kocabasoglu-Hillmer, director of the MS in Global Supply Chain Management at Cass Business School.

Mike Bernon, senior lecturer in supply chain management at Cranfield School of Management, agrees, saying: “There is a definite shortage of people that have that skill and I don’t believe we fully understand how to manipulate data [yet].”

Demand is growing in niche areas, such as in the aerospace industry. Aircraft manufactures have spoken of the possibilities of predictive maintenance, and huge potential cost savings that analytics could provide.

“Big data is becoming crucial in maintenance and overhaul, as well as in lean manufacturing, logistics, marketing and finance,” says Dr Christophe Bénaroya, director of the Aerospace MBA at France’s Toulouse Business School. “It cannot be considered as an external ingredient anymore.”

Marketing mangers too need to hone the art of analytics, as tech edges its way across the entire media industry, and as digital becomes the fastest-growing advertising platform.

“Companies now need marketing managers who are comfortable with data analytics,” says Anindya Ghose, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business.

Stephen Pidgeon, associate director for career development at Tuck School of Business, says: “Media is more and more about bringing analytics and creativity together and using the analysis to drive decisions.”