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Business Analytics Master's Growth Gathers Pace As Big Data Demand Outstrips Supply

Business struggles to close gaping skills gap

Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business has become the latest school to set up a master’s program focused on analytics as business struggles to close the gaping big data skills gap.

Robinson will launch two programs: a joint MS in analytics and master of actuarial science program; and a joint MS in analytics and MS in mathematical risk management.

“Students with primary interests in actuarial science or financial engineering can now easily gain the data science skills that are in great demand by employers,” said Robinson’s dean, Richard Phillips.

McKinsey & Company forecasts a 50%-60% shortage of analytic talent by 2018 in the US, while 41% of respondents to an Accenture survey cited lack of talent as a top obstacle to implementing a big data strategy.

“We are seeing demand that outstrips supply,” said Dr Mark Kennedy, associate professor of organizational behavior at Imperial College Business School.

The shortage of talent has the world’s top business schools racing to launch specialist master’s programs, while many others are setting up big data initiatives within their MBAs. HEC Paris and the Haas School have both edged analytics into their MBA programs, in partnerships with IBM and Accenture.

“Companies are increasingly data-driven and there is a vast need for professionals who are able to analyze that data and translate it into meaningful business outcomes,” said Robert Sullivan, dean of San Diego’s Rady School, which began its MSc in Business Analytics this summer.

Many are teaming up with corporations who are leaders at harnessing the power of their data — which has proved to be a valuable and lucrative resource.

“Those companies with business models that successfully leverage the available information of their clients — for example Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn— become the leaders of their sector,” said Juan José, academic director of the Master in Business Analytics & Big Data at IE Business School.

Cornell’s Johnson School recently said it was developing a digital technology program for MBAs focused on big data with Twitter, Yahoo and Amazon.

“There is strong appetite from students who want to work in the technology sector,” said Shawn Mankad, assistant Cornell professor of operations, technology and information management.

Warwick Business School developed its MSc in Business Analytics in 2008 with “close collaboration” from IBM and SAS, according to Arne Strauss, associate professor of operational research.

“IBM are keen to take on graduates with these skills, along with SAS, SAP, HP and Google,” he said.

Wake Forest University School of Business said this month it will offer a Master of Science in Business Analytics program in July 2016, developed with “substantial input” from ExxonMobil, Oracle, and Procter & Gamble, among others.

“We have built this program specifically to address the ever-increasing marketplace demand for employees with unique, superior talent in business analytics,” said Charles Iacovou, dean of Wake Forest.

Two days later, Virginia Tech announced it will roll out a master’s degree in business analytics, also this summer.

Linda Oldham, executive director of Pamplin’s Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics, said companies need “business majors who understand programming, statistics, cutting-edge data software, and the technical aspects of business analytics for effective decision-making”.

Firms are increasingly looking for talent that can leverage data analytics to improve decision making and develop data-driven strategy. “In a truly data-centric organization, data is the backbone for all business decisions,” said Roy Lee, assistant dean at NYU Stern, which runs one of the highest-ranked analytics degrees.

An effective data manager “needs to know how to ask the right questions and choose the right metrics”.

As career opportunities grow at Silicon Valley firms, these programs have become among the fastest-growing business degrees. “We plan to further expand based on demand,” says Jana Stern at the W. P. Carey School of Business, which offers an MSc in Business Analytics.

In Europe, Amsterdam Business School and France’s ESSEC Business School have launched similar offerings. And INSEAD, which has a campus in France, pioneers big data through its eLab.

Theos Evgeniou, INSEAD professor of decision sciences and technology management, said that with big data, “Managers will need to learn new tools to analyze and visualize information, and also to develop their ability to better communicate with data scientists”.

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