Business schools struggle with analytics training approach

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U.S. News & World Report this week confirmed market assumptions that data scientists are in demand, but said that MBA students and the schools themselves are divided on the best approach for education and training.

They all heard the White House announce a $200 million big data initiative last March, but they're also hearing too many definitions of big data and too much disparity over what skills will be required. There are strong cues on the data science side coming from companies like IBM (NYSE: IBM) and its Academic Initiative to partner with universities. A McKinsey Global Institute report from last year identified needs for which universities must still respond to.

After studying big data in five domains--healthcare in the United States, the public sector in Europe, retail in the United States, and manufacturing and personal-location data globally--McKinsey determined that not only was there demand for 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills in the U.S. alone, but also demand for 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions, related to privacy, security, intellectual property, liability and the ability to manage access to all that data.

U.S. News said as business schools launch their MBA and M.S. programs in this discipline, the various terminologies used, such as big data, business analytics, data science, and predictive analytics, are confusing applicants who want to be trained to fill those roles.

One institution, the University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, chose the term "business analytics" over big data for its new Master's of Science in Business Administration program.

Northwestern University has a Master of Science in Analytics program. Bill Franks, chief analytics officer of Teradata's Global Alliance Programs, told students from the program at Northwestern earlier this month that "The increasing velocity, volume, variety and complexity of big data doesn't matter if there isn't any value derived from it," and that "Big data does not change the fundamental analytic strategies for organizations, but new tools and tactics may need to be employed to extract value."

Northwestern's curriculum guide says its Master of Science in Analytics will give students the skills for careers as, for example, a lead analyst for a Fortune 500 firm, a statistical modeling analyst, digital strategy analyst, communications and media analyst, systems engineer, consultant or entrepreneur.

For more:
- see U.S. News & World Report article

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