Thursday, August 15, 2013

Designing a Business Analytics program, Part 1: Intro

I have been receiving many inquiries about programs in "Business Analytics" (BA), online and offline, in the US and outside the US. The few programs that are already out there (see an earlier post) are relatively new, so it is difficult to assess their success in producing data-savvy analysts.

Rather than concentrate on the uncertainty, let me share my view and experience regarding the skill set that such programs should provide. To be practical, I will share the program that I designed for the Indian School of Business one-year certificate program in BA(*), in terms of content and structure. Both reflect the needed skills and knowledge that I believe make a valuable data analyst in a company. As well as a powerful consultant.

The program was designed for participants who have a few years of business experience and are planning to manage the data crunchers, but must acquire a solid knowledge of the crunchers' toolkit, and especially how it can be used effectively to tackle business goals, challenges and opportunities.

Business Analytics experts have a broad skill set
One important note: Although some universities and business schools are tempted to rename an existing operations or statistics program as a BA (or "Big Data" or "Data Science", etc) program, this will by no means supply the required diversity of skills. A program in BA should not look like a statistics program. It also should not look like a program in operations research. The key is therefore a combination of courses from different areas (statistics and operations among them), which usually requires experts from across campus. In a recent post by visualization expert Nathan Yaw, he comments on the need to know more than just visualization to be successful in the field ("It still surprises me how little statistics visualization people know... Look at job listings though, and most employers list it in the required skill set, so it's a big plus for you hiring-wise.")

The next two posts describe the content and structure of the program.

Continue to Part 2: Structure

(*) The final program structure and content at ISB were modified by the program administrator to accommodate constraints and shortages.

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