In decision making, the more information you have at your disposal, the better the result. This is certainly true in business. Knowledge of your customer base and predictions of future demand will indicate the correct timing of product line expansion, for example.
But, says Ravi Nath, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Business Intelligence and Analytics (BIA) at Creighton’s Heider College of Business, which offers a master’s level analytics degree as well as a graduate certificate in analytics, the high cost of analyzing data and disseminating actionable information to decision-makers has often precluded the widespread adoption of data-informed decision-making.
But not anymore.
We are in the midst of the fourth revolution, the technological revolution, marked by accelerated technological advances in which new innovations rapidly replace outdated ones.
“Advances in information technologies that allow the capture of data on almost every transaction and interaction between a customer and a business, and the growth of data from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, have all contributed to the availability of data that provide valuable insights to decision-makers,” says Nath.
For businesses to fully take advantage of the opportunities that information technologies generate, the workforce needs to be data literate, Nath adds.
However, businesses are seeing a widening digital skills gap. Thus, employers are increasingly looking for business professionals with analytical skills – not analysts alone – to raise the analytics IQ across their companies’ population and boost productivity and operational efficiency. Relying solely on the IT department will no longer work.
This means universities must educate students to be proficient in their specific fields of study and competent citizen-data scientists. This understanding is one of the driving forces behind the recent curriculum reorganization at Creighton’s Heider College of Business.
More than three years in the making, the Heider Mindset Curriculum is a holistic approach to business education centered on six distinctive mindsets, one of which is the Analytical Mindset, that reframe how the college teaches business curricula.
The goal is to graduate students who are both grounded in their specific disciplines and possess skills, such as data science, that cross all fields.
“Patterns of career progress have changed dramatically in recent years,” says Anthony Hendrickson, Ph.D., BIA professor and dean of the Heider College of Business. “Industry is changing, so the way we educate must follow suit. We firmly believe that where you spend your four years of college will determine your next 40 years by providing an education for today as well as tomorrow.”
And the tomorrow current students are facing is vastly different from the tomorrow past generations encountered.
Lee Dunham, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at the Heider College of Business, says the college’s new FinTech major, launched in fall 2019, addresses the increasingly data-driven nature of the finance field.
Dunham regularly meets with finance professionals in Omaha and major financial hubs such as New York City to ensure the college is preparing students to succeed in the job market.
“It has become crystal clear that these firms are demanding prospective finance hires to be competent in analyzing data, particularly unstructured ‘big data,’ to make more informed business decisions,” Dunham says. “To be and remain competitive in the financial services industry, current and future finance professionals are going to need to complement their subject matter knowledge with meaningful technical and data science skills.”
“Data are everywhere. Every profession is impacted by the need to inform decisions using data,” says Nath, citing the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies in X-ray and MRI imagery in health care, facial recognition technologies in law enforcement, and algorithms in resource allocation in the nonprofit sector as examples.
According to the business research and advisory firm Gartner, 15% of all customer interactions will be handled by AI chatbots by 2021, an increase of 400%. Five of the 10 future business trends the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts pertain to technology, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of data scientists to increase by 19% by 2026. Data analytics is not a passing fancy.
“All jobs of the future will require some level of mastery of data and analytics,” says Nath. “Data analytics skills and education can turbocharge your career and set you on the way to success.”
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