What Can I Do with a Major in Business Analytics?
THE BUSINESS ANALYTICS MAJOR AT KU:
The Business Analytics major addresses a predicted 50-60% gap by 2020 in the supply of graduates capable of performing advanced analytics to business problems and provide data-driven insights. The healthcare, public administration, mobile services, retail, manufacturing, consulting and services industries are all areas where demand for analytics skills outstrips the current supply of graduates.
In addition to providing students with fundamental big data resource and infrastructure management skills, the program is also designed to provide graduates with exposure to applied areas (specifically Information Systems, Accounting, Finance, Marketing and Supply Chain Management) through specific electives. Graduates will work as applied business analysts, data architects, data visualization experts, big data analysts, and data change agents.
Business Analytics graduates will be able to analyze data and use the findings to guide organizational decision-making. The program cultivates organizational and technical competencies to implement data gathering, cleansing, integration and modeling tasks, as well as data asset analysis for business applications. The program covers data warehousing, dimensional modeling, bigdata analytics methods, and visualization tools and techniques, and it introduces topics such as data mining and predictive analytics.
CAREER PATHS IN BUSINESS ANALYTICS:
The demand for professionals with business analytics skills is growing, fueled by four main trends: a shift toward data-driven organizations and data-driven decision-making (commonly reported as “big data" initiatives); the exponential growth of structured and unstructured data due to widespread usage of mobile devices, cloud computing and social media; the shift in business computing from "transaction processing" to "interaction processing," whereby customer and business partner engagement are facilitated by a growing array of IT-based platforms and associated experiences; and significant improvements in data software and systems.
Those entering the business analytics field need a foundation in four different areas. The Business Analytics major at KU relies on each of these areas to provide the requisite skills needed. First, a foundational knowledge of math, statistics and machine learning. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can change when exposed to new data. For example, your social media page may show you certain posts from certain websites or people based on your history of searches. The use of tools such as SAS and R is needed.
The second set of skills is Database and Programming. Knowledge of what data is and how to store and query data from many sources is critical. Understanding of SQL, the language of data is required for anyone using data. A foundational understanding of programming skills is required in one or more languages such as Python, Java or Scala.
Those wanting to succeed in the field must also have good skills in the third area, communication and visualization. Having the skills to produce reports and visualizations that communicate to the business is critical. Understanding how to present the technical results and interpretation of the trends and recommendations to all areas of the business is a requisite skill. The use of various visualization and reporting tools is very important as well.
Finally, having the understanding of how businesses operate and a passion for problem solving is the most crucial area of knowledge. The business degree provides the basic business foundation. Combining this with the science, data and communication skills will allow for data-driven insights to be developed. The resulting recommendations and actions help to improve the business.
PRIMARY AREAS OF EMPLOYMENT FOR BUSINESS ANALYTICS MAJORS:
Every industry can benefit from using big data to increase sales, lower costs, streamline processes and generally solve problems. So areas of employment for business analytics majors are diverse (e.g. healthcare, finance, information technology, telecommunications, consulting, data analytics, marketing, manufacturing, human resources, government, etc.).
When it comes to the healthcare industry, a huge amount of data exists but it is often siloed by different clinics, hospitals, insurance organizations, as well as social media and organizations that sell wearable sensors to measure calories such as Fitbit, Jawbone, or Samsung Gear Fit. A business analytics major may be tasked by an organization to work with a team to gather this data, find patterns and relationships, and work toward creating prediction models for different doctor prescribed treatments. Thus, a doctor will be able to better predict the likely result of a prescribed treatment for a patient. This prediction being based on thousands of other patients considering their genetics and health lifestyle.
Opportunities for business analytics majors vary across the field of finance. Some may work with market sentiment data (e.g. Twitter feeds) to build algorithms to determine market impact when certain natural disasters may strike (e.g. Storms, terrorist attacks). Others may work in the credit risk area. More data means more ways to evaluate whether an individual or organization is creditworthy. For example, microloans with entrepreneurial online vendors is a growing area. These vendors may struggle to obtain funds through traditional channels so data scientists are developing ways to collect data from various sources (e.g. transaction records, customer ratings, shipping records, social media, etc.) to evaluate credit risk of a potential vendor.
MARKETING/CONSUMER PRODUCTS/E-COMMERCE/WEB & DIGITAL MEDIA
Workers with business analytics skills are essential for the success of today's marketing managers. In the past new marketers may have sought advice on their marketing campaigns from those who have been in the field for decades. Experience was depended on for success. Today advice is likely to be sought from some data scientist in their 20s or 30s. Data scientists know what time of day and where to run ads to teenagers for hair products. Similarly they know where and when to sell shoes to working moms. Furthermore, they know when to discount these items and when to sell at full price. The reason they know these things is not because of experience but because they have access to volumes of ad data, sales interactions data, consumer demographic data as well as public data from Google and social media sources. This data has been used to create predictive models which ultimately allow marketers to make data-driven decisions. The business analytics major may be responsible for any number of tasks from cleaning the data, appropriately storing the data, or creating predictive models. Business analytics majors may work in house or for marketing consulting agencies.
As with all industries, big data is transforming and streamlining operations for government. For example, data scientists may take the volumes of data on weather patterns and crime statistics in cities to determine relationships. Findings have then been passed along to police departments to allow for more efficient patrolling operations. Similarly data scientists may synthesize utilities payment data to determine homes or buildings that may have a high risk of being in disrepair and result in fire or other disaster. Such data could not be synthesized in recent history because it was not digitized nor did the technology exist to analyze it efficiently.