Friday, September 30, 2011

Kelley's new MBA in Business Analytics meets growing market need

Let me say up front that I'm not a numbers person. I'm a word gal. But I sat in on an info session about our new MBA in Business Analytics, and I was ready to sign up at the end of the hour.

The Kelley School of Business has taught data analysis classes for decades, but we're not talking about bean counting here. There has been a shift lately in how data is collected, managed and used. It's no longer about what people did, it's about what people are going to do. It's how numbers are used to shape business plans, converting data to business value using predictive modeling and forecasting.

Why the change? First of all, there's a lot more data. A simple transaction at the store or on the Internet can provide all kinds of information. Second, hardware and software are much better/faster/cheaper, and will continue to be. And managers are becoming more sophisticated in how they use data to make informed decisions about anything from company efficiencies to consumer behavior. Knowing what the numbers mean and where they're headed gives companies a competitive edge.

A lot of business schools are including business analytics classes in their curricula (read a recent Wall Street Journal article about it), but Kelley is the only Top 20 program to offer an MBA in Business Analytics. It grew out of a graduate certificate program Kelley created specifically for Deloitte, which approached the school in need of training for its managers. The degree combines a technical foundation, predictive modeling and analysis, and forecasting from a consulting perspective. It's a bridge between data collection and C-suite decision-making. A marriage of hard skills and soft skills.

When the Kelley School deans and faculty saw the increase in demand for consulting and that there was a real need for professionals to be able to understand analytics and how it can add value to the company, they moved quickly to create an MBA major/minor to meet market needs. It was pretty easy, actually. Kelley already has all of the major component classes and about 60 members of the faculty who can help deliver a business analytics education.

Kelley School professor Wayne Winston
One of the required classes is on modeling and is taught by spreadsheet guru Wayne Winston, a popular Kelley professor, consultant to the Dallas Mavs (owner Mark Cuban is an '81 Kelley alum), and author of "Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball and Football." The class has been so popular as an elective that almost every MBA student takes it.

Kelley had to create only one class to fulfill the curriculum, an overview of business analytics, and I have to say, the way we're going to teach that -- with several key professors from different disciplines instead of just one -- is pretty cool. Students will be able to see applications in finance, marketing, supply chain and health care, for example. 

And interest among employers? It's out there. And it's big.

Already major companies are saying they'd hire several Kelley MBAs with a business analytics degree -- some say as many as 10 to 15 graduates a year over the next few years as they put more of an emphasis on forecasting. These are highly sought-after employees who often draw six-figure salaries.

It's pretty exciting to know that some of our MBA students who will graduate in May will have our new business analytics degree to hang on their office wall.