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Business Analytics, The New Language of Business

BIG DATA IS A BIG DEAL. Building better businesses tomorrow starts with the data we gather today. This powerful new business tool – Analytics – has enabled many firms to aggressively leverage data in key decision-making and create impact. 

​Companies that are committed to making data-driven decisions actively look for ways to turn their data into a corporate asset and later, a competitive advantage. This places pressure on the job market as employers are increasingly demanding more hard skills in analytics, business intelligence and big data. 

But how do you marry data science with soft entrepreneurial skills? This sweet spot is where the MBA sits; the talent gap that it seeks to bridge. The ideal leader of tomorrow should be a domain expert and people oriented so that they can work with others and create value. 

We sat down with Professor Goh Kim Huat, Academic Director, Nanyang MBA to learn more about the newly introduced Business Analytics course in the Nanyang MBA programme, and how skills gained from this course can be applied in the Future of Work.

What types of businesses can leverage Business Analytics to improve their business performance? 

PROF GOH: Business analytics has been widely used across organisations today, and we typically see their use in various industries and settings. There are two ways to contextualise the type of businesses that will benefit most from analytics. First, we tend to see more analytics initiatives in organisations that deal directly with their end consumers (B2C industries) compared to industries that deal with businesses (B2B industries). Secondly, we tend to see more analytics employed in industries that have higher informational content in their product or service offering. 


Why is this so? 

PROF GOH: Today, end-consumer data is created in abundance, resulting in an increased depth of data available in B2C industries compared to B2B ones. More importantly, data from B2C industries is easier and less costly to capture and store. Further, B2C industries have, on average, more customers and transactions compared to B2B, allowing for additional observations for machine learning tools to be deployed. These two factors make B2C more amenable to reap the low-hanging fruit of analytics. 

As for industries with higher informational content in their product or service offering, they typically have shorter lead time to yield the value of analytics. To illustrate, Netflix and Spotify (which deal with informational content) will benefit more from analytics than the oil and gas industry (which trades in largely physical goods) as their value chain has less informational processes. 


Why was the Business Analytics course introduced in the Nanyang MBA? 

PROF GOH: In recent years, there has been a surge in demand for data analytical skills in the workplace. This is true even for roles which traditionally focused on soft skills that an MBA is commonly known to emphasise on. To prepare our MBA students to be market-ready, analytics must be part of our overall offering. 

Furthermore, in the last few years, we are observing businesses - both new and old, embarking on digital transformation, which relies heavily on a good understanding of business analytics. In a way, we are gradually seeing business analytics become the new language of business. Hence, we believe the MBA students of tomorrow should be equipped with this essential skill set. 


What makes the Business Analytics course at Nanyang Business School different? 

PROF GOH: The strength of our analytics course lies in design and delivery. In terms of the design, I will characterise the analytics curriculum to be one that is business-ready and industry-centric. Many analytics courses we see today take an academic, theoretical and technical approach to the curriculum design. This approach is good if we are training data scientists but probably not the best approach if we are nurturing future business leaders. Our courses utilise actual business cases along with data to simulate real-life business scenarios. These business cases are from across key industries such as finance, accounting and consumer retail to enrich practicality in the learning. 

In terms of delivery, the faculty covering these courses have extensive experiences in deploying analytics projects and are among the best within the school, in terms of teaching and research. There is also a good mix of instructors from different disciplines and backgrounds to ensure that the students receive a well-balanced training. Furthermore, instructors deploy flipped classroom teaching pedagogy to ensure that students get the most out of the learning process. 

How does the addition of the 4 new Business Analytics courses (Analytics and Machine Learning in Business, Lean Operations & Optimisation, AI with Advanced Predictive Techniques in Finance, Supply Chain Analytics) benefit Nanyang MBA students? 

PROF GOH: The prospective job role of an MBA student is less likely to be completely data-centric (such as a data scientist), unless one is in a similar role prior to their MBA enrolment. Hence, the four courses seek to develop core business analytics skills, which will benefit the students in numerous applied and targeted ways. 

Firstly, students will learn how to frame business problems using business analytics lens, allowing them to lead and guide their future organisations in analytics projects. Next, the training will focus on the student's ability to interpret analytics results generated from AI and data analytics software. Even though students are usually not required to develop these complex systems, they should be able to understand and evaluate the appropriateness of the systems. Lastly, students will learn how to execute some fundamental business analytics solutions used in organisations. Here, they will be taught how to use analytics tools like SPSS, SAS and Python or R to deploy analytics models. 


How can our MBA students apply the skills learnt in the Business Analytics course to their future work? 

PROF GOH: There are numerous ways in which students can apply the skills, and they are all in line with the key learning objectives of the analytics curriculum. For brevity, I will describe three here. 
  1. Graduates will be able to formulate, plan and lead analytics projects in their future work. They will be equipped with the skills to understand the analytics process, be mindful of the potential risks in analytics projects and have the acumen to identify opportunities for analytics. 

  2.  For analytics projects that are vendor-driven, graduates will be able to evaluate the proposals during the vendor selection process and assess the efficacy of the deployment of these projects. 

  3. In day-to-day operations, graduates should be able to utilise results generated from data analytics software for business causes and in some instances, deploy analytics solutions as required by their organisations.​

​Chat with Nanyang MBA Team to find out more.
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