Big data is the future of business

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GregoryPickett

As technology continues to advance, it generates extreme amounts of data. This data represents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. The challenge comes in figuring out how to shape this mountain of information into something that can be strategically employed. For companies who figure out how to analyze and then utilize this data, the opportunity for sustainable success is much greater.

“Business analytics” has become a ubiquitous term in today’s business world. The process of analyzing information is changing the way organizations plan, the way that they pursue customers, and create new operating procedures for marketers. Marketers no longer have to start with a wide swath of the market and narrow down to find their key customers; instead they can start with one customer and build their marketing segments around them. By analyzing the data generated by one existing customer and then linking that individual with other potential customers who show similar purchasing patterns, companies can create homogenous marketing segments starting from the ground up.

Analyzing data is useful beyond the traditional business world as well. Nonprofits are using information to help them stage and support their relief efforts when catastrophic events occur. Analytics Magazine called attention to this practice and the need for more of it, something it termed “Humanitarian Logistics.” Data can be analyzed by sorting it into type of disaster, magnitude, location and other characteristics to help responders determine the best course of action to help those in need.

A recent article on business school networking site Business Because addresses this shift in business thinking and the importance of learning as much as possible about business analytics: “There has been a shift in the education and training of future executives, who will need to use business data to create market advantages and enhance operational performance.”

Companies in all industries are recognizing the need for professionals who are able to analyze data and effectively employ the results to drive successful business decisions, and educational institutions are stepping up to provide students with this key knowledge.

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With all of the hardware and software systems that exist today – point of purchase, scheduling systems, big data sets in a variety of governmental settings, and so on – everything produces data. Data surrounds us. The question becomes: What to do with all of it? What does it mean? How can it illuminate decisions and allow businesses to be more effective, efficient and profitable? These are questions that all businesses must answer, and business analytics is a critical skill that our MBA students should have the opportunity to learn.

Clemson MBA is launching a freestanding business analytics concentration in the fall of 2016, to give our students the skills that businesses need going forward. We’ve partnered with over 30 companies to define our curriculum, and they have shared with us that they want managers who are data-savvy – ones who can take the information and use their expertise and tool set to “look around corners” and help identify what’s coming before it creates problems or opportunities are missed. Final approvals are expected in the spring of next year.

This presents the Clemson MBA program with an exciting opportunity, where we can partner with the community, find real live projects and data, and have our MBA students in business analytics work with organizations in employing these new tools to assist real businesses in making decisions. This partnership will benefit both the students and companies of all sizes in our region and state.

The future of strategic thinking will involve leveraging huge data sets in making business decisions, and having those skills will give you an advantage both as an prospective employee and a future (or current) businessperson. Big data is here. What are you going to do with it?

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