It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who touches the world of big data and analytics that there is a huge skills gap looming. Employers in sectors that rely heavily on analytics have their radar up and are actively competing for talent. The smart ones have outreach programs and are working with universities to groom analytics talent.
Universities are also quite aware of this gap and are developing programs that cultivate these skills during both undergraduate and graduate programs. One of the schools that is ahead of the curve is Indiana University (IU) and it’s Kelley School of Business. Not only have they embraced analytics in the business curriculum, they actively partner with industry to expose students to real data and real-world analytics that give their students a leg up in the job market.
Last Friday, April 4th, IU conducted the very impressive 2nd Kelley Forum on Business Analytics
Kelley has always been an outstanding business school and it was no great shock when Dean Idie Kesner announced in her opening remarks that IU’s business program had just broken into the BloombergBusinessweek top-10 business school list for the first time! The Kelley School’s outreach to partners and industry is commendable and I think it’s one of the factors that sets them apart.
It was Dr. Vijay Khatri, co-chair of the Institute for Analytics, in the Kelley School who reached out to SAS and the Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) to have a defense conversation at the Forum. Dr. Khatri attended a joint SAS – IDB panel discussion on decision making in DoD last October and wanted to bring a military perspective to students and faculty.
The Forum panel, “Should we Trust our Instincts – or the Data: The Role of Analytics in Decision Making” included Lt Gen (Ret.) Loren Reno, who retired as the senior Air Force Logistician, and LTC (Ret.) Eric Hansen, who actually is a real analytics guy (Hansen managed a team of analysts for the Joint IED Defeat Organization, where they used analytics to understand the network that supported the making and positioning of road-side bombs.) The panel was rounded out by two Kelley School professors of operations management: Dr. Kyle Cattani, whose interests lie in supply chain management, logistics, and business analytics; and Dr. Alfonso Pedraza-Martinez, who has worked in the area of humanitarian logistics. Mr. Van Noah, Program Director for several logistics and supply chain focused education programs at IDB, served as the panel moderator.
To answer the question posed in the panel title, you need to trust both.
“Analytics can inform decisions and make them more dependable,” commented Reno. But, you have to use your instincts and question results that seem counter-intuitive.
Perhaps the most potent advice to come out of the panel was the need to establish TRUST and COMMUNICATE effectively with leadership. Analysts need to:
- Make sure your analysis is accurate. Thoroughly understand the data, the algorithm, and the assumptions that go into each model.
- Simplify things down. If there are tradeoffs or assumptions made, be able to explain them.
- Be able to describe the outcome in business terms and articulate what the decision maker is supposed to do with the information you provide.
- Understand the decision maker you are presenting to and how he/she likes to consume information. Speak in their language.
- Develop good listening skills too – so you can add real value to the conversation.
Dr. Khatri was smart to include government and military sessions at the Forum. The DoD needs bright, young analytics talent to be part of its future. Drastic budget cuts never seen before are forcing the military to radically change the way it accomplishes its mission. Personnel with analytics skills will play an important role in what it will take to become the efficient and effective force of the future.
Gail Bamford is an IDB guest blogger and senior marketing professional with over 25 years in information technology. She has been with SAS, the leader in advanced analytics software, since 2006 and supports business units focused on delivering analytic solutions to Defense, National Security, Higher Education and K-12.