The Knowledge Exchange / Business Analytics / Business analytics and frozen yogurt

Business analytics and frozen yogurt

Jay Liebowitz, Orkand Endowed Chair in Management and Technology, University of Maryland University College

I just spent about 5 hours on the web to see what college programs exist in business analytics. It turned out that I found almost 50 programs, whether undergraduate, graduate, or certificate. There are probably many more programs in business analytics worldwide, so I likely just scratched the surface. I also noticed that in this year (2013) alone, a vast number of new programs worldwide in analytics have emerged.  

Certainly, big data and business/data analytics are “hot” now, and they will most likely continue to be important emerging areas in the years ahead. However, I wonder if these may turn out to be merely fads similar to the frozen yogurt industry. In our area (Metropolitan Washington, D.C.) there were many frozen yogurt stores some years ago and then they disappeared. Now, within the past year or two, they are back in seemingly high numbers. However, they can’t all last, as evidenced by a number of the stores in our area that have already gone out of business.

Could business analytics programs face a similar situation as the frozen yogurt stores? Certainly, there appear to be many new programs in this exploratory onset stage. They probably won’t all survive, especially if the massive open online courses (MOOCs) develop their own free courses in this area.Thus, we’ll see a fall-off of business analytics/big data programs at universities similar to the frozen yogurt stores. 

Perhaps, there will then be a new twist to the business analytics/big data fields, perhaps influenced by such industries as cybersecurity, healthcare, finance, or marketing. This will then serve as a catalyst to introduce a new brand of business analytics/big data program, where the number of programs will start to increase again. Where after, the market will then start to level off and again interest in some of these programs may wane. 

A key question exists—is there much science and rigor behind the art of business analytics and big data? In the early days of knowledge management, the same question emerged and probably still has people puzzled. In the case of business analytics and big data, though, I believe there are both rigor and a growing variety of techniques that will continue to improve these areas. Certainly, insight and intuition could also play a role in the art behind the science of decision making.

Another key question is whether there is an industry and employment for those in these areas? I also believe this to be true, especially if looking at how data analytics could improve decision making in healthcare.

In terms of job titles, I’m not sure if the “data scientist” designation will continue to exist in the years ahead, similar to the “knowledge engineer” classification that faded from the early days of artificial intelligence and expert systems. However, no matter what the exact title, the applied mathematicians, statisticians, and knowledge/data discovery professionals should have a secure home within this data analytics space. 

It will be intriguing to see which business analytics/big data university programs survive.The good news is that the demand for such fields outstrips the supply of new graduates. Only time will tell…

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