How to Make Your MBA Future-Proof

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Sponsored by Queen's University Belfast


Data is rarely out of the news these days. Stories include the latest global scandal about the misuse of customer privacy data, forecasts that half of all US jobs are to be automated in the coming years, and new regions leading the way in data-driven research and development to help big business. No manager today can ignore the importance of understanding, harnessing and using data.

In recent years, countries like India and China have become hubs for the latest innovations in this area and this continues to grow. Most Fortune 500 companies have developed bases in India, for example, in order to research and plan their strategies in big data analytics, artificial intelligence and blockchain.  As CEO and Chairman of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell, said this year: “As a techie, I get very inspired by what India is doing. It is an amazing government-led effort”.

The team at Queen’s University Belfast ‘s MBA are responding to these new developments. “Business analytics is a vital area of expertise for an increasing number of industries and sectors,” says Dr Byron Graham, who leads the module. “But employers note a problematic lack of managers with relevant skills.

“When we developed the MBA program at Queen’s, we asked senior managers at global multinationals and leading public-sector organizations and NGOs about what they needed from potential MBA recruits. Capabilities in business analytics were near the top of this list.”

In response Dr Graham helped to develop an innovative business analytics module. It’s an optional course that includes a five-day trip to San Francisco to visit leading companies and learn about international best practice in the use of the latest techniques.

There is an industry shortage of technical but also leadership talent capable of using data to benefit business. After all, 90 percent of the world’s data was produced in just the past two years, while 2.5 billion gigabytes of data are produced daily.

“Businesses need to use this resource to stay ahead of the competition,” Graham says. For managers and MBA students, a useful way to ensure that one’s career is well-placed to capitalize on these changes is to develop skills in business analytics.  “The MBA at Queen’s therefore provides students with the expertise needed to embrace and benefit from the use of data and new technology,” Graham says.

But how exactly will this course boost an MBA graduate’s employability? “The business analytics specialization augments business and industry knowledge with an understanding of the key computing and statistical tools required for effective data analytics and relevant information communication,” says Graham.

“For example, students will learn how data can be used to make predictions, and how to effectively represent these across all levels of the organization, using advanced visualization techniques.”

Students can also gain hands-on experience with some of the latest data visualization and analytics tools: “As well as being a fascinating area, these skills give students a competitive edge in the workplace in understanding how data can be used to make better business decisions and to drive innovation,” says Graham.

The techniques are applied to real-life cases, in class: “We will look at how analytics is used to solve real-world business problems across a range of industries and business functions, whether that is through identifying business opportunities for data science teams to focus on, making more informed decisions, or through hands-on analysis of the information” says Graham. “Students will therefore be able to relate analytics to their industry and to other modules in the course.

Today’s top global companies have realized the immense value of data, with many now basing a significant amount of their business around the data they collect and use. The success of Facebook, Google and Amazon is rooted in data.

“Even industries that traditionally have not focused on technology or data are also investing in analytics. For example, the legal industry is beginning to draw on artificial intelligence to carry out or augment tasks formerly undertaken by lawyers, while in healthcare predictive analytics, personalized medicine, and chatbots are helping doctors to provide effective care,” says Graham. He notes that graduates who combine leadership with analytics skills will find themselves a step ahead in a range of top management positions. Crucially, non-technical staff can benefit from learning about business data as much as technical staff.

Those looking to start their own businesses can also gain from learning about business data. Many fast-growing start-ups are based around innovative products that directly rely on it: “Think of areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning,” says Graham.

“Understanding the potential of these technologies, and how they can benefit the business is crucial, whether you are the person actually building the technology or the person leading the business. Less technologically-focused start-ups can also benefit from the use of data to make decisions.”

While business analytics is a relatively new area within management, it is an area well worth getting up to speed on. As Graham points out: “Graduates with business analytics skills will have a competitive edge over their peers that lack these skills.”


For more information about the MBA at Queen's, please contact the MBA Administrator Mr. Stephen Armstrong s.m.armstrong@qub.ac.uk

Written by Staff W.

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