Last week, I was privileged to be a member of a round table discussion on Business Analytics at the University of Texas at Dallas, along with executives from att.com and HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield in Texas.) We each did a short presentation to over sixty Masters students in business analytics, and then answered their questions. Beforehand, I had a chance to meet with some of the students who are using IBM SPSS Modeler in the classroom. I'd like to thank Dr. Eric Zheng for inviting me to participate.
IBM was unique on the panel in that we not only use analytics in our daily business processes, we also have a portfolio of big data and analytics applications to help others use analytics in their businesses. I briefly spoke about the shortage of analytics knowledge in the market today, and how the need for employees with analytics experience is growing. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that the number of analytics-based jobs will grow by more than 20 percent between now and 2018. These students are well-positioned for some of these new knowledge worker opportunities.
An interesting point for the students to consider - as important as basic statistical and analytics knowledge are, there are also many soft skills required, many of which will be job-specific. All the members of the panel emphasized that there are multiple skills areas required to complete an analytics project - data acquisition and cleansing, data warehousing, building and executing the models, generating reports and finally, presenting the reports. One of the most critical areas that drives all of these is domain knowledge - understanding the actual business processes and requirements that drive a specific customer. While the models may be similar (or even the same), what beer to stock is a much different question than how to save money on postage or when to replace a delivery truck. Also, the domain expert is the person who can actually determine what questions should be asked!
For all university students thinking about careers in big data and analytics, IBM recently announced the IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, a first-of-its-kind online platform that provides data-driven insights to help narrow the Big Data and Analytics skills gap and foster talent for the next-generation workforce.
The IBM Innovation Center Dallas also will hold a hands-on workshop on IBM SPSS Modeler on December 4, 2013. You can register online for this free session. This full-day workshop will introduce IBM SPSS Modeler and show how to build predictive models in a variety of business scenarios.