Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

Story and photo by
Thomas Skernivitz

As Corporate America
copes with “infobesity,” the business school at Baldwin Wallace University has just the cure.

Baldwin Wallace has started an MBA track in business analytics. The two-year degree prepares students to be knowledgeable in utilizing data while making business decisions. Students at the Berea-based institution will learn a variety of analytical techniques in order to explore data and better explain the past and predict the future.

Social media has continued to fuel information overload, to the point in which data —“big data,” as it is often regarded — has become so large and complex that traditional data-processing applications are inadequate.

“Big data is a topic that’s become a really hot item in the business world,” John Lanigan, the dean of BW’s School of Business, says. “The reason that it has is because businesses of all sizes and even nonprofits of all sizes are becoming inundated with information that they they’re not quite sure what to do with.”
BW accurately foresaw this trend, Lanigan says, prompting the school to initiate its track this fall. Students are still being accepted.

“It’s been a couple of years in the works,” Lanigan says. “A couple of professors here really started to bang the drum on it. Their students in our MBA programs were talking about big data and how their companies were scratching their heads about it and starting to think about it. It was really a kind of collective awareness or awakening around this being an emerging trend in business.”

Harvard Business Review calls data science “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” U.S. News reports that in three years the United States will face a shortage of as many as 190,000 people with the skills to analyze big data.

There is no preferred student candidate, Lanigan says. The track caters just as well to marketers as it does to accountants. “It really depends upon the organization that the student works for and where the student believes the organization is going from the standpoint of organizing its resources around data analysis,” Lanigan says.

One company might assign data analysis to its finance department, Lanigan says. Another might direct the responsibility to its marketing staff. “I don’t think you could pigeonhole one type of student that might be interested in this,” he says. “It’s not industry specific. It’s not job-description specific. That’s what’s kind of fun about it. It’s not a department yet.”

Baldwin Wallace welcomes students who represent Northeast Ohio’s prominent healthcare industry. “Talk about reams of data — healthcare has as much data as any industry,” Lanigan says.

The school expects the manufacturing and finance sectors to be strongly represented in the MBA track. “We still have a really strong manufacturing base in Northeast Ohio. As much as people think we lost a lot of that over the years — and we did lose a lot of the very big manufacturers — there are a lot of mid-size and larger organizations still in Northeast Ohio. They can all benefit from this as well,” Lanigan says. “And the financial services sector, they are awash in data as well.”

Nonprofits, because of their constant social media interaction, could especially benefit from improved data analysis, Lanigan says. “Talk about a sector that social media is such a big part of. The nonprofits really have an opportunity to take advantage of big data of things like their donor databases and who might be interested in being involved in their activities,” he says.

Lanigan says social media is behind the “explosion” of an “unbelievable volume of information” that companies are now trying to digest.

“You have all of these inputs and sources of data coming into an organization, and organizations are struggling to make sense of it all,” Lanigan says. “In some cases it’s very specific information, right down to the product level. And in other cases it’s customer experience information. Some of it is very formalized. Some if it’s informal. It could be a Facebook post — ‘I love your product’ or ‘I hate your product.’ How do you make sense of all that information? How do you organize it? How do you gather it? How do you analyze it?”

Most of BW’s MBA students are currently employed and receive at least some financial assistance from their employers, Lanigan says. The data analysis track can be finished in two years, although students have the option to take as much time as they prefer. While the final three courses in the track are specific to data analysis, all prior courses are common to the university’s core MBA programs.

“One of the things we’d like to do here is to really have the students help us shape (the track) in its early days and give us feedback as to whether or not we’re hitting the mark on it and that they’re getting the type of information and education that they need to go back and make a difference in their organizations,” Lanigan says. “This is a great time to get in on the ground floor of this program because they can help us shape the program for years to come.”

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