Why study business analytics?

What is Business Analytics?

We produce a lot of data – more than 2.5 quintillion bytes every day – in the form of social media posts, news broadcasts, Youtube videos, credit-card transactions, restaurant bookings, online purchase orders, and more. Think of how much information you can find in Wikipedia. It’s more than you could ever read. Now imagine if that 2.5 quintillion bytes of daily data is the size of Singapore. That would mean that Wikipedia is smaller than the full-stop at the end of this sentence. How do we make sense of all that data? Much of it is trivial, but we need to sort through it, filter it and discover those useful nuggets that can help our business survive and prosper.

Business Analytics is about driving organisational success using evidence-based decision-making. Terms like “big data” and “predictive analytics” echo a growing need for analytics techniques in Business and Government, as well as Security services and Health and not-for-profit organisations. Financial institutions mine customer history to decide whether a new loan application is a credit risk. Health bureaucrats filter posts on Twitter and Instagram to predict an influenza outbreak. Security forces map a network of text and phone links to reveal the centre of a criminal gang. Marketing specialists combine customer data with transport data to design customised sales messages for commuters. HR managers extract employee data to discover hidden skill sets. These are just some of the many applications of business analytics.

Business analytics is much more than data science. A data scientist can manipulate data and apply sophisticated analytical tools to answer important questions. The business analytics expert does all that, but also understands the context in which questions are asked. With domain knowledge, the analyst understands the reasons that managers ask questions, and is able to draw out important insights from the data beyond simply answering a question. The business analytics professional also has strong communications skills, able to create visualisations of data and present information for managers and others to make better decisions.

Business analytics, then requires a combination of technical skills and a deep understanding of how organisations operate. Technical skills might include data-base management, data gathering and manipulation, statistics, programming, higher-level computer-based skills with data mining, machine learning, predictive modelling and process modelling. Organisational skills start with Economics theory, basic Accounting practice, Human Resources management, Marketing and Management. Successful business analytics professionals are curious – they want to learn more about how things work, what’s new in their industry and how rapidly-changing technology affects their work. They’re up-to-date, and they love to discover something new and share it with others.

Where can I study Business Analytics?

Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, offers a Bachelor of Business Analytics. It’s a three-year full-time undergraduate program that combines data science units from the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering with business units from the Faculty of Business and Economics, plus several custom-designed units especially for the Business Analytics program. The degree is becoming increasingly popular as employers compete for graduates. Many students choose to enrol in a double-degree, earning two complete undergraduate degrees in four years, combining Business Analytics with Applied Finance, Security Studies, Professional Accounting, or Economics.

About the Author:

Dr Hume Winzar is an Associate Professor in Business and Director of the Bachelor of Business Analytics at Macquarie University. He is co-author of three best-selling textbooks in Consumer Psychology, Marketing Research and Statistics. Recent research includes complexity theory and campaigning against the misuse of statistical inference.