What is Business Analytics?

How does Amazon.com make recommendations for products? Why is General Electric collecting massive amounts of data from the aircraft engines it sells? What is so enchanting about Disney’s MagicBand? These three companies generate, use and analyze data to make better decisions and to better serve their customers.

Business analytics is the process of transforming data into insights to improve business decisions. Data management, data visualization, predictive modeling, data mining, forecasting simulation and optimization are some of the tools used to create insights from data.

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Through business analytics, Amazon.com turns sales data into insight by analyzing millions of purchases to find customers like you and predict products you might buy. General Electric can predict in advance from its sensor data when engine maintenance is needed. Based on a survey you filled out, Disney can alert its servers that you prefer a booth to a table and that your favorite character is Minnie Mouse. When you arrive, you are seated at a booth and Minnie makes it a point to visit you at lunch.

In all three cases, business analytics is being used to better serve the customer.


Demand for Analytics Professionals

Information technology is now pervasive in society. For example, cell phones, sensors, retail scanners, and the internet generate massive amounts of data that are of potential value to businesses. We truly live in the age of data and the amount of data collected will only continue to grow. These data are valuable only if they can be converted to information and insight. MSBA graduates develop the deep quantitative capabilities and technical expertise to create business and social value by extracting useful insights and applying them in a variety of career settings (think Billy Beane from Moneyball).

However, there is a shortage of well-trained business analytics professionals who can create insight from data to solve business problems. According to McKinsey Global Institute’s “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”…

“by 2018 the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions”

Across all industries, opportunities for business analysts have exploded as major organizations have adopted data-driven and technology-focused approaches. Currently, 85 percent of the positions in business analytics require an advanced degree, with 75 percent specifying an MS degree as an educational requirement. Wake Forest MSBA graduates will develop the deep quantitative capabilities and technical expertise required to translate technical data into actionable insights, creating business value in a variety of career settings.

Examples of business analytics jobs at today’s leading employers include:

  • Management Analyst/Consultant
  • Data Analyst/Scientist
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Program and Marketing Managers
  • Big Data Analytics Specialist
  • Research Analyst
  • Manager of Services or Manufacturing Operations
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Business Intelligence and Performance Management Consultants
  • Pricing and Revenue Optimization Analyst

“Increasingly in today’s business world, expertise in Business Analytics is a critical differentiator when companies are seeking new talent. As the amount and type of information we can collect and evaluate continues to explode, companies need analytics to translate data into relevant, actionable information, and thus success. The Wake Forest MSBA curriculum is designed to equip students with not only analytical skills, but also the necessary communication skills to drive analytics into action.”

David Dittman
Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Procter & Gamble