We live in a data-driven economy, where algorithms are used to recommend items for online shoppers and to place the stories you can read on LinkedIn. Even your grocery store is customizing coupons based on your shopping habits.
Companies make decisions based on data, using analytics to measure everything from delivery times to social media impact. Data is applied toward better sales, policies, services and science.
“It’s only going to grow,” said L. Allison Jones-Farmer, the Van Andel Professor of Business Analytics and director of Miami University’s Center for Analytics and Data Science (CADS).
Jones-Farmer, whose research focuses on developing statistical methods to solve real-world problems, joined Miami in 2014 to help create the center.
CADS launched in spring 2015 with a $175,000 internal grant over three years from the Innovation and Interdisciplinary Fund in the provost’s office. The center is an interdisciplinary collaboration among the departments of information systems and analytics in the Farmer School of Business; statistics in the College of Arts and Science; and computer science and software engineering in the College of Engineering and Computing. The departments of marketing and accountancy also are involved.
The center was created to develop academic programs that address high-demand skills, partner with internal and external organizations on experiential learning opportunities and foster interdisciplinary collaborative research.
John Bailer (left), University Distinguished Professor and chair of the department of statistics, said the time was right for CADS.
“All of our lives are being influenced by the data that is being collected and the tools
that are being applied, so our responsibility is to make sure we have students that are aware of these things being done and being developed,” he said. “They are going to be partners in the development of this.”
A 2011 McKinsey & Company report predicted there could be a shortage of employees with deep analytical skills by 2018.
Miami’s center will develop a new kind of problem solver who can compile and analyze data but also interpret, communicate and apply information in this rapidly changing information age.
In its first year, the center has raised $375,000 from corporate partnerships with IBM, Cardinal Health, EY (Ernst & Young), Allstate and the Sheskey Family Foundation. It is seeking five more partnerships.
EY also gave $388,000 for an Analytics Learning Lab, a central meeting place for students in analytics/data science fields and a work environment for project-based clients.
New skills for a competitive advantage
Patty Morrison (Miami ’80), chief information officer and executive vice president of customer support services for Dublin-based Cardinal Health Inc., said the Fortune 500 company wants to attract the best and brightest Miami students who want to solve problems for health care.
“Part of that preparation is practical experience in working across disciplines to generate insights from data,” Morrison said. “The center brings this unique approach to complement any student’s major area of study.”
Data and analytics play “the primary role in my field right now,” said Morrison, who sees the value in students from various majors getting a minor in business analytics or participating in CADS.
“New business models are emerging every day that are based on analytics,” she said.
“Everyone needs to be ready.”
Jones-Farmer said she’s seeing a tremendous interest from students to supplement their majors with these kinds of skills.
Student enjoys turning raw data into solutions for business
Nicole Peters (right)) — a senior supply chain and operations management major who has an analytics co-major and information systems minor — liked being part of the cross-functional team on a project about the impact of the Butler County Land Bank. She said exposure to different approaches and thinking methodologies paired with the opportunity to apply concepts learned in analytics courses gave her a unique learning experience.
“The almost infinite opportunities drew me to these fields of study,” Peters said. “Analytics is a dynamic and rapidly growing field, and with supply chain, a company can always do better — become more efficient, more sustainable, more responsive.”
This is the second summer Peters is working in Atlanta for WestRock, an American corrugated packaging company. As a logistics analyst intern, she focuses primarily on projects designed to uncover savings opportunities for the company from a logistics standpoint.
“For example, last summer I worked on a mill-to-port mode conversion project in which I analyzed shipments traveling from mills to ports to determine where the shipping mode could be converted from truck to rail to save the company money,” she said.
Peters said she enjoys the challenge of working with data sets.
“I like how each problem is different and no two are approached the exact same way,” she said. “But no matter what, you always have the same end goal — to turn raw data into information that can be used to make business decisions.”