By Dr. Stephen Hill, Associate Professor of Business Analytics and Director of the M.S. Business Analytics Program, Cameron School of Business (This post was originally shared on WilmingtonBiz.com on May 1, 2019)
Kevin Kelley, Head Coach of the Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Arkansas) football team has turned conventional thinking in high school football on its head. How? His team never punts on fourth down. Why? Analytics. Universities across the country have seen increases in student retention. Fewer students are leaving school. Why? Analytics. A high-end retailer developed an email campaign that yielded dramatic increases in revenue per email over past campaigns. Why? Analytics.
These three examples of analytics applications come from very different settings but share in common the use of analytics to add value. Analytics adds value for an organization by taking data (often messy and large) and transforming it. This transformation can result in outputs that can be as simple as a statistical summary or as complex as a deep neural network. Fortunately, meaningful insight can often come from simple techniques. For example, a simple visualization can uncover unique features of your data and convey a powerful message to your audience. A few visualizations, carefully designed, can be assembled into a dashboard for “at-a-glance”, real-time analysis. An Excel PivotTable can quickly summarize and aggregate your data, revealing insights that might remain hidden in a sheet of data.
What should you do if your organization is not using analytics as a part of its decision-making processes? You can be the one to introduce them to the value of analytics! Whether you are a recent college graduate, early in your career, or advanced in your career path, there are opportunities for you to use analytics to add value for your organization. A natural place to start is by enhancing your Excel spreadsheet skills. The spreadsheet is business’s ubiquitous analytics tool. Build your Excel skill set by learning popular functions to help you save time, data visualization with Excel charts to help your data “tell a story”, and PivotTables for summarizing and presenting findings from your data. From the analytics “gateway tool” (Excel) the next steps in learning analytics often involve some or all of the following: databases, specialized visualization tools (for example, Tableau), and programming languages such as R, Python, and SAS that are designed to apply advanced analytics techniques to solve complex problems involving large sets of data.
If you are looking for training in business analytics, the Cameron School of Business at UNCW has many opportunities available. Professional development workshops to help you hone your Excel skills are frequently offered. An undergraduate program in Business Analytics is training the business analytics professionals of the future. In August 2018, we launched our new Master of Business Analytics program. This program is fully online, competitively priced, designed for the working professional, and can be completed in as little as ten months. If you or individuals in your organization are interested in any of these training opportunities, we invite you to contact Dr. Hill directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.