The Most Desirable Management Career of the Next Decade – Analytics

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 1040 , Published on 05 March 2015

That’s right! Analytics is going to be the “sexiest” job for management professionals. Reason – simple, this is one field which does not enjoy the preference of management students, but it needs a lot of management talent hence a lot of vacancies/ requirements and it is not even close to saturation today so this is one of the high growth industries for the next decade.

Let me explain this in detail. Analytics, to put simply, is helping businesses with data. Now what is data and what kind of help are we talking about. That’s the cool part! Data can be any information about the system or surroundings. If a human being has something wrong, he/ she might experience a fever or any other anomaly in the body which indicates that there’s something wrong. Similarly, this data about the system or surroundings of a business is shouting if something is wrong. Analytics is all about identifying and capturing this shout and transforming it into a corrective action. Let’s take an example, how can analytics help in running a factory? The main components of a factory are machinery, human capital and real estate infrastructure.

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Now let’s imagine if instead of routine checks, we could predict when a machinery will develop a slag or when can we expect the workers to go on strike or leave their jobs. Yes, analytics can help in doing all this. Machines are made up of a number of components. When a machine is not working properly, some components may have been damaged. If we can place sensors in appropriate regions of a machine and track their output, using historical data, we can very well predict when a damage is about to happen to the machine in real time based on live feed from these sensors. A recent study by one of the top consulting firms elaborates on how advanced analytics can improve manufacturing to reduce process flaws, save time and money. And the applicability of analytics is practically limitless. From helping run businesses better to saving lives in the field of healthcare, analytics is everywhere. If it’s not somewhere, it will be in the next few years as more and more firms and industries are understanding the importance of analytics and implementing the same.

With this context about the scope of analytics, let’s understand the role of management professionals. From most of the discussion above, analytics seems to be close to technology and rightly so, it is. The industry has 90-95% professions from engineering, statistics and related fields. That’s exactly the point. Although these professionals are good at developing technology to leverage analytics and also to synthesize useful information from data, they lack the understanding of the big picture. Management education bridges exactly this gap. Curriculum in a typical Indian management school is designed to help candidates develop an understanding of all functions of a business and then delve deep into one or two functions. In recent years, many of the tier I institutes have started offering courses related to application of management concepts leveraging analytics in various management functions – finance, operations, marketing, HR. A management professional connects the grass root data to business. They are required to provide the direction for executing analytics and transform the learnings into business solutions.

To explain this further, let’s take an example of a retail store that is currently operating without any analytics. This provides a large business opportunity for an analytics firm. Typically, an analytics consultant or an engagement manager would approach the store and sell an analytics based business solution. This would require these professionals to have a good understanding of various functions of the retail store operations like supply chain, finance, customer relationship (marketing) etc and how analytics can help the store in each of these functions. The next step would require the store to set up the technology to capture the data required for analytics. This can range from tracking supply data to point-of-sale data and customer behavior inside a store (this may be video data). Here comes another role of an analytics management professional who would guide the IT team about the requirements from the required system for analytics. Finally, once the data collection process has begun, an analytics professional will work with the store manager to define business problem statements which will define the direction and objectives for executing the analysis (typically taken up by “non-MBAs”). In this example, we saw how management professionals play a pivotal role at each step of an analytics organization.

Finally, I would like to discuss the upcoming fields where analytics management professionals have the greatest demand today. The fastest growing industry among these is e-commerce. The very nature of the business allows easy data collection at all touch points and hence tremendous opportunity for analytics. Again, since there is no physical interaction between the firm and the customer, analytics plays a significant role in helping e-commerce business understand and serve their customers better. The second industry that I want to touch upon is manufacturing. Traditionally analytics firms have been shying away from this industry but as discussed earlier, a manufacturing unit realizes tremendous savings with the right use of analytics. Since this is a pretty new realized opportunity, this field of analytics is also on a high growth trajectory.

Analytics has always been around us. We make a lot of day-to-day decisions based on data floating around us and now this is growing as a professional field of study and becoming increasing popular among management professionals. Analytics will definitely stay and grow!

This article has been authored by A V Rahul from IIM Indore


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