Analytics = the future of business

It’s business 101—identifying your customer, tracking your sales, filling orders and planning for the future. Business professionals at every level and in all areas—management, marketing and operations—need data to identify these trends, patterns and relationships and to predict customer behavior, demand, equipment failure and supply shortages.  

Recognizing the importance of data analytics, the Haworth College of Business recently opened the Center for Data Analytics, which is quickly becoming a hub for academic research, industry partnerships and analytics curriculum. 

 “Our analytics efforts will be quite limited if we only educate students with a one-size-fits-all approach to problems, tools and techniques,” says Dr. KC Chen, co-director of the Center for Business Analytics, professor of computer information systems and recognized leader in data analytics research. “Instead, our center strives to help students become the kind of analytics leaders who can analyze problems with the appropriate tools and techniques to uncover impactful business insights.” 

With the center and the Department of Business Information Systems leading the way, the college provides some of the best analytics offerings in Michigan, including:

  • pie graph imageA growing number of students adding analytics minors to their studies. 
  • A business analytics major that exposes students to the software platforms and analytics techniques used to store, transform, manipulate and analyze small and large data in different forms. 
  • Analytics coursework in areas such as accountancy, finance, marketing, supply chain and IT.
  • Award-winning research from faculty in marketing and computer information systems, among others.
  • Big Data Analytics, a course that draws undergraduate and graduate students from across the university in fields as diverse as geosciences, economics and education.

Students and their future employers are benefiting from this comprehensive approach. For two students, analytics knowledge is taking them into industries they love with the problem-solving skills and technical aptitude required to meet the demands of the work world not only today but in the future.

Sage Sackett: Sustainable manufacturing

Sage Sackett was drawn to chemical engineering. “I loved the puzzles and problem solving involved,” she says. But three years into an engineering degree, she found herself enjoying technology courses the most. The critical thinking and problem solving required in these technology courses caused her to reconsider her career path. She also realized she wanted to be involved with people and planning, and a business degree fulfilled these aspirations. “I’ve learned how the technical side integrates with project management—and the importance of always focusing on fulfilling the business need.”

Sackett says her coursework and internship with the WMU project management office are preparing her to fulfill her ultimate goals. “I hope to create a more sustainability-forward manufacturing industry by helping to decrease the negative environmental and societal impacts involved in numerous manufacturing supply chains,” she says. “The possibilities are endless since improving technology will provide better solutions that are easier to implement.”

Brandon Buxton: Improving healthcare

After experiencing a severe health crisis while a WMU business student, Brandon Buxton discovered his passion in the healthcare sector. Long stays in the hospital exposed him to the problems and opportunities that exist in healthcare. Returning to his studies, Buxton learned about health informatics and information management, a field that bridges the gap among clinical, business and technical areas and ensures the safety, security and efficiency of electronic health systems. Now he works at Bronson Healthcare as a co-op, exploring the healthcare sector he seeks to influence.

“I’m very excited to see how technology, particularly analytics, revolutionizes patient care,” says Buxton. “We are finding that algorithms can help identify, predict and diagnose in ways that previously took rounds of specialists and expensive tests. This realization offers the possibility of seriously improving the health of our nation within the next few decades.”

Both Sackett and Buxton are involved in the future of analytics where collaboration, information and insights are not produced solely for human consumption but for developing technology solutions such as medical tests and sustainable processes. 

“In this network of collaboration, devices, equipment and gadgets are also consumers of data,” says Chen. “Sometimes, as humans, we are already part of this data ecosystem without even knowing it.”

As faculty, industry and students continue to explore the future of analytics, they are adapting techniques and tools to focus on business goals.  

And that is the future of business 101.