Retail Doing Good Job With Analytics; It Can Still Get Better

We’ve pointed out in these blogs the many areas where retail enterprises excel in using advanced analytics–particularly at such retail giants as Home Depot, Walmart, Kroger, etc.  However, analytics still is a developing field and the true experts still are fairly few and far between.  Advanced analytics has not been a major focus of U.S. educational systems, however, and now that is changing.


College institutions are starting to provide Business Intelligence degrees

College institutions are starting to provide Business Intelligence degrees

Information Week has a good article about advanced analytics degrees now being offered by a variety of educational institutions.  That article is available here.  As the article points out, many colleges and universities now are offering  masters degrees in big data and analytics.  Some are one-year programs, others two years.  As the article points out: “All of these programs are geared to candidates who already have undergraduate degrees, and most favor professionals with three or more years of work experience. In many cases part-time options are available, so students can continue to work as they learn more about big data analytics.


As big data continues to grow at all kinds of businesses, there increasingly will be a need for this expertise.  If big data is the future–and increasingly it seems that is the case–getting qualified experts to work with it is essential.  The assembly line is up, you need to tap into it if big data is clogging your systems.

–Warren B. Causey

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University Creates a Masters Program Devoted to Analytics

As more companies recognize the value of data analytics, a university in Ireland recently created an entire graduate program about analytics.  Specifically, Dublin City University is collaborating with IBM to develop a master’s degree devoted to big data, analytics and smart cities. Big data, of course, refers to the technology that handles the large amounts of data generated from items such as surveillance cameras, sensors, mobile devices, hospital equipment, social networks, and more.  According to Gartner, spending on Big Data was already $28 million in 2012, and analysts expect that this market will grow at least 30% per annum in the coming years.

Dublin City University teams up with IBM!

Dublin City University teams up with IBM!

About the Data Analytics Program


This computer science program will allow individuals to further develop their “IT chops” for areas of study that include consumer behavior,  urban analysis, social networks, healthcare, security issues and other topics.  In turn, these students will develop the skills necessary to recognize and offer efficient solutions to the problems of the future.  As cities create a significant amount of data, it is important to learn how to properly analyze and then use this information to make relevant business decisions.  Moreover, as many other industries also create large amounts of data, the skills learned in this master’s program can also be transferable to other industries.  Thus, since data analytics is a growing field, a significant amount of career opportunities await them upon graduating.


Why This Data Analytics Program is Important?


Without a doubt, companies, in general, are generating more data than ever before.  As such, it can be challenging to analyze and gain valuable insights into all of this digital information. Consequently, the Master’s program seeks to educate and specifically address any skills gap where data analytics in the workplace is concerned.  Moreover, this program will work with other related programs – namely the Centre for Applied Analytics Research and the university’s PhD program in data analytics.
In turn, as Ireland will graduate students with a data analytics background, more research can be conducted in this growing and important field.  Further, due to an educated workforce, perhaps more international companies may be interested in conducting business in Ireland in the future.


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Cloud Penetrating Education Bureaucracies

In addition to working in private enterprise, I also have another part-time calling as a United Methodist local pastor.  Local pastors serve smaller churches that can’t afford a full-time minister.  As part of that job, there are certain educational requirements you fulfill over time, usually in the summer, in my case at the Candler School at Emory University in downtown Atlanta, GA.


Talk about analytics in the cloud!  When I started this work years ago, you had to turn in typewritten papers and communicate with school staff and administrators through the mail or by telephone, and also look up information on the web; actually that came after I started.  You got your grades in the mail later, usually quite a bit later.  Today, all that has changed.  It’s all in the cloud. You file your papers on-line, communicate with the professors via the school’s e-mail system, get your grades on-line and generally do everything in the cloud.  Paper is superfluous unless you get an old-line professor who wants you to bring a paper copy of something to class–none of mine did this summer.


I haven’t seen any analytics about the use of the cloud in education, but I suspect it would be a fertile area for study.  Meanwhile, I’ve got a nearly full box of reams copy paper under a table near my desk that I rarely use unless I want to print out something myself so I can read it while I work on something else on the computer, although I’m sure I will be going fully green soon!

–Warren B. Causey

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Predictive Analytics Ripe For Healthcare
The University of California at Irvine now offers a certificate program in predictive analytics.  Predictive analytics have been used to help turn baseball programs around and by numerous businesses in order to improve their bottom line.  It is time it was adopted by healthcare organizations, at least in this country with all the new regulations being handed out on a daily basis.


Actually, healthcare already uses predictive analytics, at least to some extent, using data analyses of the past performance of certain medicines and medical approaches to various problems.  However, there is much more that can be done on a macro level in terms of tracking disease progress and even using social media and other data and trends to predict when outbreaks might be expected.
With education catching up and offering programs specifically in the process of using data to anticipate outcomes, don’t you think it’s time for healthcare to begin looking into the future?
–Warren B. Causey

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The World Is Complex; Advanced Analytics Can Simplify
Remember high school or college research projects?  Remember trying to find, and then pouring over, thick tomes that might or might not have the specific information you were looking for?  Remember the frustration of realizing that you probably didn’t have all the necessary information when you sat down to write your paper?


Those frustrations haven’t gone away, but they have been eased a bit with the convenience of the Internet, and advanced analytics hold even more promise.  Combine the tools and you have a powerful method of discerning truth in what seems an extremely complex world.  Currently, advanced analytics are used primarily by large private companies and governmental organizations to increase profitability and transparency; however, they also have possibilities for individuals needing to research or track virtually anything.  And as prices for business intelligence dashboards come down, it isn’t hard to imagine advanced analytics becoming more mainstream among the general public.
This is not to say that you’ll be able to use advanced analytics to research virtually anything from home or your dorm room in the near future.  However, it isn’t hard to imagine such a scenario over the next 20 years or so.  Of course then, with “one version of the truth” all those trying to convince you of “their way” may have more difficulties, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Manufacturers, retail companies and high-tech firms and of course government and quasi-government agencies will be first, but they will be blazing trails more of us can follow.
–Warren B. Causey 

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Healthcare Analytics In Need Of The “Big Picture”
Most of us are bombarded these days by e-mails from a myriad of outfits that claimed to have “discovered” the cure for everything from psoriasis to Alzheimer’s.  Of course virtually all of them want you to send your money to solve the problem.  In 99.9 percent of the cases the only problem likely to be solved is the purveyors’ want for money.
So what does the average consumer, who is not a health-care professional, do to navigate these tortuous trails?  Actually, there isn’t much other than be sure to thoroughly research anything that lands in your in-box before giving up any hard-earned cash.  That same Internet that brings you all these offers, many of them bogus, also provides a ready tool with which to research before you buy.
However, doing your own research would be much more effective if there were trusted, analytical analyses of all these offers readily available.  The tools to provide the advice you need are available with advanced analytics.  You can’t do all of that by yourself, but there are people working on it.  Meanwhile, be careful before making complex decisions and, as we said above, disregard 99.9 percent of the “miracle cures” that arrive in your e-mail.  Find a way to analyze the other .1 percent.
–Warren B. Causey

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How Business Intelligence Can Help Student Retention

Higher Education organizations are being challenged by pressures to increase funding sources by controlling student retention, a mission complex even for the smallest of institutions.  Academic leaders are searching for tools to help their faculty and management teams pinpoint areas of need and find solutions to reduce student drop out rates.  They are looking to their immense data collected through student portals and learning management systems, enrollment processes, curriculum and faculty sources to help create critical real-time actions.

Consider the problem of student retention in a college or university setting.  Studies have shown that faculty has a huge impact on student retention, what if faculty could access data in a non-static format that would allow them to immediately take steps to help a student who is faltering?  Would it help faculty to see a dashboard matrix populated with vital information such as:

•A list of their current students who have missed two days of class in a row.
•A list of any students who did not turn in assignment XX, or a graph of the submitted grades.
•All students who received a grade below a C on quiz.
•Student progression in their degree program, etc.

The possibilities are incredible; with dashboarding capabilities, faculty could use data to easily assign tutoring to students wavering, not at mid-point or at final exams, but early in the semester when it is possible to make a difference, batch e-mail students who missed class or didn’t log into the learning management system, or email student success coaches with concerns.  Faculty could also visually compare course structures and assessments to student learning outcomes and identify areas in need of improvement.

Higher Education leadership should investigate how business intelligence solutions can support faculty and managers in the use of data to help students succeed.  Student success is one key factor to create a sustainable financial atmosphere in an environment where more accountability and less funding are becoming the norm.

(Willie Pomeroy)

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