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In 1974, Colleen Roberts went straight from high school into nursing. In the early 1990s, she went back for a bachelor’s degree in nursing just as her employer, Intermountain Healthcare, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, began actively using data to help shape patient care.

At the time, she noticed that data was beginning to change behaviors — and improve patient outcomes. She also noticed she liked working with the data. “I was interested in it, and it was challenging, and I obviously like the challenge,” she says. She had always intended to get more education, and a divorce further motivated her. She also found that the demands of bedside nursing were wearing on her over time. So in 1998, at the age of 42, she started work towards a master’s degree in clinical informatics at the University of Utah. She felt out of place — she was neither young nor a programmer. But she knew how clinicians worked, and she knew how to apply the data. She got her master’s in 2002, and became a data manager for the cardiovascular clinical program at Intermountain.

As a data manager, “my biggest job was facilitating between people who talk clinical and people who talk information systems,” Roberts says. “They need help translating.” She was a particularly effective translator, because on the IT side, she could explain the process challenges doctors and nurses faced while caring for patients. And when talking to doctors and nurses, “when I mentioned I had been a bedside nurse for 25 years, I suddenly gained their respect and their willingness to listen to what I had to say. I wasn’t just an IT person who didn’t understand their world.”

About the Authors:

Sam Ransbotham is an associate professor in the information systems department at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, as well as the guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Data & Analytics Big Idea initiative.

David Kiron is the executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Idea Initiatives.

Pamela Kirk Prentice is the chief research officer at SAS Institute Inc.


Michael Fitzgerald, contributing editor, MIT Sloan Management Review

Nina Kruschwitz, senior project manager, MIT Sloan Management Review

Portions of this report are adapted from “Minding the Analytics Gap,” MIT Sloan Management Review, volume 56, no. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 63-68.

To cite this report, please use:

S. Ransbotham, D. Kiron and P.K. Prentice, “The Talent Dividend: Analytics talent is driving competitive advantage at data-oriented companies,” MIT Sloan Management Review, April 2015.


Ram Akella, professor of information systems and technology management, University of California, Santa Cruz

Beena Ammanath, data informatics leader, General Electric

Denis Arnaud, head of data science development, Amadeus IT Group

Lori Ann Baas, CEO, Christopher House

Justin H.S. Breaux, external communications specialist, Argonne National Laboratory

Remco Brouwer, director business intelligence, The Coca-Cola Company

Meta Brown, consultant

Vince Campisi, CIO, GE Software, General Electric

Thomas Cauthen, vice president, commercial and business development, Travel Intelligence Group, Amadeus IT Group

Mathew Chacko, director of enterprise architecture, The Coca-Cola Company

Chad Dreas, managing director, media analytics, Nielsen

Wayde Fleener, senior manager of global consumer insights, data scientist, General Mills

Andy Frawley, CEO, Epsilon

David Gledhill, managing director, head of group technology and operations, DBS Bank

Mike Hess, executive vice president of data fusion and integration, Nielsen

Kimberly Holmes, senior vice president of strategic analytics, XL Group

Hartwell Hooper, director of store location research, CVS Caremark Corporation

Scott Howser, senior vice president of products and marketing, Nutonian

Arvind Karunakaran, PhD candidate, MIT Sloan School of Management

Jim Lucchese, CEO, The Echo Nest

John Mattison, chief medical information officer, Kaiser Permanente

Michelle McKenna-Doyle, senior vice president and CIO, National Football League

Michael Rappa, founding director, Institute for Advanced Analytics, North Carolina State University

Peter Raven, director of business development, Amadeus IT Group

Tuck Rickards, co-leader of the digital transformation practice, Russell Reynolds Associates

Traci Stanley, director of quality assurance, Christopher House

James Taylor, CEO, Decision Management Solutions

Hal Varian, chief economist, Google


1. IDC, Worldwide Business Analytics Software 2014–2018 Forecast and 2013 Vendor Shares, July 2014.

2. D. Kiron, P. K. Prentice and R. B. Ferguson, “The Analytics Mandate," May 12, 2014.

3. S. Ransbotham, D. Kiron and P.K. Prentice, “Minding the Analytics Gap,” MIT Sloan Management Review 56, no. 3 (spring 2015): 63–68.

4. Deep analytical talent: Where are they now?

5. For more about the difference between data scientists and other data workers, see: J.G. Harris and V. Mehrotra, “Getting Value from Your Data Scientists,” MIT Sloan Management Review 56, no. 1 (fall 2014): 15–18.

6. M. Fitzgerald, “DBS Bank Pumps up the Volume on its Technology,” MIT Sloan Management Review, January 6, 2014.

7. M. Fitzgerald, “Analytics Meets Mother Goose,” MIT Sloan Management Review, November 20, 2014.