Data & Analytics

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On the Care and Feeding of Your Analytics Talent

A panel of experts discusses the challenges of finding, engaging and organizing data scientists for best results. They talk about how to support your data scientists and keep them engaged in the right kinds of tasks and how to integrate new talent into your existing data and analytics team. They also talk about the skills and traits to look for when recruiting and selecting your data/analytics team, and how to assess existing internal talent for data roles.


General Mills Builds Up Big Data to Answer Big Questions

General Mills brought a data scientist into its Consumer Insights group because it wanted to use its existing data more effectively. The company thought it was making decisions based too much on outside data at the expense of what it knew. But figuring out what the company actually knew about its consumers was the challenge facing Wayde Fleener as he came on board. In an interview with MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, Fleener talks about how he got started in building a Big Data practice within his division.

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Participant Questions from the Recent Data & Analytics Webinar

On May 7, 2015, we held a free, live webinar to share the findings and insights from the latest MIT Sloan Management Review Data and Analytics Big Idea Initiative research report, “The Talent Dividend.” The report presents our findings on the role of analytics talent in creating competitive advantage. At the end of the webinar, many participants asked questions. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to answer them all during the webinar itself. So instead, we’ll answer some of the questions this month, and some next month.


Coca-Cola’s Unique Challenge: Turning 250 Datasets Into One

At The Coca-Cola Company, one of the big challenges is how to understand customers who are a long pipeline away in the inherently intermediated world of hundreds of Coke bottlers. That means moving toward newer technologies to do more forward-looking analytics versus backward-looking analytics, says the company’s Remco Brouwer and Mathew Chacko.


The Talent Dividend

The 2015 Data & Analytics Report by MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS finds that talent management is critical to realizing analytics benefits. This fifth annual survey of business executives, managers and analytics professionals from organizations located around the world captured insights from 2,719 respondents. It finds that organizations achieving the greatest benefits from analytics are also much more likely to have a plan for building their talent bench.


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Once You Align the Analytical Stars, What’s Next?

You’ve figured out how to get the data, and how to make sure it’s good quality. You’ve hired the right people to put your data through the analytics wringer. Now you’ve got the results in your hands &mdash and you may not be sure what to do next. Consuming analytics effectively — and getting business value out of your analytics — is a challenge for many companies, and executives must get creative to increase their comfort level.


Minding the Analytics Gap

While analytical skills are improving among managers, the increasing sophistication of analyses is outpacing the development of those skills. The resulting gap creates a need for managers to become comfortable applying analytical results they do not fully understand. A 2014 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with SAS Institute Inc., highlights the ways that companies can address this problem by focusing on both the production and consumption sides of analytics.


The New World of Work

Advanced digital technologies are swiftly changing the kinds of skills that jobs require. Researchers Frank MacCrory, George Westerman and Erik Brynjolfsson from the MIT Sloan School of Management and Yousef Alhammadi of the Masdar Institute studied the changes in skill requirements over the 2006-2014 time period. While demand has clearly grown for computer skills, it has grown for interpersonal skills, too. The authors advise people in all lines of work to be flexible about acquiring new talents.

Image courtesy of Wal-Mart.

Sustaining an Analytics Advantage

Many companies have maintained a competitive advantage through analytics for many years — even decades. Those companies include Wal-Mart, ABB Electric, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Amazon. Peter C. Bell (Ivey Business School) writes that "research over a 30-year period suggests that there have been five basic ways in which companies have sustained an advantage generated through analytics." Tactics include keeping your company's analytics secret and applying analytics to the right problems.



Analytics in E Major

The Echo Nest, a self-described “music intelligence” company recently acquired by Spotify, uses machine-learning technology to connect people with music. “At our core,” says CEO Jim Lucchese, “what we’re trying to do is what a great deejay does, or the friend that you rely on musically: to better understand who you are as a fan.” In a Q&A, Lucchese describes how the company merges machine learning and cultural analytics to describe music in an analytics-friendly way and help users find new music they’ll enjoy.

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Are Data Scientists Really a Breed Apart?

What differentiates data scientists from other quantitative analysts? It's partly their skill set and partly their mind set. “The recent emergence of the digital enterprise has created a seemingly insatiable management appetite to amass and analyze data,” write Jeanne G. Harris and Vijay Mehrotra. Data scientists are particularly able to make sense of so much information. For instance, 85% said their projects often or always address new problems, compared to 58% of analysts who made that claim.

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If You Think Big Data’s Challenges Are Tough Now

Although workers and consumers generate two-thirds of all new data, that’s about to change. Sensors and smart devices — from traffic lights and grocery store scanners to hospital equipment and industrial sensors — are beginning to generate an enormous wave of data that will increase the digital universe ten-fold by 2020. Guest blogger Randy Bean, CEO of NewVantage Partners, explains what this means for executives trying to adapt to a rapidly changing, data-centered business environment.

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Detecting Bias in Data Analysis

Data analysts may have external agendas that shape how they address a data set — but Boston College's Sam Ransbotham argues that a savvy manager can identify biases by learning to question the underlying assumptions that go into dataset cleanup and presentation.


Gone Fishing — For Data

When you’re dealing with data on the massive scale that a company like GE uses, a data warehouse just isn’t big enough to house it all. And organizing it ahead of analysis is more of a burden than a help. GE’s CIO Vince Campisi explains to MIT Sloan Management Review why his company is now storing data in a data lake — and how that approach changes the kind of human resources his company is looking for.



How to Hire Data-Driven Leaders

For recruiters, the technological developments of the past 3 years have been transformational, says Tuck Rickards of Russell Reynolds. With the transformation of business to a more real-time, connected, data-driven focus, the type of talent companies seek — even the type of organizational structure they’re building — has undergone a quantum shift. But the changes aren’t yet done: “The next five years are huge for companies to reorient themselves from a leadership and team perspective,” warns Rickards.

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Data Scientist In a Can?

Companies will want hundreds of thousands more data scientists than exist, creating a much discussed skills gap. In the past, businesses have figured out how to automate in-demand skills, and some companies say they can automate what data scientists do. What does it mean for companies when they do the equivalent of putting their data scientists into a can?


Using Simulated Experience to Make Sense of Big Data

As data analyses get more complex, how can companies best communicate results to ensure that decision makers have a proper grasp of the data’s implications? Research has found that letting decision makers gain experience on the outcomes of different possible actions by interacting with simulations helps those executives make better decisions. Simulations narrow the often a large gap between what analysts want to share and what decision makers understand, and more clearly illustrate complex statistical information.


Sports Analytics: The NFL Connects with Fans

In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL's senior vice president and first-ever CIO, discusses the organization’s customer-focused approach to big data and analytics. She explains how the NFL works to make its employees comfortable with their own data sets.


Is Your Organization Ready for the Impending Flood of Data?

Hal Varian, chief economist at Google and emeritus professor at UC Berkeley, has been with Google for more than a decade and has unique insight into the past and future of data analytics. In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review guest editor Sam Ransbotham, Varian says that companies need to beef up their systems to function within an overwhelming data flow — including new voice-command system data and other computer-mediated transactions.

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