What is data analytics?

The mass of data in the world is skyrocketing. Forget about kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. According to the World Economic Forum, the digital universe will comprise a staggering 44 zettabytes by 2020. One way to visualize this staggering figure is the number of bytes in the world will exceed the number of stars in the universe 40 times over! By 2025, meanwhile, experts estimate that an unthinkable 463 exabytes of data will be created daily across the globe. 

Which begs the question: With so much data out there, how can we keep from drowning in it? This is where data analytics comes in. Investopedia explains, “Data analytics is the science of analyzing raw data in order to make conclusions about that information. Many of the techniques and processes of data analytics have been automated into mechanical processes and algorithms that channel raw data for human consumption.”

Why data analytics matters

While businesses have long used basic analytics to reveal trends and metrics, big data analytics supports unprecedented speed and efficiency. SAS Insights says, “Big data analytics helps organizations harness their data and use it to identify new opportunities. That, in turn, leads to smarter business moves, more efficient operations, higher profits and happier customers.” 

The applications of big data and analytics are near-endless with many benefits for businesses. In his white paper, Big Data in Big Companies, IIA Director of Research Tom Davenport identifies three key ways big data adds value: by reducing the cost of storing data; promoting faster and better decision-making, and helping companies identify and create products which best meet customer needs. 

According to global trends and innovation futurist Daniel Burrus, meanwhile, data analytics is also invaluable for survival in our digital disruption-rich world. “By harnessing the plethora of data available, you can put your company ahead of disruptions in your industry, leveraging the data to augment your competitive position relative to others in your field,” Burrus asserts. 

But while data can give your company a competitive advantage, its ability to do so relies on how well you are using it. This all comes down to strategy, according to Bernard Marr & Co. “Having a clear data strategy is absolutely vital when you consider the sheer volume of data that is available these days. I see too many businesses get so caught up in the Big Data buzz that they collect as much data as possible, without really considering what they want to do with all that data. While others are so overwhelmed by options that they bury their head in the sand. Neither represent a smart way to run a business. [...] A good data strategy is not about what data is readily or potentially available – it’s about what your business wants to achieve, and how data can help you get there,” Marr asserts. 

Demand for data analysts 

With data analytics so important, it follows that people with data analytics skills and strategic mindsets are in high demand. According to a GMAC survey, a growing number of companies plan to hire data analytics graduates, including 80 percent of respondents from Fortune Global 500 companies. Most employers also planned to increase salaries at or above the rate of inflation. Caesars Entertainment chief analytics officer Ruben Sigala told McKinsey, “Competition for analytical talent is extreme. And preserving and maintaining a base of talent within an organization is difficult, particularly if you view this as a core competency.” 

In fact, according to data from IBM, the number of jobs in the US for data professionals is currently in the neighborhood of 2.72 million. Data scientists and advanced analysts are the fastest-growing jobs, meanwhile, with a projected spike of 28 percent, while machine learning, big data and data science skills are identified as the most challenging to recruit. Furthermore, 39 percent of these positions require advanced degrees. 

It is this challenge that makes data analysts not only sought-after, but also well-positioned for satisfying and lucrative careers. It’s not for nothing that ‘data scientist’ has topped Glassdoor’s list of the 50 Best Jobs in America for four consecutive years and running. Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain says of the phenomenon, “Not only are tech companies scrambling to hire data scientists but industries across the board, from healthcare to nonprofits to retail, are also searching for this talent.” 

Gain the inside edge with a degree in Business Analytics

One way aspiring business leaders can gain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to help become the talent so many companies desperately need in today’s data-driven world is the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) at UC San Diego Rady School of Management. 

A STEM Designated program, the MSBA provides participants with the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to use data and analytics to create value for their companies.  Rady professor Vincent Nijs says, “After graduation, our students should expect to work extensively with data, use statistics and machine learning, write code, and develop tools to enhance business decision-making.  After gaining some experience, we expect them to be well-suited to lead an analytics team.” 

One of the most exciting things about the Rady MSBA is its flexibility. Students have their pick of the full-time program, or the new 17-month FlexWeekend MSBA, specially designed for working professionals looking to upskill but also open to recent graduates. 

Rady School Dean Lisa Ordóñez says, “This new format for our MSBA program gives students the flexibility to complete the degree on a schedule that works for them. [...] A unique aspect is that the FlexWeekend curriculum is identical to and taught by the same superb faculty instructors as our full-time weekday program.”

While we could go on about the MSBA program, why not learn about it from the Rady alumni themselves? John Yamauchi says, “I chose to pursue an MS in Business Analytics degree from Rady because I wanted to incorporate analytic techniques into making business decisions. Having skills in analytics is becoming more and more of an advantage across many industries and I wanted to get an edge by adding these skills to my resume.”

Swagata Chakraborty says, “During my short stint as an analyst in the Global Decision Management team at Citibank, I felt that people who already had a specialization relevant to their role were somewhat more confident and had more clarity about their role. I was trying to figure out whether I wanted to pursue an MBA or wanted to hold on to my engineering roots. On one hand, I loved working with mathematical computations and writing minimal codes to come up with analytical insights. On the other hand, gaining a formal degree that helps you develop business acumen seemed imperative as well. That is when I learned about the masters in business analytics programs in the U.S. and it struck me that this is exactly the specialization I was looking for.”

And senior data scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific Radha Srinivasan adds, “This is the springboard which helped me leap into data science completely. Rady with the formal education was a huge advantage  for me and it gave me the edge. I was able to perform in the job from the first or second day. In the field of data science and analytics we learn to make predictions about the future based on what has happened in the past, applying statistics and programming to make extremely good predictions, which gives a thrill and is very interesting.” 

Certainly, data analytics will play a central role moving forward for individual businesses and society at large when it comes to transforming data into actionable insights and optimal outcomes. If you have a keen mind and love a challenge, data science studies in the MSBA program at Rady can open doors to a uniquely fulfilling career!

Article written in association with Rady School of Management.