Teaching business analytics: Why, What and How

In this post I share a presentation on principles of business analytics.

My colleague Diana Limburg asked me, not along ago, to run a session on business analytics, as part of her module on eBusiness. This is a very popular course, attended by 2nd and 3rd year students. The session on analytics lasts about 45 minutes, and takes place towards the end of the module.

Whenever I teach an introductory session on the topic of metrics or analytics, I follow the approach presented in the book ‘How to Measure Anything’ by Douglas Hubbard. Indeed, if your work involves producing or reading metrics, I warmly recommend that you read this book. It is a really straightforward introduction to measurement methods for various scenarios, using very simple examples.

Hubbard warns that, to decide how to measure something, analysts first need to consider what it is, exactly, that they want to measure. Moreover, they can’t really tackle the ‘what’ unless they have considered the ‘why’. So, to measure anything, analysts need to start with the WHY and the WHAT, before attempting to tackle the HOW.

For instance, if I were asked to identify ‘online influencers’, I would first need to understand what exactly the client means by influence and why s/he needs to identify such influencers. As discussed in this post, influence is not only a function of the number of social connections in the network, but also of the type of network. Some networks make messages travel far, whereas others are very effective to change behaviours.

In this presentation, too, I followed the WHY > WHAT > HOW approach.

I started by discussing the rationale of using analytics (the WHY). Then, I highlighted the areas that eBusinesses should monitor (the WHAT) – namely, investment performance, the processes, and their customers. I also mentioned key analytics for each of these areas (the HOW).

In the end, I addressed a few caveats about the analytical process, noting:
– the limitations of quantitative insight (for more on this, see here)
– the dangers of relying too much on historical data
– the need to understand human behaviour (for more on this, see here).

As usual, I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the presentation and the approach.

5 thoughts on “Teaching business analytics: Why, What and How

  1. Hi AnaThanks for sharing presso – 30 slides stimulate many thoughts – thank you!Was glad to see you quoting Einstein at the end – this is the best caveat about data Ive found.I read Mark Scheafers recent comments on how he would hire a statistician: Get a Stato to learn marketing is easier than getting a Marketeer to learn data. http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/04/05/three-careers-that-will-dominate-social-media-and-its-not-what-you-think/Im unconvinced – as an Engineering grad I have heard the same said of moving engineers into commerce and mostly (but not always) its an awkward meeting of worlds. Engineers are special. Marketeers are special. But unlikely to be the same special.Personally I find ‘big data’ scary – because I dont have the skills or aptitude to conquer this world. I know there is still a role for intuition/gut/instinct/common-sense to inform a value-driven strategy – to guide an expert technician – but its all a bit alien to me. Not a very human place. Would this be anti-relationship marketing?It seems Google has a lot of market data – seriously big-data – but it makes some folks suspicious of their power and intentions. Be fascinating to know what your students think of Googles capabilities and if they see their privacy-policy as an ethical issue or just part of modern internet-enabled life.RegardsJames


  2. Hi James, you know… I get really scared when I hear analysts say things like ‘let the data talk’ or ‘the data says x’… Data doesn’t talk. We are the ones who do the reading – and different people will read different things in the same number, correlation, etc… A case of statisticians are from Mars, marketers are from Venus???As for your comments about privacy, I am starting to see some students thinking very seriously about the ethical implications of data collection, customer profiling, etc… Not all, mind you. And, admittedly, more among masters students than undergraduates. And the other day I was delivering an executive education session and someone questioned the ethics of using social media for market research. A ‘shocker’, I know…


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