Business meets academia in the drive to increase data literacy

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Marc Salomon, Dean Amsterdam Business School

Prof. Marc Salomon,
Dean Amsterdam Business School

It’s no secret that companies today are struggling to find data scientists. The research institute Nationale Denktank predicts a shortage of 8,000 analytics professionals by 2018 in the Netherlands alone. As McKinsey reports, the situation in the United States is more serious, with companies facing a shortage of up to 190,000 analytics professionals and 1.5 million managers with the skills to understand and make decisions based on data analysis. ORTEC, Amsterdam Business School (ABS) and Amsterdam Data Science launch the The Analytics Academy to help organizations bridge this talent gap. Marc Salomon, Dean of ABS, discusses how companies can benefit from this initiative to build their data literacy and nurture data science talent in-house.

How did your relationship with ORTEC develop and what is ABS role in The Analytics Academy?

My relationship with ORTEC goes a long way back. I worked there 30 years ago while I was a PhD student in Rotterdam. ORTEC was a startup at the time, with less than 30 employees. Time has passed and ORTEC has grown into a global enterprise, but I haven’t lost touch with the team.

The collaboration between ORTEC and ABS goes both ways. We hire ORTEC’s seasoned analytics professionals to teach the practical side of data science at our university. Our students use ORTEC’s platform to build applications and put their knowledge into practice. ORTEC employees have also joined our programs as PhD and MBA students. Most recently, we embarked on this joint initiative: The Analytics Academy. ABS’ role is to provide knowledge about the latest theories, models and technologies while ORTEC provides know-how about the practical applications of these theories and approaches.

What prompted ABS to join this initiative?

There are many disruptions and innovations taking place in business today, one of the underlying factors behind them is big data. We hear a lot about the sharing economy, peer-to-peer lending and companies like Uber, Airbnb. We also hear a lot about changing digital relationships. Bitcoin is an excellent example. Traditional banking may very well become less important and the role of these institutions has to change. If companies want to become disruptive, they need to learn more about data science. Our role as an academic institution is to facilitate this knowledge and prepare the next generation of professionals for these challenges. That was our chief motivation for joining The Analytics Academy and starting one of Europe’s first MBAs in Big Data and Business Analytics. We aim to help companies become more data literate.

How do you define data literacy?

In companies, data literacy means something different to each organizational level. At the board or executive level, you need to be able to develop a big data strategy. At the management level, you need to be able to lead data science projects and attract the right talent. At the hands-on level, you need to build applications and execute ideas.

What kind of training and knowledge does The Analytics Academy provide to help organizations increase their data literacy?

We offer tailor-made education solutions in data science. Business leaders constantly ask themselves if they should outsource or build data science capabilities internally. We help them decide using an analytics talent scan. Based on the outcome of the scan, we design a tailor-made curriculum.

Besides this, we are doing research to develop new data science techniques to optimize online sales in web shops. For instance, one of our PhD students is currently modelling the relationship between profit, product pricing and investments in online and offline advertising. Should you have high advertising budgets and high product prices? Or lower budgets and lower prices? Where should you advertise? The right answer may vary over time. Through our collaboration, we can find answers to these questions more quickly and help business leaders extract more value from their data.

ORTEC and education

The Analytics Academy focuses on Europe. In the US, it partners with Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon is a leading American university that specializes in the development and application of technology.

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