We are working to develop tools and talent that manage and use data to understand a business context, create new and innovative business models, and influence sound decision-making.
Growth in the volume and variety of data is truly changing the world in which we live, creating opportunity for new insights and innovation, and even greater efficiencies. With the growth of technological data storage and computing power, the ability to gather and store massive amounts of data of all types is feasible and potentially value producing.
Consider data created each minute through transaction logs, inventory tracking, social media, consumer data, personal devices (think CRM, blockchain, bitcoin, IoT). And unstructured data in the form of digitized documents, email, and text messages adds to the volume and variety of data available, often stored in the cloud. According to Data Age 2025, a comprehensive report produced by IDC, 75 percent of the world’s population will have at least one data interaction every 18 seconds, many through IoT and personal technology devices. Worldwide data is expected to grow to 175 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025—up from 33 zettabytes in 2018—and almost half of this data will be stored in public cloud-based environments.
So what are the implications of all this data for business and for business education? Data can help business better serve existing consumers, reach new consumers, improve efficiencies, and enhance innovation. The growth of “big data” allows not only better data-informed decisions, but also allows firms to explore new and different questions and/or business processes. To do so requires that businesses derive meaning from data, converting data into meaningful information and knowledge through analysis and synthesis. The emerging field of business analytics addresses this need and uses scientific techniques and technologies to extract useful information from raw data.
At the Harbert College of Business, we recognize the transformational impact of data and technology on businesses and organizations in today’s environment. And we are working to develop tools and talent that manage and use data to understand a business context, create new and innovative business models, and influence sound decision-making. We have invested in requiring an analytics core curriculum that all business students take, as well as deeper-dive analytics or information science programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Obviously developing talent for today’s data-rich environment requires developing technical skills needed in a business environment. But understanding technology and managing data isn’t enough. T.S. Eliot once said, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” And in today’s environment, I find myself often adding, “Where is the information we have lost in data?”
Infusing data with meaning provides valuable information in a business context. So, as the need for developing technical expertise increases, the need for sound business knowledge, the need for effective communication skills, problem-solving skills, and critical-thinking skills also increases.
At the Harbert College of Business, we strive to help students foster a sense of sound and ethical decision making through our professional development sequence. This sequence culminates in a senior-level professional development course focusing on ethical and professional dilemmas. We believe through our professional development curriculum, engaged learning opportunities, and strong grounding in data management and analytics, students develop an appreciation for the differences among data, meaningful information, knowledge, and the wisdom to make sound, ethical business decisions.
Dr. Annette L. Ranft
Dean and Wells Fargo Professor
Harbert College of Business