Analytics: The Most Critical MBA Skill

Analytics: The Most Critical MBA Skill

Business analytics is more important than ever before.

Fortune recently spoke to a number of leading industry experts, including the dean of Columbia Business School, who stressed the importance of MBAs being comfortable with data as more roles require MBA grads to go beyond the traditional business skillset.

“As businesses evolve, I’ve seen MBA grads evolve, as well,” David Nenke, president of Digital Student Solutions and former general manager of Amazon Explore, tells Fortune. “The expectation isn’t that you can code. It’s much more around being comfortable with the data and then being able to wrap it up and communicate it more broadly across the organization.”


At Columbia Business School (CBS), business analytics has become a pillar in the MBA core curriculum.

Costis Maglaras, dean of the business school, says that CBS has integrated the core curriculum with more data-related topics, such as algorithmic decision making and machine learning.

“About seven years ago, we became a lot more deliberate to roll out more courses in that era,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “That’s when we introduced these Python classes; this is when we introduced the sequel to business analytics—Analytics in Action. This is a project course where we bring in engineering students together with MBA students. It’s when we grew the tech strategy course.”

Nowadays, MBA grads are expected to have some knowledge and experience in business analytics and data—regardless of industry.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to a tech firm,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “When you go to a consulting firm and you do a project right now in consulting—at BCG, Bain, your favorite strategy consulting firms whatever they may be—in most cases the team will have some business folks (MBA types, let’s call them); they’ll have data scientists; they’ll have designers; they’ll have user experience experts. Teams like that will be 40-50-60% of the projects that take place in these firms.”

Back in 2018, The Wharton School also put all its chips behind business analytics as the business school added a plethora of courses in business analytics to its MBA curriculum with the hopes of meeting employer demand.

“Companies tell us the secret sauce is that they want people with business knowledge who understand analytics,” Eric Bradlow, faculty director and co-founder of Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative, told P&Q then.

As industries evolve, so does business school curricula. And, at Columbia Business School and Wharton, MBAs today are being taught a modern business skill set—with an emphasis in business analytics.

“The skill set that people need to succeed in business right now in their careers is rapidly evolving because of technology,” Maglaras tells Fortune. “If you had come through this school in the ’90s or in the 2000s and you wanted to become a marketing professional, you’d be tooled up in a very different way than had you graduated a week from today.”

Sources: Fortune, P&Q

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