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Preparing Students for the Jobs of the Future

University Business, Jul 2011

In today's highly connected global business environment, customer insight is a top priority for all organizations. As a result, it's becoming more important than ever for universities to start implementing core curriculum and programs around this exact topic. Among the highest performing companies globally, 95 percent say that getting closer to the customer is key to achieving their business goals. One way to do this is through social analytics and gaining insights into customer opinion about a brand on the web. In 2010, Gartner predicted that social analytics would be one of the top 10 strategic technologies for 2011.

Business analytics is going mainstream, and the explosion of data from social networks is a sign that the tides are shifting. Due to this data explosion and uptick in demand for analytics technology, academics are being called upon and encouraged to integrate the latest technology and business trends into core curricula to prepare their students for the high-value job opportunities in demand in today's competitive job market.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for people with analytics skills and expertise is growing much faster than other occupations. The Labor Bureau forecasts a 13 percent increase in the need for statisticians over the next eight years, a 22 percent increase in the demand for operations research analysts, and a 24 percent increase in management analysts.

Clearly there has been a spike in demand for people entering the workforce to have a core background and be knowledgeable in analytics, and this is mainly stemming from the staggering uptick in social analytics resources.

Simply consider these facts:

  • There are more than 500 million active Facebook users around the world spending nearly 700 billion minutes online, creating more than 30 billion pieces of content to be shared each month.
  • There are more than 50 million tweets per day being sent by Twitter users. Spurred by the explosion of the amount of time consumers spend online sharing, friending, liking, tweeting, and blogging. The latest figures from Nielsen, a global leader in consumer measurement and information, show that social media network use is up by 43 percent from 22.7 percent in 2010.
  • Consumers are showing the power of brand loyalty through social media as 78 percent trust peer recommendations through sources like Facebook, over any other made available to them.
  • Fifty-three percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and products, 64 percent of consumers make a first purchase as a result of a digital experience, and 75 percent of people don't believe companies tell the truth in their advertising.

When you digest all of these facts, it's no surprise social analytics is named as a top 10 strategic technology for 2011. These numbers have made traditional marketing almost obsolete?buying advertising, sending direct mail collateral, implementing phone surveys, and various facets of the old school "demand generation" are all giving way to things like developing deeper relationship loyalty programs and leveraging social networking to influence consumer behavior.

By applying analytics to the vast amounts of data, businesses can begin to make sense of this information to better understand and predict consumer patterns. These consumer insights can be invaluable to businesses across a variety of industries and across multiple departments, including front-line workers. Being able to predict customer shopping habits can impact business goals, bottom-line results, and help a company or brand maintain a competitive edge.

Recognizing the vast amounts of information being generated through new media and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and millions of blogs, it is becoming more important than ever to educate today's students on analytics technology, and, most importantly, fast-track their understanding of social analytics through hands-on experiences and real-world business scenarios so they can efficiently glean insight from the massive amounts of data being generated on the web.

There is only so much insight a person can glean from a textbook and lecture format, which is why there is such an increase in demand to bring analytics technology these students will work with in the real world into the classroom. This will enable them to better prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and help them flourish in today's demanding workforce.

Colleges and universities are beginning to understand that companies hiring their graduates can no longer afford the lengthy and costly internal training programs that have been standard features of the business landscape. The pressure is on for young workers who need to be productive sooner in their new job roles and armed with the skills that are ready to be applied on day one. Teaching analytics skills in the classroom will prepare today's business leaders to drive innovation as an engine of growth for our economy.

Deepak Advani is vice president of predictive analytics at IBM.

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