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Business Analytics

Business Analytics Experts Explain the Impact of COVID and the Increase in Data Privacy Laws

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NC State Poole College of Management hosted the second installment of the Virtual Thought Leadership Series on January 26 moderated by Frank Buckless, Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean, with a panel of business analytics experts. 

The session took a look at the relationship between machine learning, artificial intelligence and business analytics as well as the future of business analytics and which groups within a company is business analytics most important to. 

Panel of Analytics Experts

Bill Rand is the founding director of the Business Analytics Initiative and associate professor of marketing for Poole College. Rand examines the use of computational modeling techniques, such as agent-based modeling, machine learning, network analysis, natural language processing, and geographic information systems, to help understand and analyze complex systems, such as the diffusion of information, organizational learning, and economic markets.

Cathy Burrows works as a pioneer in customer management strategy/ execution in financial services. As senior manager – marketing for RBC Bank US – she facilitates a cross-border team of specialists in acquiring, engaging and retaining clients. Previously, she has led teams responsible for designing and delivering the infrastructure to support client interaction and leads management.

Steve Bayline has over 30 years of experience developing leading-edge technical solutions and implementing process and technical best practices. As a senior manager, Bayline is now leading analytics and technology innovation focusing on solutions for IBM’s Global Business Services demand and operational processes. Prior to IBM, Steve worked as a global business consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, helping Global Fortune 500 companies solve complex supply chain problems.

Key Insights

1. Business analytics focuses on wisdom

Data analytics and business analytics overlap as they follow a similar pipeline from data to wisdom. However, data analytics focuses more on the path from data to information to knowledge and business analytics focuses more on the path from information to knowledge to wisdom.

“The big difference is that business analytics takes data analytics and applies it to a business decision,” said Rand. 

2. Artificial intelligence (AI) leverages analytics for decision making 

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning uses the ability to model attrition and create a more automated process that uses more data to find trends,” said Burrows on how it has affected the Royal Bank of Canada. 

From Burrows’ own experience, she found that AI also has the ability to leverage text analytics to identify relevant and timely opportunities. It can benefit paid media programs to optimize marketing campaigns to reach more consumers.

3. COVID-19 pandemic changed how we look at business models

The biggest lesson the pandemic has taught analysts is that data is not enough. Rand stated that basic models are based on past data and a lot of that data does not hold true during COVID.

“If you just looked at the data you would not be able to understand what is happening,” said Rand. “But looking from a causal perspective you can understand why consumers are making decisions.”

4. Maintaining privacy matters now more than ever

In today’s world, ethics and data privacy are huge with more and more laws established around the world including the groundbreaking General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. Bayline emphasized the need for analytics practitioners to protect individual data because of the overwhelming increase of data being collected.

“There are two sides to analytics. One that can do so much good for companies and individuals and the other includes those who abuse the data. We have to make sure we aren’t building implicit human biases and we have to apply the standard of GDPR globally,” said Bayline.

5. Business analytics students need strong communication skills

When asked how Poole College of Management students can prepare themselves to enter the business world, Bayline explained the need for strong written and verbal communication skills to be able to convey decision making based on data collected.

Other skills Bayline finds important are a background in data science, a multi-disciplinary understanding and critical thinking.