Inaugural MBA analytics cohorts put their knowledge to work
The mission of one of Clemson University’s newest MBA degree programs is to arm business leaders with the ability to analyze data that will help drive their strategic decision making.
In the case of Shane Smith, chief financial officer of Palmetto Industrial Services of Columbia, S.C., it was mission accomplished.
Smith was one of 25 business professionals who recently graduated from the Clemson MBA program’s first business analytics cohort.
“Anyone who experiences the MBAba program is exposed to the way business of the future will be conducted,” said Smith, whose company provides specialty cleaning services for manufacturing and other industries. “The program opens one’s mind to data-driven decision making. By letting data do the talking, decision-makers are realizing creative solutions to business challenges.”
Tom Uva is the instructor in the MBAba’s strategic management capstone class that focuses on strategy, project management and analytics. The course culminates in teams of cohorts working on a live project related to one of their companies.
“The idea is for teammates to identify a problem, collect data and use the tools they learned in the class to analyze, then develop a strategic plan going forward,” said Uva, who is also an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University and director of management consulting at Elliott Davis, a tax and consulting firm.
Uva said the inaugural business analytics graduating class was comprised of 25 cohorts, all full-time professionals, with anywhere from five to 25 years of business experience.
“Their charge was to identify a real-world business issue, build a strategy to address it, then take it to their management teams. These are practical projects that are implemented and involve real, live plans and real dollars,” Uva added.
In the case of Palmetto Industrial Services, Smith said the company was looking at ways it could become more nimble and flexible, and proactive rather than reactive in business decision making.
“We organized historical data and model scenarios to identify areas of improvement that would prepare us for future growth,” Smith said. “Part of the process of being a data-driven business is having the ability to validate a decision mathematically.”
Smith said the process of analyzing ways for Palmetto Industrial Services’ future growth revealed opportunities for improvement elsewhere in the company.
“The analytics told us we were on the right path, and new ideas and opportunities came to life that we wouldn’t otherwise have thought of,” he said. “Our data validated changes we will implement and opened the door for areas of improvement in other parts of the business.”
Greg Pickett, director of Clemson MBA programs and senior associate dean of the College of Business, said Clemson’s graduate business programs are mutually beneficial to cohorts and their employers.
“Whether it is business analytics or another MBA focus, our students – and their employers – are reaping the rewards of applying classroom learning to real-word issues,” Pickett said. “Beyond finding innovative solutions to their employers’ everyday issues, the MBA program’s experiential learning approach enhances each graduate’s career opportunities.”
Jane Layton, the MBA director of academic programs, added that Clemson’s graduate business program is constantly looking for ways to stay current in meeting the needs of 21st century businesses.
“We were hearing conversations in the business community and convened a think tank with 30 companies in the area. They were having difficulty finding individuals with the know-how needed to use data for strategic decision making,” Layton said. “Our business analytics was borne out of that need. And our first cohorts are finding analytics can be used as an input for decision making across all disciplines in an organization.”
Smith said after 25 years in business, the MBAba class has opened his mind to how “big data,” when properly used, can change the future course of a business.
“Many people think business analytics is all about statistics, but this is not simply a souped-up statistics class. There is art in analytics and this program drives home that point,” Smith said. “Approaching business this way is not just an applied science, it stimulates the other side of your brain and reveals creative ways analytics can benefit just about any area of an organization.”
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