SCS Hosts Online Event with Chief Analytics Officer Bill Franks
Current and prospective students of Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (MSPA) program were able to get a unique and seasoned perspective on the age of big data through a special online webinar with Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer for Teradata’s global alliance programs, hosted by MSPA faculty director Thomas Miller.
Franks, who has worked in the analytics field more than 20 years and authored the book Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave, offered his thoughts on the age of big data, in which he talked extensively about the importance of good data versus big data and extracting organizational value from data sets. Franks elaborated on his viewpoint saying, “It doesn’t matter how big the data is, it’s how you use data to drive business value that really matters.” Franks focused most of his presentation on several key areas he felt were essential in today’s data-driven world, among them: understanding the nature and speed of new data sources and how big data is different, reducing data to a manageable size and letting excess data go, finding ways to analyze unstructured data that could be of value and finding the right talent. “The right people and skills are absolutely critical to big data,” Franks said. In commenting on the traits he looks for in hiring he added, “The technical skills you use are critically important, but I don’t hire based only on that. If you are going to be successful in a dynamic business environment you have to be creative.”
Good communication skills and creativity are qualities not often associated with data scientists, but Franks notes that it’s important for students to develop these skills as it will be increasingly necessary for organizations to rely on analytics professionals to be leaders in the decision making process. “Big data will only get bigger,” Franks said when talking about the future of analytics, “companies can spend to get ahead now, or spend to play catch-up later.” Franks is not alone in his prediction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for analytics skills will result in a 13 percent increase in the need for statisticians, a 22 percent increase in the demand for operations research analysts and a 24 percent increase in management analysts across multiple industries by the year 2018. The upward growth in the field is a trend Franks believes MSPA students are wisely taking advantage of. “The opportunity within the analytics field is massive,” Franks said, “I commend them on making what I think is a terrific choice.”