When Carmen Vicelich started her two highly successful data-based companies, Data Insight and Valocity, data wasn't even cool yet she says.
"Most people didn't know what it meant; just that it sounded very geeky." Now, however, data analytics is suddenly "way cool" and Vicelich is quick to point out the seismic shift in the world's most valuable companies. No longer are oil companies and Coca-Cola kingpins; that title belongs to Google, Netflix, Amazon and other firms with foundations built on data and the seamless and relevant customer experience that data-driven decisions can bring.
But there is, says Vicelich, a "massive shortage" in people trained in data and business analytics – a huge growth area but one which needs people to fill an ever-changing and evolving field.
That's why she is supporting the University of Auckland Business School's postgraduate Master of Business Analytics degree – a programme she says is "practical and real" and aimed at the needs of the industry.
Many in the IT and other technical and technology realms have begun to prize soft skills as much as technical expertise – because of the ability of those with the soft skills to be creative, to take the products of the technical corps to market, and to communicate. So business analytics has started to look for people with what Vicelich calls "good left-brain, right-brain skills".
"Most people in the data analytics and visualisation industries are left-brainers," she says. "They are perfectionists and it takes a lot of time to refine an analytics model and have it working perfectly."
"But things are changing so quickly, and in businesses that are customer centric, we simply don't have that time anymore. Where as t might take six months to perfect a churn model for example – but, if you wait six months these days, the customer is gone."
Instead, she says, what's needed is the ability to build a less robust model "and get it out there quickly, test and learn and refine as you go along". That is also where the right-brainers come in (the area of the brain that controls softer skills) – the people who can also apply creativity and relationship skills and who can "move fast", as Vicelich puts it.
She gives the example of a Telco client who had a pressing segmentation need where a "lite touch"model was built in hours.
Vicelich gives the example of Lemonade Insurance, a US company which made international headlines by approving an online claim for a missing US$900 coat in three seconds – a bit of (right brain) publicity which went round the world and underscored Lemonade's emergence as an insurance company far removed from the traditional.
"Would Lemonade be able to do that for every claim? Of course not," says Vicelich. "But they were able to do that because of their business analytics and use of AI and what they built around data to give their customers the best experience possible – and that will no doubt be refined and improved as they go along."
Professor Leo Paas, Director of Master of Business Analytics at the Business School, says the degree is split into three parts – the basic skills needed for a Master of Business Analytics; students then choose to specialise in business areas which most suit and interest them and, thirdly, "they will learn all the practical skills needed to be successful in business during a team-based project at a company".
Nor is that the only specialised area the University of Auckland Business School is introducing for postgraduate students. Margot Bowker is the Director of the Master of Business Management degree and says: "This is an opportunity to upskill or reskill or to think about changing or pivoting your career."
The programme has two specialisations – Digital Marketing and Strategic Management – and is practitioner focused, with applied learning: "It is flexible too; it can be undertaken part-time or full-time and we even have evening classes so those who need to work can still do so."
Another postgraduate programme, the Master of Supply Chain Management, is brand new and is aimed at recent graduates or working professionals in supply chain management – an area with chronic shortages of people in several countries, says Dr Subhamoy Ganguly, Senior Lecturer for Master of Supply Chain Management.
It is also available part-time or full-time and is ideal – but not restricted to – those with some prior knowledge of and experience in supply chain management whether that be distribution, logistics, transportation or sourcing.
To learn more about the range of opportunities available to upskill, reskill and change career direction go to: www.business.auckland.ac.nz/pg