Preparing managers for the big data-driven business era

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A new opinion paper published in “Business Process Management Journal” analyses the inadequacies of current business education tackling educational challenges of a data-driven world.

A research article* written by Kevin Carillo, Professor of the Department of Information Management at Toulouse Business School (TBS), highlights that although business schools and other educational institutions have satisfactorily responded to the need to train future data scientists, they have been slow to acknowledge that future managers also need to prepare for the new data-driven business era.

Challenging the ‘functional silo design’ that has characterized education institutions for years, the research article proposes that in today’s data-driven business era, analytics competencies shall not be exclusive to data scientists but they must become a part of an organizational component shared among decision makers: managers.

“The global gap between the demand for big data and the supply of analytics talent is one of the key challenges threatening Big Data Analytics implementation across organizations” stated Kevin Carillo. “But it is not only a matter of hiring a squad of data scientist; profession branded as one of the sexiest jobs of the 21st century. The function of managers should also include a scientific or analytical component”.

How to effectively train data-driven managers

Through the article, Professor Carillo evaluates the implications for business schools, universities and higher education institutions to tackle the educational challenges that are inherent to the advent of the data-driven era. “Different implications should be considered but, from a pedagogical perspective, curricula should be organized in a way that students can interact with specialists and experts. This would close the gap between educational institutions and the world of practitioners and should engage long-term collaboration” detailed Carillo.

The article identifies the need to break the walls between academic disciplines, as the current disciplinary pedagogical model of business education was built at the beginning of the 20th century. According to Professor Carillo, “it is time to initiate a broad reflection on the mutation of higher education in the age of data-driven business era and accreditation bodies such as AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) or EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) may certainly have an important role to play”.

Whereas failure is severely condemned in our nowadays highly competitive world, the paper points out that it is in fact a positive mechanism in the big data world. Thus, to convince future managers of the benefits of experimentation in the data-driven business context, the use of serious games or simulations should be added to existing pedagogical strategies.

Finally, future managers should possess solid skills that lay at the crossroad of data management, analytical techniques and tools, and business. These three domains of knowledge cannot be taught in isolation from each other. “It is advisable that each individual course or training intervention mix all the three domains” reminded Kevin Carillo.

Kevin Carillo is professor in Information Systems at Toulouse Business School and program coordinator of the MSc Big Data, Marketing and Management from TBS. He holds a PhD from University of Victoria in Wellington (New Zealand). His research focuses primarily on big data and data-driven business, virtual communities, free software, corporate social networks and mobility. A member of the Association for Information Systems (AIS), he regularly takes part in international conferences and is co-author of several press and academic articles.

*“Let’s stop trying to be “Sexy”- preparing managers for the (big) data-driven business era” published on Business Process Management Journal.