NCSU and SAS agree to deliver the first master's degree in advanced analytics--the program may help to usher in an era for knowledge workers or may be, simply, viral marketing
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Executives have heard the following assertions countless times over the years: Marketing needs to get more analytical. Businesses need to be more numbers-driven. Companies today must run on hard data.
Companies understand that analytics and BI are practices that must be integrated with policy to stay afloat. We're entering a new data-driven era, however, and enterprises must not only put these practices into place at a high level, but they must find armies of workers to support the change. As the demand for employees with an advanced understanding of analytical technologies increases, the pool of knowledge workers steadily diminishes, leaving some to wonder: Will there be enough to go around?
North Carolina State University (NCSU) hopes to answer this question with the first master's degree in advanced analytics to be offered in the United States. Through a partnership with SAS Institute, NCSU has established the Institute for Advanced Analytics, which will support the university's new Master of Science in Analytics program. It commences in July as an intensive 10-month course focused on recent graduates and businesspeople alike. Although the financial terms for the deal with SAS were not disclosed, it will be providing versions of its analytics solutions appropriate for academic settings as well as working closely with NCSU to develop the curriculum.
There is a need for this kind of training today, says Boris Evelson, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. "I do believe that analytics or any kind of BI is definitely a rising trend. There's a demand for this kind of worker." The demand is an outgrowth of the pressure on executives to be more accountable for spend, as well as for growing data pools.
Although businesses can train employees to work in advanced BI systems, companies can save much time and money when looking for new hires if they bring in people who have an ingrained understanding of such tools. University training seems ideal, but restrictions placed on student visas after 9/11 have made it difficult for international students interested in studying analytics to do so in the U.S. Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS and an alum of NCSU, says, "The shutdown of American borders after 9/11 kept a lot of really bright young people from coming here and studying advanced analytics."
Universities often run into problems delivering corporate software to students. Because enterprise software can be complicated, expensive, and difficult to deploy, "[professors] use whatever comes out of the back of the textbooks--simple example software," says Michael Rappa, director of the Institute at NCSU.
It's possible that the new program could help stem the advanced knowledge worker shortage and the absence of enterprise software in the classroom. According to the university, a number of international educational and U.S. institutions have contacted NCSU about their interest in developing similar programs. Likewise, a number of corporations have contacted the school about hiring future program graduates.
Although Evelson contends that university business training is important, he is skeptical of SAS's involvement, saying, "This is a very brilliant viral marketing strategy by SAS. These students become forever and ever SAS users and SAS enthusiasts." Rappa, however, says that NCSU approached SAS, not the other way around, and that professors are free to use whatever software programs they feel will be the best fit for their classrooms. "To deal successfully with this mismatch between corporate and university worlds requires continuous open communication and mutual respect for each other, our missions, and the communities we serve."
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