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Ravi DharBy Ravi Dhar, George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing & Director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management

This week on the Yale School of Management campus, we are gathering with leaders from IBM, academia, students, business leaders, industry analysts and venture capitalists to discuss the coming wave of new careers that will demand candidates who possess strong analytics-related skills that are being applied across businesses in every industry, ranging from CPG to healthcare to retail.

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There has been a staggering uptake in social analytics resources. In 2010, Gartner predicted that social analytics would be one of the top 10 strategic technologies for 2011. In today’s highly connected global business environment, gathering, synthesizing and leveraging customer insights are priorities for many organizations.

According to an IBM survey of 1,500 CEOs, among the highest performing companies globally, 95 percent of CEOs say that getting closer to the customer is key to achieving their business goals.* One way to do this is through social analytics and gaining insights into customer opinion about a brand on the web. The explosive growth of social networking, with 700 million on Facebook, expected to reach 1 billion in 2011, and Twitter up to 140 million tweets per day explains the interest of companies in using these channels to understand and reach their customers and the resulting growth of social analytics.

Recognizing the vast amounts of information being generated through new media and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and millions of blogs, we are using analytics technology to help our students learn social analytics through hands-on experiences and real-world business scenarios. At our Center for Customer Insights, we are combining analytics with psychology and economic principles to investigate how consumer preferences are formed and how consumer behavior plays out in the marketplace. Last semester, we offered MBA students the opportunity to use IBM analytics tools to help one of IBM’s clients better understand how their consumers engaged in a live community and to develop recommendations for product improvements and new ways to reach customers. It is projects like these that prepare our students to be leaders in careers which increasingly demand the ability to understand and apply analytics tools to make decisions.

Business analytics is going mainstream, and the explosion of data from social networks is a sign that the tides are shifting. As a school that seeks to prepare students to be leaders in business and society, we must integrate the latest technology and business trends into our core curriculum in order to prepare students for high-value business careers and in society. In partnering with IBM through the academic initiative, we are able to provide students with the latest technology and tools to tackle the business challenges associated with vast amounts of unstructured data and show students how to make sense of this data explosion.

By applying analytics to the tremendous amount of information available to them, businesses can begin to make sense of this data to better understand and predict consumer patterns. These consumer insights can be invaluable to businesses, whether you are P&G or the American Red Cross. Being able to predict customer shopping habits can impact business goals, bottom-line results and help a company or brand maintain a competitive edge.

We understand that companies hiring our graduates may be moving away from the lengthy and costly internal training programs that have been standard features of the business landscape. The pressure is on for young workers who need to be productive sooner in their new roles, and we seek to make sure that they are armed with skills that are ready to be applied on day one.

By encouraging a deeper understanding of analytics, we are preparing today’s business leaders to make innovation an engine of growth for our economy.

Ravi Dhar is the George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing & Director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management

*IBM Institute of Business Value Study, “Capitalizing on Complexity-Insights from the Global CEO,” June 2010.

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