Ramnath Chellappa

Goizueta is diving into the burgeoning area of business analytics with a new master’s in business analytics degree set to debut next year. Program director Ram Chellappa, associate professor of information systems & operations management, discusses why the program is important, the kinds of students it might appeal to, and much more.

Q: How did the area of business analytics come about?

Chellappa: Data people and technical people don’t always speak the same language, so business schools started teaching information systems and management information systems as a way to facilitate better communications. Now many organizations have a third person in the conversation: the business person. Unfortunately, many of today’s business problems are the result of this lack of communication.

Q: How can data analytics help solve the problems?

Chellappa: Businesses generate a staggering amount of data. Who generates this data? Customers? Employees? We don’t always know. We need to understand the technology that generates all this data and to know the way to massage the data to not just create meaningful answers, but also to shape meaningful questions. That is the role of the business data scientists.

Q: What can you tell us about Goizueta’s new Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program?

Chellappa: The program begins in fall 2017, and we are currently accepting applications. A majority of the time, students will be working on projects and actively working with industries. There is a STEM aspect to the curriculum, too. The skills students learn through STEM education are really important in running businesses, helping them to understand customers, employees, and organizational relationships. Students with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines, like economics or computer science or the liberal arts, also could have significant quantitative interest in this type of study. It appeals to a lot of people. When you add the data aspect to the equation, the business school becomes the best equipped place for teaching analytics.

Q: What excites you about the attention the program is receiving?

Chellappa: We are looking at really important questions. All this data we are talking about—is it bringing new information to the table, or is it somehow reflective of what’s always been going on? A business data scientist can shed light on the subject. Also, what is the role of data in an organization, and what is the role of data to decision making? Is the role to support gut feeling and business instinct, or is the role actually to create new insights? My understanding is always that it should be an iterative process. Data should never be a replacement for business instinct. They go hand in hand.

Q: What about opportunities for engagement for the alumni and business community?

Chellappa: There will be certain initiatives from the program included in our executive education offerings that incorporate alumni and the business community. Also, we are working on ways to have alumni come back to Goizueta for a ‘version upgrade.’ These tools, skills, and languages change very rapidly, and it is in our best interest to give alumni opportunities for refreshers.