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MBA Candidates Get an Analytical Head Start from FICO

This post comes from Sue Hubbard, the adjunct professor for the FICO Academic Engagement Program.

Professors that I’ve spoken with all agree that the theoretical concepts they cover in their lectures become solidified for students when they get a chance to apply those concepts to a real-world situation. It’s the transition from theoretical to practical that brings excitement to the course.

However, those who are teaching predictive analytics often lack the resources to have their students apply the methodologies that they cover in class to real-life business problems. It requires combining a business scenario with a large-scale data set, acquiring the appropriate tools for data analysis, and providing domain expertise necessary to interpret the results. In aggregate, the necessary preparation would quickly exceed the time constraints of professors who are, rightfully so, spending their time teaching students.

At its highest level, predictive analytics can be summarized as using historical information to predict the likelihood of a future event. To a business student, this may sound like a rather vague description of a general statistical concept. But placing this concept into a real-life business situation brings its relevance to the forefront.

Take, for example, a business problem faced by any multi-channel retailer:  how to spend its marketing dollars most effectively. Predictive analytics can be used to find customers most likely to make a purchase, following the launch of one of its marketing campaigns. Looking back at the purchase history of each of its customers, the retailer can model what historical buying traits are directly related to post-campaign purchase behavior.

So why should a business student learn the details of analytics?  Because today, the solutions to so many business problems are discovered through data analysis. Some graduates will enter the work force and be tasked with developing the solution to a business objective. These are the ones who will be analyzing the purchase patterns of the multi-channel retailer’s customers, in order to come up with an effective targeted marketing strategy. Others will be tasked with assessing that strategy, and with helping to make the go/no-go decision regarding its implementation. either case, a thorough understanding of the strategy development process is a key ingredient to its overall success.  And with so many of today’s business decisions being data driven, an understanding of analytics is now essential for these students as they enter the work force.

“One of the shortcomings with statistical textbooks is that the data is often too clean and the relationships between variables are too perfect,” said Dr. Bruce Reinig, professor of Management Information Systems at San Diego State University, whose students were involved in the FICO Academic Engagement Program. “Students need experience working with real-world data in which values are sometimes unreliable or missing and you sometimes have to make decisions with incomplete information. The best way to accomplish this is to have students work on real problems for real organizations.”

When Professor Reinig first incorporated FICO’s analytical offerings into his Business Analytics course, he watched the excitement level of his students grow significantly. At the end of the semester, when students were polled regarding what field they would most like to enter after graduation, a large portion emphatically stated that they would choose a position involving data analysis.

FICO understands why providing students with complementary access to data, tools and expertise is a worthy investment. MBA candidates not only receive training with respect to industry standard analytic tools and methodologies, but they also learn how to think about the business problems at hand. By placing course work in the context of solving a business problem, graduates enter the work force with the ability to both find a solution, and to present their analytic results to a more business-focused audience.

For more information on the program, please visit http://www.fico.com/academic-program/.

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