Data Analytics: Making Decisions in an Uncertain World

“The companies who will be most successful in the post-pandemic world will be those who find creative and innovative ways to harness the power of data analytics ahead of their competition”; says Andrea Godfrey Flynn, Professor of the MBA and MS in Business Analytics Programs at the University of San Diego School of Business.

Prior to the pandemic, the corporate world was already in the process of digital transformation. And the pandemic accelerated this process incredibly.  What reflection does this deserve? Is the transformation being executed correctly?

Since the digital transformation shifted into fast forward due to the COVID pandemic, there have been a lot of opportunities to learn from the experience. On the one hand, we have seen how adaptable many companies are to operating digitally and the efficiencies that can be gained from that.  On the other hand, we have seen how vulnerable organizations and individuals are to information security issues and where there are strains on our digital infrastructure.  The acceleration also highlighted inequities in access to digital resources and how underserved segments of the population are at an even greater disadvantage when everything shifts quickly. To keep moving forward sustainably, these challenges need to be addressed.

Andrea Godfrey Flynn

What should be the focus of business leaders when implementing data analytic tactics for the post-pandemic world: enhanced processes, forecasting demand, discovering new markets, understanding how to best serve customers…something else?

The amazing thing about data analytics is that there are few aspects of business where it cannot be applied — the applications are really limitless.  That is exciting but it also presents challenges for business leaders.  For example, data analytics can be used in amazing ways to help companies better understand and serve their customers, but it is important for companies to know where the line is between learning as much as they can about their customers and coming across as “creepy” to those customers. The companies who will be most successful in the post-pandemic world will be those who find creative and innovative ways to harness the power of data analytics ahead of their competition.

In such an uncertain world, what role should data analysis play in decision making?

Data analysis can enhance confidence in decision making. The COVID pandemic has served as an excellent example of this.  In the first weeks of the pandemic, very little was known about the virus.  As more data was available, we began to get a clearer picture of its impact — medically and economically. With increased data and analysis, governments, policy makers, and organizations could make better-informed decisions about how to respond.  The same is true for companies. As more data becomes available, you can update prior decisions based on better information and have greater confidence in those decisions.

What place does business intelligence and data analysis occupy in USD’s MBA program and other business degrees from USD School of Business?

While business intelligence and data analysis are increasingly embedded into all of the courses in USD’s MBA program — including accounting, finance, marketing, operations, and supply chain classes — our program features a business analytics concentration that allows students to develop deeper data analysis skills. Courses in this concentration allow students to develop skills in database management, data visualization, working with big data, and marketing analytics. For those interested in furthering their data analytics skills, we offer a dual MBA/MSBA option where students can complete both degrees in just two years.  Our Master’s in Business Analytics (MSBA) is a great option for those who are primarily drawn to the data analytics world. It can be completed in just 10 months and allows students to gain practical experience while they complete their degree through three client project-based classes including a semester long capstone project, an international consulting project, and a “data for social good” project in partnership with a non-profit, government or educational organization. This is a very unique feature of our program.

What would you say organizations are looking for in a business leader/manager today? How is the USD School of Business responding to this need?

Today’s organizations are looking for leaders who are data-driven decision makers. Good judgment is always important, but making decisions based on instinct no longer demonstrates effective leadership. Organizations also need people who know how to ask the right questions. Data can be used to give us lots of answers but if we aren’t asking the right questions, we aren’t really making progress. The USD School of Business is responding to this need by training “data translators,”  individuals who have the technical skills to work with data but also understand the critical business problems that need to be addressed. As such, these data translators serve as a key link on teams because they can facilitate effective collaboration among data scientists, data engineers, business managers, and clients. Finally, organizations are looking for leaders with integrity.  By aligning with USD’s mission and values, we train data-driven leaders who aim to be socially responsible and have a positive impact in the world.

Bio: As an associate professor of marketing and the academic director of the Master of Science in Business Analytics at the University of San Diego School of Business, Andrea Godfrey Flynn teaches in USD’s MBA and Master’s in Business Analytics programs. Her research interests involve applying empirical models of consumer purchasing behavior to guide customer management strategies in retail and service settings. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Service Research and American Journal of Preventive Medicine.