New MIT Sloan executive education program focuses on ‘Big Data’

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 1, 2012—Despite the increasing availability of real-time digital data, many companies aren’t taking advantage of this tool to measure activities and customer relationships and instead are relying on intuition and guesswork. To help managers better understand the uses and applications for this type of data, MIT Sloan School of Management is offering a new executive education program called “Big Data: Making Complex Things Simpler” on March 27–28.

MIT Sloan Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson, who is director of MIT’s Center for Digital Business and teaches in the program, observes that companies on the leading-edge of using Big Data are around 5% more productive and profitable than their competitors. “There is a lot of low hanging fruit out there for companies at the forefront of the Big Data revolution.”

Prof. Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, who directs MIT’s Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program and also teaches in the program, says, “Many managers undervalue the worth of data, but really it is like money in your bank account and you should be getting a return on it. This program will show managers how to capture the benefits of data such as creating better customer analytics or capturing real-time consumer preferences.”

In addition to clickstream data from Websites, he points to the 100 billion searches on Google each month as an example of the many underutilized sources of valuable data.

“We’ve used that search information to accurately predict housing sales up to three months in the future for each of the 50 states in the U.S. Search data can make accurate predictions for a variety of products and services from appliances and automobiles to healthcare,” he says, noting that other search engines and social media sites can provide this type of data as well.

Pentland adds that mobile phones are another rich source of Big Data. “We could predict Black Friday sales before certain stores make their own announcements based on how many mobile phones were in their parking lots that day. We also can find out which bars are popular at 9:00pm vs. 11:00pm with this type of mobile phone data.”

Just as valuable, adds Brynjolfsson, is the information that can be analyzed from internal data within a company. “The amount of data that is available from internal systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERPs) is staggering, but most companies haven’t really given that much thought to how they can use it.”

Based on research from MIT’s Media Lab and the MIT Center for Digital Business, the executive education program will explore what Big Data is, how to get it, and how to use it to an organization’s advantage. It also will address how this data changes the ways that IT interacts with the rest of an organization, cutting across business units and functions to create new value.

Pentland and Brynjolfsson will show managers how they can use this data to discover new patterns and run controlled experiments to test hypotheses. Using lectures, interactive discussions and group exercises, they’ll discuss real-world case studies from Fortune 500 companies, digital startups, and government organizations as well as encourage participants to define problems in their own companies that could benefit from Big Data concepts, brainstorm sources of data, and design experiments.

“Whether they are managers at a small firm or a Fortune 500 company, this program will benefit managers with an interest in using this new kind of ‘R&D’ to speed innovation, increase customer loyalty, and improve execution,” says Brynjolfsson.

Seats are limited and registration is required to attend the Big Data program at MIT Sloan. For more information, please visit: http://sloanm.it/A5w5rT

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Patricia Favreau
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