The Uptaking State of Business Intelligence in Academics

According to new results from the Business Intelligence Congress III, university BI educators are spreading their partnership anc course opportunities as an effort to close the gaps in the analytical skills. This will offer students new and a diverse range of careers as we also noted previously, the need for data scientists and how companies like IBM partnership with universities to bring practicality and needed skill sets to ‘breed’ this much needed group of people.

The BI Congress is an educational collaborative event, seeking  to “align academia and practice” of business intelligence. In “The State of Business Intelligence and Business Analytics in Academia 2012”  survey responses on BI and analytics education challenges and expectations are gathered from 319 professors, 614 students from 96 schools, and 308 BI hiring businesses.

Business intelligence challenges

The leading problem in delivering BI is the access to data, which was pointed out by 45 percent of the respondents. Other top challenges are related to sources of data and modern tools and techniques. According to Barbara Wixom, program chair for the BI Congress as well as an associate professor at University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and program, points out that there is a discrepancy between software providers and universities which remains an issue.

Barbara Wixom said:

“We have seen a big uptake on the vendor academic alliance programs, so clearly professors see the vendor academic offerings helpful for addressing these obstacles. I think this is because vendors are doing a better job of not just serving up cases and data sets, but they are working with – and even funding –  professors to help package those with … assignments, teaching notes and other pedagogy to make it more consumable for instructors. So, my advice to vendors, particularly smaller ones who don’t have as deep experience with academic alliances as the big enterprise vendors, is to give instructors a complete toolbox to teach with your software, not just a hammer by itself.”


By a 3-to-1 margin, university IT and MIS disciplines were in charge of delivering BI and analytics coursework. That, too, reflects change from recent years as more BI is being taught through finance disciplines (9 percent), marketing (19 percent) and accounting (10 percent).

In terms of individual courses that touch on BI and analytics, data mining and predictive analytics was the top class, offered by 46 percent of professors.

That was followed by

  • an introductory BI or analytics course (45 percent),
  • statistics (44 percent) and
  • quantitative analysis or modeling (41 percent).

On the low end of the course offerings spectrum were

  • performance management (11 percent),
  • independent studies in BI or analytics (13 percent) and
  • big data (13 percent).

The low figure of big data does surprises me a bit, but could be explained by Wixom’s following:

“Big data-type needs are getting addressed across the board – from new analytics approaches in the BA course, to new data sources in the data management course, to new statistical methods in the stats course. Additionally, the computer science and statistics departments are happily developing heavy quantitative folks, as they have been doing for years. Now, they are simply getting more intake and more excitement about their offerings.”


“the lack of direct focus on “big data” reflects an interest by professors “in developing skills around data-based decisions … [over] differentiating big data and addressing it as a one-off.”

Data scientists job opportunities

As mentioned in the introduction, the data scientist role is a much needed one and according to the survery, the vast majority of students either “agree” or “strongly agree” that there are rampant job opportunities for them, though their interest in those roles was scattered.

In terms of job roles students anticipated upon graduation:

  • more than 40 percent pointed to business analyst, IT professional working with analytics or some type of “data savvy” business role.
  • twenty-two percent said they’re looking to transfer BI skills into a specialized marketing position, and
  • another 19 percent were looking at specialized financial analysis.

“Data scientist” was pegged by nearly 16 percent of students, while another 11 percent expect to work in a role “unrelated” to BI or analytics, according to the survey.