Big data: The link between innovation and industry lies in knowledge transfer

May 27, 2015 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Leah Rosenthal, Advancement Officer

DeGroote-02-Summit-300x250Mark Morreale knows a thing or two about data. Morreale is an Academic Program Manager at SAS Canada, and works alongside academics and students to help them teach, research and learn with analytics. The end goal is helping them become part of an evidence based and data driven world.

SAS, a leader in business analytics software and services, is committed to educating the world’s data scientists for the global data driven economy and works with schools across Canada and the world to address the lack of deep analytical skills. Morreale’s role focuses on that commitment, enabling the true value in data analytics from an academic standpoint in Canada.

“Helping McMaster, executives and students understand the analytics world and its growing demand is an area of focus at SAS.” Morreale steps in to help develop programs, partner on research ventures, and assist on data management techniques.

Morreale and his team at SAS have been working with McMaster for three years in different capacities, but more recently has partnered with DeGroote’s developing EMBA program. “I think the EMBA program offers a unique opportunity. It is a ground breaking program, with a niche audience – a truly executive program that will have analytics at the forefront of its curriculum. We are the market leader in analytics and are proud to be in partnership with DeGroote supporting these types of programs,” explains Morreale. “At SAS we are traditionally innovative and we recognize the link that universities have between innovation and industry knowledge transfer.”

Data will become increasingly important, but how you decipher it will be even more important.

So, what is the big deal about big data? Big data is a term that is relative. “It can mean too many spreadsheets. It can be a hydro company trying to make sense of the reams of data outputs generated by smart meters. It can be a retailer trying to understand its customers using social media data. All of these are different but they all require data management techniques,” explains Morreale. “Analytics help us to decipher the signal from the noise and that journey starts with analyzing the data.”

There is real value in students, executives and the business community to become more educated with the use of data analytics. The business world is relying more on data and analytics, than old-school approaches to business decisions. According to Morreale, analytical communication skills are going to be used by everyone in the near future. “Understanding analytics will become the new financial skill that is the norm. Right now students have the foundation in finance and accounting, business knowledge and acumen. Data will become increasingly important, but how you decipher it will be even more important,” Morreale stresses. “For example, an accountant will need to learn audit analytics framework to help identify fraudulent transactions, or high risk individuals who will avoid payments. All business graduates will need to know how to use data and how to analyze that data. As enterprises increasingly recognize the value of the vast volumes of data they collect, the demand for people who can unlock that value is rising sharply.”

Three pieces of advice for students entering the data industry:

  1. Make sure you can support it from the executive on down.
  2. Keep it small – constantly iterate and don’t be afraid to try again.
  3. Gut – eliminate the gut in your decision making. Be prepared for information and analysis that is counter-intuitive to what you are feeling.

photo of markMark Morreale is an Epidemiologist with over 20 years of experience in the Canadian healthcare system. Before joining SAS, Mark worked in several Analytics positions for the Pharma Sector, Hospitals, Ontario Ministry of Health and Health Canada. Currently, Mark’s role is to facilitate relationships & Industry Partnerships with Academics & SAS.

Mark is also a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University, where he lectures on Clinical Decision Support, Health Care Performance, Quality and Health Research Methodologies. Examples of his research includes: Evaluation of Care Maps, ER wait times, Patient Safety and Quality of Care.

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