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Kellogg faculty have gone on three trips to trade thoughts and insights with data analytics experts from the private sector.

Big data

Big data on the move

Through a series of immersion trips, Kellogg faculty and industry pros trade analytics insights

By Kate Proto

Over the past several months, Kellogg's data analytics experts have been on the move.

In a project started by Professor Florian Zettelmeyer, faculty have gone on several trips to trade thoughts and insights with data analytics experts from different companies in the private sector. What surprised and delighted Zettelmeyer was how their discussions revealed the potential for partnerships that could uncover new insights on this critical topic.

Academic research and practitioner experience 

When Zettelmeyer brought a dozen Kellogg faculty members on a field visit to Civis Analytics, formerly Obama for America Analytics, the company’s CEO Dan Wagner spoke to his desire for a deep collaboration.

“When I think of Chicago and why we thought about moving here, I think…there’s these three institutions, Northwestern University, UIUC, U of Chicago, that are some of the top global universities with some of the smartest people in the world and they’re right here.

In the new global economy, the age of mechanized industrial production is over, and the era of distributed networks of people that are interacting to create cooperative elements of production is where we’re going, and the universities have a critical role in that.”

Data analytics is built into the DNA of Wagner’s company, as proven by the team’s successful work with the Obama 2012 campaign. During the visit, Kellogg faculty and Civis Analytics executives discussed the value of using A/B testing to gauge the effectiveness of various types of materials and messages, and how psychographic profiles helped the team tailor their approach to each prospective voter.

The Civis team echoed Zettelmeyer’s sentiments that an understanding of, and belief in, centering your organization around data must start at the very top.

Big data comes to life

Earlier that day, the faculty group visited Cleversafe, a cloud-based data storage firm, where participants learned about the latest trends in data storage solutions that ensure both data safety and speed of retrieval. CEO John Morris led a discussion on the complexities of providing cutting edge data storage in an era where big data spans from kilobyte to zetabyte.

Cleversafe also discussed how they are using data to gain a better understanding of customers. The morning rounded out with a conversation about how Cleversafe could refine their approach to targeting prospective clients.

Next steps for leveraging the bridge between academic research and practitioner experience? Kellogg’s own Case Publishing group will be connecting with companies from faculty immersion trips like this one, to enhance the MBA program’s already strong data analytics curriculum with current, relevant examples of challenges faced by businesses today.

Florian Zettelmeyer is the Nancy L. Ertle Professor of Marketing and Faculty Director of the Program on Data Analytics at Kellogg, part of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative. Read Think Big and The four elements of a big data mindset to learn more about Zettelmeyer’s perspective on big data.