The advent of big data and data analytics has the potential to revolutionise the way businesses operate. It means assumptions and intuition can be validated – and that opportunities and patterns that might otherwise remain hidden, become apparent and actionable. With big data, strategy becomes as much a science as an art.

So it’s not surprising that many of today’s leaders recognise they need to learn more about data and the opportunities it unlocks.

This is why Vlerick Business School (Belgium) is launching a new Masters programme that specialises in business analytics and AI. It will empower participants to become exactly the data-savvy leaders that today’s organisations need to survive and thrive.

“Bridge the gap between analytics and business”

Programme Director Philippe Baecke explains why now’s the time to dive into data analytics…

Many companies see data as the new oil,” he says. “They know they need to invest in it. But today’s managers aren’t necessarily trained in it, and don’t know how to embrace the opportunities it offers. This is why we’ve developed a programme that will give students strong technical skills in data analytics and AI.

But this programme is about much more than technical skill. It’s designed to bridge the gap between analytics and business in a highly interactive way. Half of the curriculum focuses on data analytics, while the other introduces strategies and concepts in all functional business domains – from finance and marketing to operations and HR. Throughout, we explore how big data and AI can add value in all these areas of business.

It’s an approach that gives students the skills they’ll need to manage – like teamwork, change management, and presentation skills. And at the same time, they develop a powerful business analytics mindset and capabilities.

Learn from leading experts

The new programme has been developed by professors with a wealth of experience in data and AI. In 2014, their pioneering approach led to Vlerick being one of the first business schools in Europe to launch an executive programme on Creating Business Value with AI and Big Data.

On the new Masters programme, students learn from these expert faculty, as well as renowned industry experts. Partners on the programme include ML6, who work with Google – and Faktion, a leading AI innovation company. This allows participants to gain both deep academic learning, as well as real-life insights from industry leaders. It also opens the doors for students to make connections at major organisations and within the data community.

Follow a unique, highly integrated curriculum

Each course builds on the next – and everything is integrated. For example, we use the coding language Python throughout the programme, so students become more capable and confident at using it as they progress,” Professor Baecke says.

We start with a data analytics strategy course that gives students an overarching view of the domain. Then we move into data science fundamentals, exploring subjects including programming, statistics, and data visualisation. At the same time, students are developing cutting-edge management skills.

Discover the magic of data

Once everyone is up to speed, the programme dives deeper with courses on big data and the AI model. “This is the fun stuff,” Professor Baecke adds. “Creating AI robots that can beat professional gamers, developing chat bots… This part of the programme is really innovative and fun, and it’s also highly relevant to business. In the business strategy & analytics module, we continuously explore how these types of innovations can add value in multiple business domains.

Indeed, business relevance is core to the programme and students have several valuable opportunities to strengthen their skills by immersing themselves in real business:

  • Hackathon: Students take part in a week-long challenge from a real organisation that underlines the relationship between data skills and business
  • AI Study trip: Students visit leading technology companies, discover how they work and get a feel for the type of roles they may want to explore in the future
  • Bootcamp: Students choose a sector – from healthcare and fintech to sport or consultancy – and immerse themselves in it for three weeks
  • Data-driven innovation project: Throughout the programme, students develop an innovation for an existing business, or as an entrepreneurial venture. They develop a business case and then strategise to take it to market

Opening doors to a world of opportunities

Managers with data skills are highly sought-after – and can choose from many rewarding career paths. Graduates could hit the ground running as data scientists – or they could become data translators, acting as a liaison between IT and the rest of the business. Or they could venture into the world of start-ups and scale-ups, where ambitious companies are always looking for technical talent.

Whatever students choose to do, a Business Analytics Masters programme will prepare them for a promising future. “It gives you the leverage to start as an analytics expert then progress quickly to management,” says Professor Baecke. “When you have both management and technical skills, countless career opportunities become available.

Could this be the Masters for you? It’s all about your mindset

When asked what he was looking for in prospective students, Professor Baecke was quick to say that a data-savvy mindset is more important than having a background in coding or AI.

You don’t necessarily need to have specific technical, programming or AI skills – we help you develop those,” he says. “What we’re looking for is students with the right mindset. Regardless of your educational background, you need to be data-savvy – and be able to tell us at an interview about the possibilities that analytics opens up.

This programme isn’t about developing technical specialists. It’s about developing managers with technical expertise – and equipping them with the skills to thrive in a data-driven world.