Saving dollars and cents with business analytics

For 26-year-old Zhang Kaixiang, it was the cost savings impact he could make in an organisation that convinced him to embark on his own journey with the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business Analytics Centre to pursue a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA).

After graduating from NUS in 2014, the Electrical Engineering graduate began working in Hewlett Packard Enterprise where he witnessed an experienced data scientist help the company save “millions of dollars” every year by using predictive and prescriptive analytics. Harnessing the use of the analytics and technology, the company was able to make business decisions to prevent huge losses in the American market. “I believe technology is the ultimate source of economic and society improvements,” he said.

Indeed, business analytics has been shaking up industries all over the world, helping to optimise business decisions.

In the recent National Day rally speech just last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touched on Singapore’s move to become a “Smart Nation” – essentially to leverage on technology solutions for nation building.

While Mr Zhang acknowledges how the business analytics field is an emerging “hot topic”, he is also realistic about the difficulties involved in picking up the hard skills. “The learning journey is long as we need to fully understand business and analytics at the same time. The NUS MSBA programme is holistic and beneficial as it equips its students with the full spectrum of knowledge and skills to be a good business analytics professional,” he said.

Modules offered include data collection, as well as predictive modules and optimizations – all of which has enabled him to make a difference at his workplace.

Currently interning with PayPal, a company that provides online payment solutions, Mr Zhang proves the impact of the network effect in increasing the value of digital payment systems with business analytics in his capstone project.

In other words, the network effect simply means a product or service becomes more valuable when more people use it. In the same vein, attracting more users to sign up for a PayPal account is likely to allow the company to achieve higher growth rate.

Citing local indie cinema The Projector as an example, Mr Zhang puts forth that while the business does not generate as many transactions as a large retailers, it has activated and engaged new Paypal users – mostly because it is the only mode of payment available in the purchase of movie tickets via its website.

While the current industry practice values businesses who have a higher number of direct transactions instead, he has since pitched his project to the Sales and Marketing team of PayPal. “They are very interested and willing to integrate the project into their current business models,” he said.

Although working in the field of business analytics comes with its own set of challenges, Mr Zhang advises those with no background in the industry who are interested in giving it a try to “always keep the passion” in order to overcome difficulties when using business analytics models to solve real-world problems.

“I am personally motivated by the belief that I can make significant impact and contributions in this field,” he concludes.

For more information on the Master of Science, Business Analytics programme, please visit http://msba.nus.edu/.

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