Gaining More Insights for Decision-Making with a Short Course in Data Analysis

According to Cisco Systems, the Zettabyte Era of human data began in 2016, when global internet traffic exceeded 1.2 zettabytes in size. By 2021, the company expects traffic to reach around 3 times that level, with even more information stored behind corporate firewalls in proprietary internal systems and networks.

Held in the right light, nearly every bit of that information holds some relevant information that can help you and your company make better decisions – it’s just a matter of figuring out how to tap into it and unlock that key intelligence.

Learning how to consume this ocean of data is going to be a critical skill for executives in the coming decades. Organizations that have figured out how to base their decision making process in hard data analysis enjoy a real edge over competitors in terms of both productivity and profitability.

Why Understanding What the Data Has to Say is Important for Managers

Many managers today find themselves adrift, swamped with information but lacking the tools necessary to pull vital insights from it… or even to understand what types of questions could be answered from it.

This is where a short course in data analysis can make all the difference. As an executive or manager, you can’t be expected to keep up with all the details of how data is stored, munged, and sorted these days—that’s why you hire specialists. But you had better understand how to ask them the questions that matter and how to interpret the answers they give you.

By picking the right short course in data analysis, you can become an informed user of big data analysis, and become an accomplished presenter and advocate within your organization.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of data science certificate courses and degrees that have sprung up to fuel the demand for education in this critical area. For executives and managers, however, even a short six-month certificate program may be too long—and too in-depth for your needs.

A short course, revolving around a single, carefully defined aspect of data analysis is a better choice. Lasting barely longer than a month, these courses are usually offered online, and frequently by top universities with world-class curriculum and instructors.

These programs can deliver precisely the level of education you need to become a knowledgeable director of data science projects, literate when presented with the results, and capable of drawing conclusions that can be used to make real decisions.

Although data science is rapidly changing and deeply technical, as an executive working in a data-enabled organization, you don’t need the details. A course offering the principles of data analysis, visualization, and modeling will give you the right kind of knowledge to make informed decisions using data throughout your career.

What You Can Expect from a Short Course in Data Analysis to Cover

Since a short course simply doesn’t have the time get into many different subjects, or even cover a single subject from many different angles, it’s critical to pick a course that has a curriculum that matches your personal requirements. You don’t want to re-learn concepts you’re already familiar with, but you also don’t want topics so exotic that they require a deeper exploration than you have time for.

You should look for a course that includes components such as:

  • Applying data analysis to decision-making events
  • Evaluating the quality and reliability of data analysis based on sources and methods
  • Using data analysis to detect and effect trends in business
  • Explanations and demonstrations of effective data visualization tools and techniques
  • Real-world examples of successful and unsuccessful applications of data analysis to business requirements

Depending on your environment, more specific components could be useful. For example, the London School of Economics and Political Science Data Analysis for Management online certificate course includes a specific segment on using Tableau for data visualizations. That’s a boon if your organization uses or plans to implement Tableau – but not worth your time if not.

Online Short Courses are the Obvious Choice

Going with an online short course is a no-brainer when it comes to acquiring expertise in data analysis as a manager. You’re busy enough as it is without having to carve out extra time from evenings or weekends to make a trek to some nearby college campus for classroom time. Worse, looking at traditional on-campus courses restricts you to only the schools in your area. Even if a top-ranked data science school like Stanford or Johns Hopkins isn’t in your neighborhood, online options give you access to some of the finest and best-connected programs in the world.

Short courses also typically offer flexibility in scheduling, allowing you to start and finish on flexible deadlines, or even pause the class with no penalty if an urgent work project comes up. Through advanced technologies like virtual blackboards, telepresence, and chatrooms, you can keep up with course materials and interact with classmates and professors at any time of the day or night.

Many first-rate universities today partner with platforms like Coursera, edX, or GetSmarter, while others offer classes directly via their own platforms. You should consider both the capabilities of the platform and the pedigree of the school. Major universities with a lot of active industry partnerships will offer you the most up-to-date and relevant information.

Instructors are also an important part of a short course selection. You only have one shot to get plugged in to the course material, and no one will have a bigger effect on that than the instructor presenting it. Look at their industry experience, ratings, and current research to make sure you’ve got the right professor for the job. Most sites provide that information on the course page, and since courses frequently rotate, you can cherry pick for the best opportunity.

What a Data Analysis Short Course Could Do for Your Management Career

Even if completing one of these courses doesn’t come with an immediate promotion or salary bump, the reason you should really be getting into one is for the long-term benefits for your career and salary.

Data is only going to become more and more important to the operations of the average business. That means executives with a fundamental understanding of how to parse and use that information to improve operations and make better decisions are going to be critical to corporations in the coming decades.

Robert Half, a staffing and consulting firm, reported in their 2020 tech sector salary guide that one of the key differentiators among the top 5 percent of wage earners is their expertise and experience.

A short course in data analysis can take you to that top tier over time, generating a $55,000 bump over the median rate of pay for general technology managers. The money alone is well worth the time and effort of a short course in data analysis, and the benefits to your organization could be invaluable.