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MIT Teams with Consultants on Analytics Research

An initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) mixes a cross-disciplinary research project with a smattering of corporate need to help companies use analytics to make better decisions. MIT is working with global consulting firm Accenture on a five-year project to figure out how to help organizations develop their data analytics capabilities, especially where it comes to combining multiple sources of data to help sell new products and services.

The Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics will bring together the faculty from MIT's Engineering School and its Sloan School of Management with Accenture's analytics experts to explore two streams of research: effective decision making and "exploiting insights from big data." That work will focus on six vertical segments: banking, communications, energy, health, insurance, and retail, industries where Accenture does a lot of its business and IT consulting work.

For example, the two organizations will work on ways for combining disparate data sources such as geolocation data, social media data, and payments data for projects such as:

  • "Life event monitoring," to develop new methodologies to help predict life events in advance of occurrence. A financial services firm could refine its ability to approach consumers or small businesses with custom offerings, just as they're needed.
  • "Behavior data integration" to develop a real-time system that can predict where a company's clients are likely to go next in their daily travels in order to help target offerings.
  • "Social media causal monitoring," to understand how product launches affect social media activity and, likewise, how social media monitoring can help forecast demand and improve product pricing, placement, and distribution.

The research will also attempt to benchmark investments in analytics and the expected payback in business outcomes, based on a company's level of analytics maturity.

The alliance will be headed by David Simchi-Levi, professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering systems at MIT, and Narendra Mulani, senior managing director at Accenture Analytics.

"Through our collaboration with Accenture we believe we can make important progress in creating new knowledge and in tackling some of the many data challenges faced by organizations today," said Simchi-Levi.

"Organizations recognize the need to develop analytics capabilities that turn data into actionable insights in order to attain a competitive edge and growth," added Mulani. "The challenge comes in fine tuning and applying analytics technologies to very specific issues, and our studies show that organizations are not currently satisfied with the return on their analytics investment. Our alliance with one of the world's most prestigious research institutes will help our clients achieve better outcomes driven by their analytics efforts."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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