I recently completed the Coursera course titled “Foundations of strategic business analytics” from Essec Business School. I loved the content and the focus on practical tools and ideas, rather than dull theory.
I learnt a lot and if I had to sum it up in one line it would be:
Perfect presentations for Data Analytics Professionals
So, here’s a roundup of what I loved about the course and my key takeaways.
1. Perfect Presentations:
The core responsibility for any business and data analysts is to gather data, analyze it and present findings. This could be to solve a business problem, summary stats for a project or just pattern finding on customer segmentation for marketing purposes. The fault many of us make is to get caught up on how we did it without realizing nobody else cares for anything but the results. (In most instances it’s tough, time-consuming, having to talk to different lines of business who are often too busy with their own priorities to help us out much! 😦 ) I think Prof. Glady does a fabulous job of bringing this home and suggesting ideas to create visualizations that are both instant attention-grabbers, yet memorable enough to stay with the audience long enough to be passed on to the final decision-makers.
More on those tips in a different post, but this is one major advantage of the course and I think even experienced professionals would learn a lot from this course, in this area. I know I did.
2. Awesome Faculty:
In all honesty, my motivation for the free course was curiosity and hope to see professor Nicolas Glady in action, who is listed among the best 40 under 40 B-school professors in the world. Its easy to see why how he made it to this list: he is passionate about the topic, highly enthusiastic and speaks from years of consulting experience. More importantly, he gives the impression of talking to you alone, instead of a camera in an empty room! 🙂
The prof. also gives a lot of tips that seemed like common sense at first glance, but are jewels of wisdom that analysts forget during the hustle of work pressure and looming deadlines. Handy tip: if you can’t stop focusing on the French accent by the third or fourth video, try speeding up the video to 1.25x or 1.5x.
Project examples were from varied fields like manufacaturing, HR, telecom customer profiling, etc. showing how data analytics can be used to improve business processes in virtually every domain. The slides and video length also were perfect, as was the actual content.
3. Technically intensive:
Although the course can be taken separately, it was meant to be the first in a series for the Strategic Business Analytics Specialization set of courses. So I expected it to provide only a high level overview into the applications of Business Analytics with a little bit of info thrown in about tools and software.
However, I was surprised and rather delighted to see that the course had detailed technical data analysis using R and program code recitals on how the visualization was created. I have already worked with R, so I realized these are not “rookie-learning” or “Hello world” type programs but intermediate level code that does a great job in combining statistical analysis and decent visualization graphics. In fact, I expect the code was a little hard to follow for someone unfamiliar with the basics of R, and this was borne out by some posts by fellow classmates on the discussion forums.
I also had a lot of fun using the datasets and playing with the R-code, so the course gets another big set of brownie points! 😀 You can see some samples of my experiments on my github account repository..
4. Thoughtful Quizzes:
Personally, I felt that the quizzes forced me to think about the content, the examples used and practice the code provided. Half the questions needed some modifications to the R-code, so you had to follow the videos and recital closely to understand “where” to modify the code.
Again, not sure how the students without R background fared, but I got a decent enough score. (side: screenshot of my scores)
The final week quiz was a simple 1-page pdf presentation summarizing a business problem. This was tough; how much info can you stuff on 1 slide?
I thought I had done a good job, until I saw the pdfs I evaluated during the peer review process. A couple had gone beyond 1 page, but even their visualizations rocked. I passed, so I could not modify my original pdf, but to boost my hurt ego, I created a new template for my reference. Here is the Actual submission to Coursera and my modified infographic slide.
To recap, the quizzes were great, although a sample for the last week quiz would have been great.
5. Classmates generous with time and help:
I don’t really participate in online Coursera class discussions beyond the meet and greet, but this time I had decided to check in at least twice a week. What I found was that there were loads of people answering Qs, leaving tips and offering to connect offline to take conversations beyond the timeline of the class. Many are now in my LinkedIn contact list, and several answered LinkedIn messages with honest opinions about the course, tools they use at work and tips to help me be more productive as an analyst.
This was an unexpected but priceless bonus, and I can vouch that the couple of hours I spent on the forums have returned me a 1000%+ ROI for my efforts.
Key course content Takeaways:
- The 4 sets of skills needed to leverage value from data: Analytics, IT, Business and Communication. These are also core Business Analytics consulting skills.
- Tips give amazing presentations to Senior Executives like, focus on the problem and practical recommendations.
- Create reports assuming you may not always be around to give oral explanations.
- R-code for analyzing data, forecasting and visualizations.
I’ve taken other Coursera classes before (both paid and unpaid) and I would happily give this an easy 8.5/10 score on value and satisfaction.
Would I recommend the course to others? Sure, and I might even recommend the paid course to someone who wants to go the data analyst route, but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in the field.
I absolutely enjoyed the course, and I hope so do future students.
If you’ve taken the course as well, feel free to write in your thoughts and experiences below in the comments section.
Until the next post, adieu!
Disclaimer Note: Please note, neither Coursera nor Essec Business school is paying me to say good things about them! 😉 However, I am taking the paid Marketing Analytics Course, the next course in this specialization, but I paid for the course only after completing this one.