Business Analytics Symposium draws 250 attendees


CW File

Mike Finnegan

Around 250 people –– ranging from UA faculty, industry employers and graduate students studying statistics, business analytics and economics –– have attended the seventh annual Business Analytics Symposium so far. The event, which is being held in the Bryant Conference Center, started Thursday and will run through noon today.

While the symposium also functions as a networking opportunity, it primarily consists of presentations –– on anything from healthcare and banking analytics to sports –– given throughout the day by professionals in the analytics profession.

“There is a need in industry for analytics,” said James Cochran, the Symposium Chair and a professor of Applied Statistics at The University of Alabama.

Cochran said the purpose of the symposium was to bring in practitioners of analytics to build greater understanding, share ideas and for the students to see how the material learned in the classroom can be applied.

After a hot breakfast and short introduction from Cochran, the symposium kicked off with the first presentation, “Beyond the Bell Curve”, which was given by Peter Keating, a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine, in which he writes a column called “Numbers.”

Keating said his message to attendees was to be wary of overusing the statistical method of regression analysis.

“[The] over application has led to too many studies where researchers announce a definitive relationship between variables whose actual relationship is anything but clear,” Keating said in his presentation summary. “Further, regression’s input-to-corresponding-output mindset can limit the statistical imagination.”

In offering a resolution to the overuse of regression he sees, Keating said he proposed using unorthodox statistical methods. He said using such techniques can lead to otherwise unforeseen insights, such as one he presented on concussions in the NFL.

Martha Crombie, an independent consultant specializing in healthcare analytics, spoke after Keating, and she had a different message to attendees. In her presentation, titled “Humanizing and Giving Voice to Data in Healthcare,” Crombie said she urges students to work in the healthcare industry due to the large need to address problems that analytics is suited to solve.

“I’m looking for ideas to apply what I’m learning,” said Blend Hyseni, a graduate student studying economics and symposium attendee. “I didn’t know I could apply analytics to so many fields.”

Hyseni said he has enjoyed the symposium so far, noting that listening to the symposium’s speakers has illuminated what technical skills he wants to improve on.

“You can meet a lot of people with experience here. You can get the story on analytics outside of campus and the business issues the world faces,” Hyseni said.