A former Microsoft data analytics expert will teach advanced marketing classes at the University of Montana School of Business Administration this winter and next fall.

John Chandler is the founder of Data Insights, a Minnesota-based consulting firm that uses data science to help companies like eBay, General Mills and LinkedIn. He was recently in Missoula to teach an inaugural one-credit weekend seminar to UM graduate students called "Advanced Marketing Analytics: Turning Big Data Into Knowledge."

He will then come back for five weeks starting at the end of January to teach a full three-credit course, and will return in the fall of 2015 as a clinical faculty member to teach two full-semester courses.

Chandler said that college graduates with knowledge of how data can be used for businesses will have access to high-paying jobs.

“The New York Times estimates by 2018 there will be a half-million jobs in data science, but only 300,000 people qualified for those jobs, a shortfall of 200,000,” he explained. “There is a tremendous area of growth there. It’s a multidisciplinary job. You need skills from a bunch of different skill sets. The data explosion is happening. There is a lot of growth in remote sensing and robotics. All sorts of things are spinning out of data. If you can make large data sets and analyze them, you are in increasingly high demand.”

Chandler said that his weekend seminar will focus on how to measure the impact of marketing, particularly at an individual level.

“Marketing analytics focuses on aggregate marketing info,” he explained. “We sent out 5,000 emails and 1,000 got clicked on, those kinds of measures. Advanced marketing analytics is more focused on individual-level information, all the things that are influencing their decision to spend time with a site or sign up for a newsletter or purchase something. What we can infer with that richer data? The issue is it’s much harder to work with. A lot of people just throw data into an Excel spreadsheet. The stuff at the top is good and stuff at the bottom is bad. This is taking it to a deeper level and understanding individual level response.”

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Chandler said that typically, data from consumers is collected voluntarily and with their permission.

“A lot of marketers collect this data,” he said. “We will be working with representative sample sets and we have anonymized everything. Marketers have deemed it appropriate for use.”

For the full-semester course, one proposal on the title of the class is “Storytelling With Data.”

“Storytelling is if you have a bunch of data and you are trying to answer a business question, how do you get from the raw data to the final story,” he explained. “We bring people across the story arc as you explain what's going on in data. You have to understand customers and potential customers. One example is if we look at the combination of TV, Internet and print, if we could get estimates of how individual people are being reached by those different media, we can model how they respond to that. What different types of customers respond to different types of media, and can we model performance and are there ways to tailor messaging?”

Chandler said that newspapers could select potential customer segments from their online readers and test them.

“You could give them different experiences on the site as they come in and survey them,” he explained. “You could look at testing micropayments or a paywall.”

Before founding Data Insights, Chandler was a research director for Microsoft Advertising and, before that, the principal analyst at aQuantive, a company that was bought by Microsoft in 2007.

Chandler received a doctorate in statistics from the University of Montana in 2010.

He said that Missoula has an opportunity to be on the cusp of the data analytics revolution.

“One thing that is exciting, as an alum and a big fan of Missoula and the University of Montana, we are right at the cusp of this becoming an academic discipline,” he said. “There is a real opportunity for UM to create a path in an area of expertise that famous business schools like Harvard are lagging in.”

Jakki Mohr, a regents professor of marketing at the UM School of Business Administration and a distinguished faculty fellow, said that she helped start building the data analytics program two years ago with an initial set of courses taught by Mario Schulzke.

“Those classes have gone quite well and now we are building on top of that foundation with a follow-on set of courses,” she said.

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